If you are an astute observer of the world like I, whatever your religious or ideological affiliation, one thing is obvious: getting your book banned is great for sales.
Lets face it, book-writers are an impoverished lot. Few of them (us?) manage to get any royalties and fewer still can live off them. In the pursuit of making a living doing what you love and in the process entertaining and illuminating people, all means must be considered fair.
I’ve been a prolific reader from my childhood and like any other kid who loved costumed super heroes I’ve created a few of my own. I have also dreamed of becoming rich and famous by writing many a marvelous novel (am working on the ‘writing’ bit) . But my novel has no guarantee of being a hit. Genius is not often recognized in its time. And so like any self-respecting indian parent ( the novel being my child, of course) I firmly believe that one must go to any lengths possible to promote ones child. yes, I am talking about getting my book banned.
After having examined lists of books banned in india like the one at centeright.in and reading pages and pages of articles written about banned books, I have discovered the perfect way to get my book banned.
Being of big heart, here is the formula in its entirety and explained.
- Write a book.
- Be very unlucky
- Be famous
- Write an unlucky book
Sounds simple doesn’t it? It isn’t.
Thousands of books are published in India every year. Other than the english press, we have a much larger press in Indian languages. The interesting thing is, many of these books that are published can be considered obscene, inflammatory, anti-religion, anti-indian etc but very few ever get banned. This is why I say you must be unlucky.
Here is how you go about being unlucky. Important! You must do all the steps, don’t be lazy, book publishing is not for the lazy.
Write something that parodies one of the following or
introduces a less than honorable side of them or
portrays in a less than saintly manner
- Mahatma Gandhi or a Gujarati historical figure
- The prophet Mohammad or the koran
- Shivaji or other local historical heroes
- Sita and Ramayana
- Indira Gandhi or other scions of the Nehru family
- Official versions of the wars India fought.
- The indian independence struggle.
- Narendra modi (Speculative, but I predict a rapid growth in this market)
- Sachin Tendulkar (Speculative)
- Barkha Dutt /Sagarika Ghose (Speculative, I think the signs are there)
Write something nice about
- Arundhati Roy or Maoists (Speculative)
- Sachin Tendulkar (speculative: if he doesn’t hit 100)
- Barkha Dutt /Sagarika Ghose (Speculative)
Ensure unluckiness by mailing copies of the book to one or more of the relevant organizations.
- Shiv Sena or similar nationalist outfits
- Darul Uloom or relevant fundamentalist islamic organization.
- Govt. Of Gujarat
- Ruling political party or opposition ( no.1 will do, but just to be sure)
- BD/SG fan club pvt limited (speculative, soon to be formed organization)
TIP: Prepare before hand. Start right now and write/speak/tweet about any/all the above, portraying them in a bad light. This will create the right atmosphere for when the book comes along.
This is an important step, you must be white. Yes, white as in Firangi. If that is not possible, be an Indian who lives abroad. Or get major funding from abroad. At least try travel abroad and speak like “foreign-returned” people. Sure, indian authors have had their work banned, but the overwhelming majority of works that have been banned have had a foreign hand. We in India do not like the foreign hand except when it is giving us grants or jobs.
Interesting historical side-note: If you were writing in the near and pre independence india, your book would have a high likely hood of being banned if it was obscene. Because Indian people must not read dirty stories written by white people. Our own desi erotica industry does quiet a good job, thank you.
Someone has said about Bollywood that it is most important who discovers you, not what they discover in you. The same can be said about getting your books banned.
Laugh at me, but when my alt. history dystopian space opera that is actually a liberal critique of the essential paradigm of partially situated Indian identities which are canonical forms of Indo-Aryan contact, using dialectics of metaphorical thoughts becomes a runaway best seller and gets banned in India, I will have the last laugh. [hint: it will feature Mohammed, Sita, Ayesha, Modi and Gandhi in abstract roles during the Kargil war]
PS: Nilanjana Roy has done a time line of books banned and brought out common threads in the book banning reasons. Banned in India Part 1 and Part 2
10 responses to “How to get your book banned in India: a step by step guide”
Haha, a must try.
I read this article that tries to throw some light on the irony of free expression. It is very true that if you tinker with the right people using the right vocabulary, you can get any book banned in India.
At the same time, I am happy that a little bit of common-sense can get most people from writing books that do not get banned.
If I were living today in the pre-reformation Europe, every book I published needed the imprimatur of the church. If I were living in one of these totalitarian (religious or political) nations, everything I write would be considered worth being banned, unless proved otherwise. If they offer 99% slavery to human thought, India offers 99% freedom.
While I decry unnecessary bans on books, I also decry the deliberate writing of books that do not do much more than give a good royalty to the writer — through sales of his/her banned books.
Johnson C. Philip
Brilliant! “We in India do not like the foreign hand except when it is giving us grants or jobs.”
nailed it. in time too. i will supersell my book too.
ok, but dont steal any of my ideas. wait, go ahead, maybe that is how i will get your book banned, become famous, then publish my book. *genius*
LOL 🙂 I just don’t get the logic, who gets to decide what is not good for me to read????
Gandhiji and his 3 monkeys
Just now I heard Vikram Seth on NDTV saying, you can’t force shut Gandhiji’s 3 monkeys’ ears, eyes or mouth..
we seem to be trying quiet hard, though 🙂