Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Murder in Mumbai: My first Indian murder mystery

A month back, I started reading my first ever Indian murder mystery. That's right. After 26 years of growing up in India, I read the FIRST mystery novel which is Indian in its setting, characters and tone.

Murder in Mumbai by K.D. Calamur is about a police inspector and a journalist investigating the murder of a foreigner in Mumbai. It is not the best murder mystery I have read by far and not really a page-turner. However, it was engaging enough to capture my attention for a couple of days because the context was something I could relate to. After years of reading American mysteries and thrillers, it was wonderful to read a story with 'Inspector' and 'police' rather than 'Sheriff' and 'cops'. Just the Indian setting made the novel so much easier to relate to and I did not have to make the effort to understand and visualize American novels. 
Why did it take 26 years for me to read an Indian murder novel? Some of it is my fault. I haven't explored enough or taken effort to discover good Indian mystery novels. However, the fact that I have to 'make an effort' to discover good Indian books in India is exactly the problem with the system. Throughout my childhood, reading crime fiction meant Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews and Agatha Christie. As I grew up, the abundance of Sidney Sheldon, Harlan Coben, James Patterson was unavoidable. Not only crime fiction, in children's books as well, it is tough to find Indian books outside of mythology and Panchatantra genre moral tales. Young adult is full of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Divergent series etc. 

Where are the Indian authors? Where are the books in Indian languages in Indian settings? Books which show that in India, going out in the sun is not joyful. Books which talk about Holi, Onam and Id instead of Thanksgiving and Easter (I still don't know what these two are all about). The problems are many - lack of quality authors, lack of distribution capacity outside big cities, lack of book reviews and lack of a book reading culture in general. 

Do you feel this is changing? 

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