Indian Writers in English: MANOHAR MALGONKAR

List of Indian writers writing in English

MANOHAR MALGONKAR is a novelist/writer and nonfiction writer (Is he still alive? He was born in 1913). I stumbled upon his name on and am tempted to buy a book by him just to see what it’s like. Of course, I could also try the libraries, but one can’t deny the sheer convenience of pressing a few buttons, losing a few dollars, and suddenly the book is floating your way in a brown envelope. (here’s a bio of the man)

MALGONKAR’s web essays are light-hearted, nostalgic, enjoyable, not terribly important. Here’s a take for example on getting an old book optioned for a film…by a family friend.

Here’s a light-hearted piece by him on authors and name changes:

Here’s his amazing discovery of British bathing habits in the 18th century:

For most Englishmen of the 17th and 18th centuries, a bath must have been a rare experience indeed, affordable to the very rich, who perhaps took baths when they felt particularly obnoxious, what with their zest for vigorous exercise, such as workouts in the boxing ring or rowing or riding at the gallop over the countryside. What a sensual pleasure it must have been to lie soaking in a tub full of scalding hot water? But such indulgences were possible only during the few weeks of what the English call their summer. For the rest of the year, the water in the tub could not have remained hot for more than a couple of minutes, and from November through February must have gone icy cold as soon as it was poured in. Brrrrr!

Then again, even those who thus bathed their bodies a few times every summer seem to have been careful to, as it were, keep their heads above water. In other words, a bath did not also involve a hair-wash. Otherwise there doesnt seem to be any reason why they should have found it necessary to coinor adopta special word to describe the process of bathing hair: shampoo, which, Hobson Jobson tells us is derived from the Hindi word, champi, for massage. Why a word which normally described the process of muscle-kneading should have been picked on to explain a head-wash, is not at all convincing. It seems that the Companys servants used to send for their barbers every now and then to massage their heads with oil and then rinse off the hair with soap and water. So the head-champi, became shampoo.

He finds the answers in White Mughals by William Dalrymple:

“Indian women, for example, introduced British men in the delights of regular bathing…”Those who had returned home and continued to bathe and shampoo themselves on a regular basis found themselves scoffed at as effeminate.”

On Propaganda and official versions of events:

After all, in times of war, it is not permissible to think of your enemies as ordinary human beings: It is almost a patriotic duty to think of them as mindless savages, capable of the vilest excesses. In the second world war, our own troops were put through some rough and ready brainwashing. Our human-figure targets for rifle practice acquired Japanese faces and helmets, and as we charged making blood-curdling noises and thrust bayonets into straw-filled gunnybags, we were told to think of those sacks as the bellies of Japanese soldiers.

On biographies that victimize:

This is the reason why, no man or woman of mature years is satisfied with his or her portrayal, be it by camera, or painted on canvas, or even, as is common in my profession, in words.

Meaning, biographies.

It is altogether axiomatic: the subjects of biographies themselves are never pleased with them. Invariably they find flaws, inaccuracies, misinterpretations, exaggerations…

(The) normal reaction of the subjects of such unauthorised biographies (is).. Horrified revulsion, helpless rage… Helpless is the operative word. There is no redress. The dice are loaded in favour of writers and publishers, and to seek legal remedies is a self-defeating exercise because the extra publicity only helps to sell more copies of the book.