01 August, 2021

Heated Affair

V.S. Naipaul has called Taseer "a young writer to watch." I am relieved to find something said by Naipaul recently that I can endorse again, fully

Heated Affair

It is not one tribe, as has been commonly held. There are at least two tribes of Indian English novelists: the Babas and the Babus. Where I grew up, boys of the English-medium type (like me) were called babus by servants. They could not possibly be called baba, as the term baba is a father-equivalent in most North Indian languages, also as in Satya Sai Baba. I suspect that ayahs serving the colonial British in pre-1947 India were taught to call British toddlers 'babas', if only to distinguish them from the babus who were those ludicrous English-knowing Indians. It must be from there that the mantle of 'babahood' settled on characters like those inhabiting Salman Rushdie's fiction.

The protagonist of Aatish Taseer's Noon is a true-blue baba. Rehan Tabassum, son of a short-lived inter-religious marriage, is a baba not just because that is how his servants refer to him but also because he has inherited a fluent international-cosmopolitan identity and education. This is further reinforced when his mother, a lawyer in Struggling India, marries one of the...

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