Headline September 19, 2019/ '' 'NOVELIST KIRAN NAGARKAR' '' : 1942 - 2019


1942 - 2019

NOVELIST KIRAN NAGARKAR - ALL HIS WORKING LIFE - became a trenchant critic of  right-wing nationalism and exhorted Indians to support ''freedom of expression''.

Very few novelists in the world were as precise or as brilliant, as Kiran Nagarkar. He wrote of life in  India with wit and some very harsh truths.

Kiran Nagarkar's books address the daily indignities faced by the poorest of the poor in the slums of Mumbai, his birthplace.

His celebrated novels and plays addressed subjects like the 16th-century Rajasthani royalty, the life  of the working poor in Mumbai and religious fundamentalism.

In both English, and his native language Marathi. Mr. Nagarkar's wordplay and the colorful characters he created left an indelible impression. His writing was bawdy, irreverent, and joyous, but it also held up mirror to uncomfortable truths.

Mumbai, his birthplace, was often the backdrop for his plots, and he was known for capturing the sprawling metropolis's never-say-die spirit.

His experimental novel ''Saat Sakkam Trechalis'' [''Seven times Six is Forty Three], from 1974 - his only book in Marathi - is considered a landmark in that language, which is spoken by more than 80 million people in India.

It follows the  stream of consciousness of a young author waiting to be recognized for his work.

In ''Ravan and Eddie [1995], his break-out English-language novel, he took readers into the chawls, Mumbai's squalid tenements, where his main characters live.

That book and two more, ''The Extras'' [2012]  and ''Rest in Peace'' [2015], form a trilogy that follows two boys - Ravan, who is Hindu, and Eddie, who is Roman Catholic - from childhood to their life in Bollywood.

The books address the indignities faced by the poor in Mumbai's slums : the daily fight for water, the tiny living spaces shared by large families and the determination of mothers trying to keep families together.

Yet, Mr. Nagarkar's tone is witty and humorous; he avoided a simple recitation of woes.

In 2001, his novel ''Cuckold'' [1997] won the Sahitya Akademi award for work in English. the foremost literary prize in India. It centers on the Rajput prince Bhoj Raj, the little known husband of Mirabai, the 16th-century mystic saint who dedicated her life to the god Krishna

His books have been translated into German, Italian, French and Spanish. Mr. Nagarkar never attained the superstar status of Indian authors like Arundhati Roy and Rushdie.

But he developed a loyal following, particularly in Germany. ''God's Little Soldier'', was especially popular there.

In 2012 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the country's highest civilian honor.

Kiran Nagarkar was born on April 2, 1942, in Mumbai [then known as Bombay], the younger of two sons of  Sulochana and Kamalkant Nagarkar.

His father a clerk for Indian Railways, belonged to an unconventional Brahmin family from the state of Maharashtra; they had given up the sacred thread, the marker of their high cast status.

The family was rich in ideas and education, but money was very particularly short.

As a child Kiran suffered from severe asthma - a condition that persisted throughout his life - and his frequent visits to the doctor were a strain on the family's finances.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Pune University in 1964 and a Master's degree in English literature from Mumbai University in 1967. He then worked for about 15 years as an advertising copywriter.

In his later years, in part because of his experience with the censors, Mr. Nagarkar became a trenchant critic of right-wing nationalism and and exhorted Indians support ''freedom of expression''.

''Democracy is not a gift,'' he said. ''It needs to be earned.''   .

The World Students Society thanks review author, Shahlini Venugopal Bhagat.

With respectful dedication to the Grandparents, Parents, Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world.

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