Anjana Appachana

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Sharmaji Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Anjana Appachana's Sharmaji. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Anjana Appachana

Born in Kodagu, India in 1972, Anjana Appachana was educated at Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Pennsylvania State University. Appachana moved to the United States in 1984 to attend Pennsylvania State University. She has not returned to live in India, speaking in interviews of the comparative difficulties a writer faces working there. After moving to the United States, Appachana received both an O. Henry Prize and a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Appachana has written three books, Incantations and Other Stories, Listening Now, and Fear and Lovely. She currently lives in Arizona.
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Historical Context of Sharmaji

“Sharmaji,” like many of Anjana Appachana’s stories, is set in India during the latter part of the 20th century. The only explicit historical clue given in the story is Gupta’s comment that Miss Das must think “it is still Indiraji’s raj,” a reference to the politician Indira Gandhi, who was the first female prime minister of India, serving from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 to 1984. While it is unclear exactly what year this would date the story to, this definitively places it in the aftermath of a period of great transition in Indian society. Under Indira Gandhi’s leadership, India went through multiple border and internal conflicts, a revolution in agriculture, and a transformation of women’s role in society. Indian writers in India and throughout the diaspora reckoned with this change in various ways, acknowledging both the need for social revolution and the more destructive and authoritarian aspects of modernization, such as Indira Gandhi’s violent suppression of secessionist movements.

Other Books Related to Sharmaji

Anjana Appachana’s generation of Indian writers included a number of authors writing in English who found great success abroad, sometimes more so than in India itself. These writers include Arundhati Roy, whose 1997 novel The God of Small Things won the prestigious Booker Prize, and the slightly older Indian-British novelist Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses. In fact, Rushdie edited a 1997 collection of Indian writing in English, together with Elizabeth West, which included Appachana’s “Sharmaji.” Given its focus on the contemporary workplace, it’s also worth considering “Sharmaji” alongside short stories by the American author George Saunders, who often writes humorously about jaded and dejected employees.
Key Facts about Sharmaji
  • Full Title: Sharmaji
  • When Written: 1980s
  • Where Written: United States
  • When Published: 1991
  • Literary Period: Postcolonialism
  • Genre: Short Story, Social Satire
  • Setting: An office in Delhi, India
  • Climax: Sharma is issued a charge-sheet for being late to work and must defend himself against Borwankar and Miss Das.
  • Antagonist: Borwankar
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Sharmaji

Writerly Success. Anjana Appachana won a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1995, one of the most prestigious awards a writer in the United States can receive.

Returning to Print. Anjana Appachana’s 2023 novel, Fear and Lovely, is her first in over in 20 years. Her last published work was 1998’s Listening Now.