Here are 10 of the most gripping opening sentences in recent Indian fiction

Hindustan Times | By
Aug 22, 2017 09:13 AM IST

Here’s a list (by no means definitive) of stunning opening lines from recent Indian fiction in English that will have you at hello.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that epic opening lines get etched into literary history. They float high above the rest to be savoured for eternity by readers and serve as guiding lights for the writers to come. Think Herman Melville’s ‘Call Me Ishmael’ or Charles Dickens’ ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ or Leo Tolstoy’s ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

A good opening sentence is proof of the writer’s ability to draw the reader in.(Shutterstock)
A good opening sentence is proof of the writer’s ability to draw the reader in.(Shutterstock)

If a book’s cover be its Tinder profile picture, the opening line is the LinkedIn page. It is proof of the writer’s ability to draw the reader in. Since the epic ones by the literary greats have been celebrated to death, here’s a list (by no means definitive) of gripping opening sentences from recent Indian fiction in English that will have you at hello.

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When I was young--probably six or seven, not older than eight anyway--our mother would drive tiny nails into the front door to ward off bad luck. Bad luck, then, must have come in through the back door, for, by the time I considered myself grown up--thirteen or fourteen, at most sixteen--I had started to regard it as a family member--our parents’ fourth child, someone older than me and younger than Sophiya--who would walk away with most of our small fortune much before I turned my present age--twenty-six.

– Anees Salim, The Blind Lady’s Descendants

I first read about Margaret Wheeler the week my elder sister was murdered. According to that newspaper they were alike. Which, in my opinion, was not correct at all. Some things were similar -- like they were both girls and they were both eighteen years old but, apart from that, it was what Mum would call ‘just bizaah’. Well, for one, I sat and calculated in the back of my social studies notebook that they were separated by a full one-hundred-and-forty years. How can anything or anyone be alike after such a long time?

– Jaishree Mishra, A Love Story for My Sister

If drugs were people you met at a party, ganja and hashish would be the middle-aged guys in dirt-starched jeans sitting on the terrace strumming a guitar. They would say things like dude, check out the moon a lot. Acid would be the amateur DJ mixing Buddha Bar and Ibiza trance, trying to catch all the pretty colours drifting from the loud speakers. Ecstasy the young girl touching herself, touching everybody, touching the walls, making love to the world...

– Arjun Nath, White Magic (2016)

If she hadn’t met Jahanara at all, Mrinalini would have missed the quite awesome experience of being worshipped. It’s a nice thing to be worshipped if, like Mrinalini, you have just begun a desultory search for career in a dotcom of primary colours and grand ambitions that rather outshine your own, and your boyfriend has left to study finance in England leaving you with the implicit promise of marriage you’re not wholly sure you want. but perhaps wouldn’t mind, and then your roomate reveals she’s gay and begins to woo you in a poetic and doomed kind of way. If, in the process, Jahanara’s heart broke, Mrinalini thought you could hardly blame her because it’s not like she had even known Jahanara was gay or likely to fall in love with her.

– Parvati Sharma, Close to Home

I’m driving toward Delhi from Gurgaon and the sweet irony of being a Delhi woman who has a Maruti Van with a rapist captive in it -- who I’m going to shortly destroy -- does not escape me. It never does. Hell, I’ve even christened my car, Anti-Balatcar. You see, I love irony. Irony is the key to my good figure, my robust health and my sanity.

– Sorabh Pant, Under Delhi

Do you have any favourite opening lines from recent Indian fiction? Tweet @htlifeandstyle and share them with us.

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