Experts Column

India has one of the most complicated literary histories in the world, with 22 officially recognised languages and nearly 3,000 years of written literature. To assist you navigate this bewildering literary landscape, we've compiled a list of the top fifteen Indian women writers whose work has characterised Indian-English literature.

ARUNDHATI ROY 

Arundhati Roy's debut novel, The God of Small Things (1997), not only won the Booker Prize, but also became the best-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author. Roy is one of the most popular writers in contemporary India, noted for her strong political opinions and comments. She has also published several essay collections, including War Talk (2003) and Capitalism: A Ghost Story (2006). (2014).

Roy's first novel is a must-read for every literature enthusiast. It will almost feel as though Roy has disguised poetry as prose because the characters are so well-crafted and the wording is so magnificent. It might be read as a social commentary on the caste-based inequality that exists in India, or as a touching love story. In any way, this is going to be one of the most memorable books you've ever read.

ANITA DESAI

Anita Desai is a well-known and celebrated figure in the Indian literary world, having been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. Clear Light of Day (1980), In Custody (1984), which was transformed into an award-winning film in 1993, and The Village by the Sea (1982), for which she received the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, are among her most well-known novels.

  Fasting, Feasting (on the differences in living in India and America), and Cry, the Peacock are a few others (a woman haunted by a prediction made in her childhood). Games at Twilight, is a terrific place to start for someone new to her work.

ANITA NAIR

Anita Nair is a prolific writer whose works include Mistress (a novel about Kerala's Kathakali dance), Ladies Coupe (conversations between women in a train compartment), Idris: Keeper of Light (a novel about a Somali trader visiting southern India in the 17th century), and Better Man (about friendships). She's also the author of a poetry collection and nonfiction publications. Her Inspector Gowda series is her first foray into the criminal genre.

DIVAKARUNI CHITRA BANERJEE

Mistress of Spices (a merchant who helps customers satisfy their wishes with spices coloured with magic) and Oleander Girl (a trip across post-9/11 America to discover the protagonist's true identity) are two of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's best-known works. The Palace of Illusions, a retelling of Mahabharatha from the perspective of Draupadi, is a fantastic book about Indian mythology. Divakaruni's stories are set mostly in India and the United States, and they frequently centre on the lives of South Asian immigrants. Her books are classified as literary fiction, historical fiction, mythology, and fantasy.

K. R. MEERA

K.R. Meera is a well-known Malayalam author. Many of her novels have been translated into English, including Yellow is the Colour of Longing, Hangwoman (on capital punishment and the narrative of a woman forced to carry on a family legacy), The Gospel of Yudas (on love and treachery in the post-Naxalite era), and The Poison of Love (story of a woman with a philandering husband). Her most acclaimed novel, Araachar (translated as Hangwoman), won multiple honours, including the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (2013), Odakkuzhal Award (2013), Vayalar Award (2014), Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award (2015), and a spot on the 2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist.

SUDHA MURTHY

Sudha Murthy is best recognised for her humanitarian endeavours and contributions to Kannada and English literature. She has written both adult and children's books. How I Taught My Grandmother to Read, The Old Man and His God: Discovering the Spirit of India, The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk, The Bird with Golden Wings: Stories of Wit and Magic, and Dollar Bahu are some of her most well-known books.

KAVITA KANE

Kavita Kane specialises in recounting Indian mythologies. She is an Indian author, former journalist, and new-era retelling author. Her best piece is supposed to be Karna's Wife. Her most recent work, Lanka's Princess, portrays the account of Lord Rama's conflict with Ravana from the perspective of Surpanaka.

JHUMPA LAHIRI

Jhumpa Lahiri is an Indian-born American author. Her stories have an Indian flavour to them and convey the nostalgia of immigrants. Her debut novel, The Namesake, was warmly received, and her most recent work, The Lowland, was included in the Man Booker longlist in 2013. The short story collections, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth are two of the particular favourites of all.

JANICE PARIAT

Janice Pariat is a well-known North East Indian writer. Pariat earned the Sahitya Akademi Young Writer Award for the English language in 2013 for her debut collection of short stories, Boats on Land. She is the first writer from Meghalaya to receive a Sahitya Akademi award for an English-language work. The Hindu Literary Prize shortlisted her debut novel Seahorse.

KIRAN DESAI

Kiran Desai is Anita Desai's daughter. Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, her first novel, won the Betty Trask Award. Her second novel, The Inheritance of Loss, was awarded both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award in 2006.

She was the featured author at the first Asia House Festival of Cold Literature in May 2007. Desai received a Berlin Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin in 2013.

INDIRA GOSWAMI 

Indira Goswami is a writer from Assam. She is also noted for her role as a mediator between the government and militant groups and for bringing about societal change through her novels. The Moth Eaten Howdah of the Tusker, Pages Stained With Blood, and The Man from Chinnamasta are among her writings that have been translated into English from her native Assamese. She received the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Jnanpith Award in 1983. (2001).

KAMALA SURAYYA  

Kamala Surayya, commonly known as Kamala Das or Madhavikutty, is a well-known Malayalam and English poet. In 1984, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her writings are personal, and she does not shy away from controversial issues like female sexual awakening, much to the chagrin of the conservative society of the time. Her semi-autobiographical book, My Story, is a well-known work that sparked much debate upon its publication.

NAMITA GOKHALE

Namita Gokhale is the author of fourteen novels and nonfiction works. Her debut novel, Paro: Dreams of Passion, was recognised for its explicit sexual humour and was a parody on Bombay's elite. Her most recent novel, Things to Leave Behind, was published in 2016.

NILANJANA ROY

Nilanjana S Roy is the author of The Wildings (2012) and The Hundred Names of Darkness (2013), as well as The Girl Who Ate Books, a collection of essays on reading (2016). The Wildings was a finalist for the Commonwealth Book Prize and won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2012.

MEENA KANDASAMY

Meena Kandasamy is a Tamil Nadu-based Indian poet, fiction writer, translator, and activist. Feminism and opposition to the caste system are common topics in her work. She is most recognised for her poetry. She has also translated into English the writings of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, Thirumavalavan, and Tamil Eelam authors Kasi Anandan, Cheran, and VIS Jayapalan. Her debut novel is Gypsy Goddess.