Wednesday, March 02, 2005

An Indian Speculative Fiction Writer: Vandana Singh

Vandana Singh's story "Delhi," from the anthology So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy (remember Matt Cheney's review?), has been nominated for a prize. During the evaluation period, she's made the story available on her website here (expiring link -- so go now, if you're going to go).

I read it, and liked it. The mix of history, speculative thinking, real science, and observations about the chaotic, contradictory city of Delhi seems to have a lot of potential. Is there a novel here?

Here's my favorite passage from the story:

Staring unseeingly into the bright clamor of the highway, he has a wild idea that, he realizes, has been bubbling under the surface of his consciousness for a while. He recalls a picture he saw once in a book when he was a boy: a satellite image of Asia at night. On the dark bulge of the globe there were knots of light; like luminous fungi, he had thought at the time, stretching tentacles into the dark. He wonders whether complexity and vastness are sufficient conditions for a slow awakening, a coming-to-consciousness. He thinks about Om Prakash, his foolish grin and waggling head, and his strange intimacy with the bees. Will Om Prakash tell him who Pandit Vishwanath really is, and what it means to 'work for the city'� He thinks not. What he must do, he sees at last, is what he has been doing all along: looking out for his own kind, the poor and the desperate, and those who walk with death in their eyes. The city's needs are alien, unfathomable. It is an entity in its own right, expanding every day, swallowing the surrounding countryside, crossing the Yamuna which was once its boundary, spawning satellite children, infant towns that it will ultimately devour. Now it is burrowing into the earth, and even later it will reach long fingers towards the stars.

I won't explain all the reference points here (read the story). Rather, a comment: what seems different (Indian?) in Vandana Singh's style is her juxtaposing of the ongoing reality of poverty in Indian life with the imaginative freedom of speculative metaphors from science.

Warning: the story is kind of hard to read -- some kind of formatting problem.

Also, Vandana Singh's writing main page is here.


Blogger Quizman said...

Two comments:

1. Where did she get the convenient timeline "three thousand years ago" for the Mahabharata? :-)

2. Hemu (a.k.a. Raja Vikramaditya) was the last Hindu ruler of Delhi in the mid-1500s and not Prithviraj Chauhan as she writes.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Subodh Gupta said...

Did Napoleon of Medieval India Vikramaditya Maharaja Hemu really belonged to Sasaram of Bihar ?? Was he really a Rauniyar Bania of OBC category ???

The history is always written for and by the winner. It is an irony that the winner of 22nd consecutive battle, who dethroned Akber and captured Delhi on 7-10-1556 in a crucial battle and took the avenge of standing insult of three hundred fifty years ( defeat of Prithvi raj Chouhan in 1192 AD ) , does not find an adequate space in our historical discourses. Was it because his father was not a ruler but a petty food merchant? He himself was not a prince but a saltpeter on street ? or because he didn’t belong to one of the higher castes? Was it because of his disadvantages of being a vaishya? or a member of mercantile caste ???.or was it because he was killed by the mugal emperor Akber who dominated the history, by assigning the job of writing his deeds in his favour to Abul Fazal? Though Abul Fazal declared Akbar the great(?) a secular whereas while compaing, it appears that it was Hemu who was a much superior warrior/ruler than Akbar the Great iii*

In the absence of any historical disclosure one has to go thorough the history of Sher Shah /Adil Shah (of Suri Dynasty) the Ruler of Sasaram to know who Vikramaditya Hemu was ???.


9:10 AM  

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