Erotica: A rising genre in Indian Literature

Being hailed as the birthplace of Kamasutra our country has been very conventional in a lot of things. We have something known as the censor board which decides the kind of movies we can watch. We also have a lot of well-wishers who protect the youth from the western influences of celebrating Valentine’s Day and talking about sex is a huge NO!

Exploring one’s sexuality has been acceptable since times unknown. Going back to as old as the 16th century we have had authors write stories which spoke about varied sexual preferences. And yet today, when someone says “Let’s talk about sex!” in a room full of people there are only two immediate reactions after the initial oohs and aahs– either it is going to be a discussion which revolves around health or it going to be something that is cheap. The very fact that in YouTube rewind the trending video from India revolves around a joke made on porn, speaks a lot about us as a country.

Amidst all this, in the recent times the new age authors who have explored Erotica as a genre seem like a breath of fresh air. They are venturing into a territory which was ours long back but had got lost somewhere in between. Through their words, they are trying to reclaim it.

Few years back if you entered a book store and asked for a book from erotica genre the only ones available were the various interpretations of the one and only Kama Sutra or the tried and tested Mills & Boons. Cut to 2014. The moment you walk into a book store today you see 50 shades of grey trilogy proudly on display along with various Indian books like Play with Me, Mistakes like Love & Sex, Someone Like you, There’s no love on wall street (Penguin), Random House’s Kama Kahani series, Eighteen Plus – Bedtime stories for grownups (Rupa Publications) and the Forbidden Series (Harper Collins) which signify that finally erotica is peeping from the closet it had been locked into years ago.

Coming from reputed publishing houses these titles explore the depth of erotica by talking about fantasies, forbidden pleasures and those hidden desires that co-exist in every human being along with love and empathy. Like Ananth Padmanabhan the author of Play with me and Sr. VP at Penguin had said in one of his interviews, “Yes, Indians do want more of erotica. When books on pain, misery and death can be read and enjoyed, it is difficult to believe when people say they don’t enjoy reading erotica.“The six digit sales figures of 50 shades of gray in India surely vouch for the same.

Under the garb of Mills & Boons or in other books the desires were always camouflaged. In other words Erotica had always been around it is just that it has found its voice recently. Though there are a lot of people who continue to believe that it is the lure of the forbidden that is making more people buy such books, there are still a handful of people who think it’s high time India got its own version aptly called the 100 shades of life showing how colorful the fantasies are from the land of Vatsyayana.

Are our classics dying?

The other day at an informal gathering all of us were discussing books when suddenly the name of Ismat Chugtai came up. Not many had heard her name, leave alone reading her stories. And mind you, I am not talking about complete non-readers here. Many of those in the group claim to be voracious readers having read the likes of Charles Dickens and D H Lawrence. This set me thinking, are your classics dying?

Throughout our school we grow up reading Shakespearean plays as a part of our curriculum rising upto Keats poetries by the time we are in high school. By the time we are adults we know everything we need to know about “thou” and “thee”. Have we ever wondered if we have an Indian version of Keats or Shakespeare? Or for that matter wondered why we Indians grow up on English classics? The answer is an embarrassing no.

No wonder today names like Manto, Kamla Das, Ismat Chugtai, Prem chand don’t ring a bell to many book lovers alike! We are a diversified country with so many languages to boast of added to the fact that each language has had some amazing writers in them. Sadly many of them are still lying undiscovered even as we speak. Our generation stands to lose a lot of knowledge which in itself is scary thought.

Our conservative thinking has got a lot to do with this perhaps, as you notice every second child wants to become a doctor or an engineer, how many answer it as a painter or a mountaineer? We have been conditioned to think like this since childhood. It is a product of human consciousness.

What we forget is that our classics are unique and some pure masterpieces. They deserve to be flaunted as they can be easily called our pride. It comes as a surprise to note the number of Indians who know the Pythagoras theorem was invented by whom! I feel that in itself speaks a lot about our knowledge about our own culture.

Let today be the first step you take towards knowing your own culture. Grab a classic in Indian literature, read it, devour it and spread the word!