8.1 Introduction

This chapter is partly based on a variety of critical writings and internet websites indicated in the bibliography. For a more detailed account, the reader should turn to those references. With the publication of Ram Mohan Roy's tract on "Sati" (1818) to the present day, Indian English literature written in English could be said to have a life of about 200 years. In the present scenario, Indian English has been universally accepted as a unique style of discourse with its own nuances, giving expression to Indian multiculturalism in the work of writers in India or those abroad. Not only the new Indian writers in the West, expatriates, the second and the third generation writers, but also the classic authors like A.K. Ramanujan, Nissim Ezekiel, Mulk Raj Anand, R. K. Narayan, and Bhabani Bhattacharya are being interpreted in the old critical mode as well as the current critical system of multiculturalism, post-coloniality, post-modernism and diaspora. In the present day English literature, V. S. Naipal is being interpreted not only as a Caribbean or British author but also a diasporic writer engaged in a quest for the Indianness inherited by him.

Early Indian writers used English unadulterated by Indian words to convey an experience which was essentially Indian. Raja Rao's Kanthapura is Indian in terms of its storytelling qualities. Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Bengali and English and was responsible for the translation of his own work into English. Nirad C. Chaudhuri, a writer of non-fiction, is best known for his Autobiography of an Unknown Indian where he relates his life experiences and influences. He was a self-confessed Anglophile.

(Source: http:// wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_writing_in_English).

8.2 English Writing in India

These days a number of distinct languages and literatures flourish on the Indian literary scene, and most of these are distributed on a broadly regional basis. The English books published in India account for about 50% of the total for all languages (Iyengar 1962) and the English newspapers and magazines command a more impressive and influential circulation than the others. For all practical purposes, English is an all-India language for all the educated people who often come from a variety of linguistic backgrounds. In its use in higher education, judiciary, administration, mass media and at national and international conferences or gatherings, whether official or non-official, English is indeed indispensable. The position therefore is that people now continue to talk and write in English, the language of the higher administration and the law courts remains English, the medium of teaching and examinations in most colleges and universities is English and the many examinations and interviews for the Indian Administrative and other all- India services and even most of the provincial services are also conducted in English. The result can also be seen in the field of book production. India has become the third largest English book- producing country after the United States and the United Kingdom, and the largest number of books is published in English.

The thematic range of literature has been extended in India: in fact, Kachru points out that English has functioned "as the main agent for releasing the South Asian languages from the rigorous constraints of the classical literary traditions". English has created new experimentation in the field of Indian writing (Kachru 1994: 535-536). Kachru points out that the linguistic centre of English has shifted. This means that English no longer only represents the Judeo-Christian traditions and Western concepts of literary creativity. The range of English has expanded, as varieties within a variety have been formed (Kachru 1986a: 130-131).

8.3 Poetry

Poetry is a much over-looked category of Indian writing in English. As stated above Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Bengali and English and was responsible for the translation of his own writings into English. Derozio, Joseph Furtado, Armando Menezes, Toru Dutt, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Sarojini Naidu and many more are other early notable poets in English. In modern times, Indian poetry in English was typified by two very different poets, namely Dom Moraes winner of the 1958 Hawthornden Prize, one of the oldest British prize for imaginative literature, at the precocious age of 19 for his first collection of poems A Beginning, went on to occupy a pre-eminent position among Indian poets writing in English. Nissim Ezekiel, who came from India's tiny Jewish community, created a voice and place for Indian poets writing in English and championed their work.

Indian English poets have contributed a lot in the history of English literature by their style of expression. Among the Indian poets Toru Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarjoni Naidu, Nissim Ezekiel, Shiv K. Kumar and many others have glorified the tradition of Indian English Literature.

Toru Dutt articulates a moral vision through Indian myths which gives beauty to human life, the poems are essentially romantic in treatment of themes and the profusion of lyricism links him to Wordsworth and Coleridge. Her Nature Poetry is sensuous and, like Keats, she combines beauty and truth.

Rabindranath Tagore is one of the greatest writers and thinkers of all times. He is remembered not only for his poetry and plays but also for his translations, music and some of the most influential ideas in education. He was indeed a genius and a significant contributor to the emerging history of Indian literature in English. Though he was denied formal schooling and academic grind, he awoke keenly to Nature and life around him. He exposed himself responsibly to the twin worlds of the English Romantic Poets, and Indian devotional poetry in general. The English volume under the title Gitanjali was an instant success. It won him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. It was acclaimed by W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and many other European critics. The songs in Gitanjali are poet's meditation on God, Man and Nature. Perhaps Ezra Pound was a more objective critic than Yeats who pin-pointed the merit of Gitanjali in exploiting adroitly the prose-poetry as a new medium. The cardinal virtue of free verse lies in the intensified moment of poetic expression forging out a music of its own - 'not the music associated with verse forms based on rhythm of metrical feet, but cadence which was bound to no counted syllable of each lines that rose and fell with the emotions and flow of words.' Tagore achieves excellence in this aesthetic organization. His tenor is essentially meditative and mode lyrical. His imagery is forged in the myth of Indian philosophy and spiritualism. (Source: Prasad, Hari Mohan, & Singh, Chandradhar Prasad, 1985. Sarojini Naidu was born in a highly cultured family of Hyderabad. Like Toru Dutt, she started writing verse at an early age, showing signs of control and originality. In her spontaneous poetry, images and metaphors come rolling one after the other creating an imaginative whole that is much greater than its parts put together. Her poetry is intensely emotional, at times passionate to the point of eroticism and always has a spring like lyricism. Though deeply influenced by the British Romantic Poets, she is solidly rooted in the Indian tradition and culture.

Nissim Ezekiel, (b. 1924) Professor of English at Bombay University, comes of a Jewish family in Mumbai. His first book of poems, A time to Change was published in London in 1952. His other volumes are Sixty Poems (1953), The Third (1959), The Unfinished Man (1960), The Exact Name (1965), Hymns in Darkness (1976) and Latter-Day Psalms (1982), which won him the Sahitya Akademi Award. He has edited several books, including A Martin Luther King Reader and Writing in India and also at various times, journals such as Quest, Poetry India, and Freedom First. He is a modern poet in the true sense of the word and is deeply influenced by such poets as Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Rilke, MacNeice, Spender, Auden and modern American Poetry in general. The central themes of his poetry include personal reflections, the Indian contemporary scene, modern urban life and spiritual values. In fact his poetry registers a development from the predominantly external world of 'flesh and bone' to 'myths to light'.

8.4 Prose

The Indian English Literature also treasures a great number of short story writers as well as novelists. Among the novelists Mulk Raj Anand, Vikram Seth, R. K. Narayan, Manohar Mangonkar, Arundhati Roy, the winner of booker prize for her matchless work The God of Small Things, Shobha De, Manju Kapoor, Anita Desai and many others have not only glorified the Indian English Literature but also contributed a lot to the world literature of English.

Anita Desai was born June 24, 1937 in India to a German mother and an Indian father. Although she now resides in South Hadley, Massachusetts, teaching writing at Mount Holyoke College, she is a member of the Advisory Board for English in New Delhi. Desai writes in English, saying, "I first learned English when I went to school. It was the first language that I learnt to read and write, so it became my literary language. Languages tend to proliferate around one in India, and one tends to pick up and use whatever is at hand. It makes one realize each language has its own distinct genius." She excels in the portrayal of the inner life of middle class Indian women. Desai's work is part of a new style of writing to come out of India which is not nearly as conservative as Indian writing that had been in the past. One concern that is part of her work, especially the novel Baumgartner's Bombay, is about being divided and alien. Her work includes The Peacock (1963), Voices in the City (1965), The Peacock Garden (1974), Journey to Ithaca (1996), and Diamond Dust (2000).

Raja Rao is a dedicated artist, both at the level of content and form. From his generation, perhaps nobody else enjoys comparable respect both at home and abroad. Perhaps Raja Rao's most outstanding contribution is to construct a platform where the best of East and West can engage in a meaningful dialogue. During the struggle for the Independence of India, he served the cause of freedom not as a warrior but as a writer awakening his sisters and brothers through Kanthapura, which is a first rate commentary on Gandhism. And his collection of short stories The Cow of the Barricades and other Stories is a compendium of social and political life in India during the thirties and forties of the 20th century. His commitment to Vedanta, a universal religion, to interpreting India to the west in the right perspective, and to creating international understanding has resulted in his masterpiece The Serpent and the Rope (Sahitya Akademi Award Winner) and The Cat and Shakespeare (an exposition of the Marjara-Kishore Nyaya of Vedanta). He is most gratefully remembered for giving the Indian novel in English its unique identity. His linguistic modifications in addition to themes, techniques, sensibility and background are a marvelous achievement in the art of Indianizing the novel in English.

The English novel in his hand is certainly not an Indian version of the English novel. It is a truly twice born genre of English literature. Raja Rao is, by all standards, an innovator in the field of fiction - writing in India, particularly in English. His narratives are sustained, his style is arresting, and his themes and their treatment are par excellence. A true modern fiction writer that has freed himself from the shackles of the traditional chronological time. As a true disciple of Swami Shankaracharya he has found a striking similarity between the Vedantic concept of time and Bergsonian Duree. He has made the best use of all that was, has been and still is the best in both the East (India) and the West regarding both the technique and the material. He is a master craftsman in achieving the most important of the unities - the unity of impression.

Mulk Raj Anand continues to enjoy the reputation of being a stalwart in the field of Indian fiction in English, notwithstanding some of his determined detractors. The appearance of eight full-length critical studies on Anand has not exhausted Anand's creative genius. Each new study adds a new dimension to our understanding of Anand and his work. The variety of critical responses evolved only shows the recognition of the richness and complexity of Anand's fiction.

The distinction of Anand as a writer lies in his themes - both in their choice and in their treatment. The themes which Anand has chosen are based on human suffering caused by a variety of factors - political, economic, social and cultural. There are several competing centres of attention identifiable with his thematic concerns like the caste system, class system, religion education and the status of women which constitute the principal foci of thematic significance. Anand is perhaps the most effective narrator of the Indian social life. He is far removed from the mysterious and the metaphysical.

R. K. Narayan, the doyen of Indo-Anglian novelists, is one of the most admired writers in English today. In nearly half a century of creative writing, he has unobtrusively built up an edifice of fiction which will endure the worst ravages of ephemeral trends and flashy vogues in literature. This simple and unpretentious writer has been enriching life and letters with his charming and warm-hearted novels and stories of Malgudi. The deceptive simplicity of his consummate art has often baffled the highbrow theorists of fiction. R. K. Narayan often creates characters with which one can identify spontaneously. Swami, Krishna and Chandran and Ramani or Suseela and Savitri or the unassuming Sastri and the innumerable minor characters are easily recognizable, because they are based on real life models. However, there are some of Narayan's characters who are quite different. For example, Margayya, the ambitious financier in The Financial Expert, Raju, the ostentatious guide in The Guide or Vasu, the rogue taxidermist in The Man-Eater of Malgudi, are extraordinary characters and yet convincing. One reason that these extraordinary characters appear convincing relates to the prominent element of the esoteric in these novels. The use of tales from the Hindu mythology, the teachings of the Bhagavadgita, and the austere religious practices and beliefs there ordained add strength to the fictional art of R.K. Narayan. Further more, these kinds of mythic allusion help the reader with a better understanding of that particular character and a deeper insight into human nature. It is in this context that Narayan's skilful use of myth makes reality more easily comprehensible. As Ian Milligan rightly says, novelists like Narayan "continually add to the richness of our human experience; they bring before us new topics, new characters, new attitudes".

Vikram Seth was born in 1952 in Kolkata, and studied in Kolkata, Delhi, Oxford, Stanford and Nanking. He is a well-known Indo-English writer of today's times. His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describes the experiences of a group of friends living in California. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book). Set in India in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young girl, Lata, and her search for a husband. An Equal Music (1999) is the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover. His novels The Golden Gate and A Suitable Boy have gained a lot of success not only in India but also all over the world. He has also published five collections of poems, a travel book, From Heaven's Lake and translation of Chinese poetry. It was indeed A Suitable Boy that brought instant fame to Seth. After a long time narrative fiction was suitably told in verse. He is also the author of a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children's book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse.

Amitabh Ghosh was born in Kolkata in 1956. He graduated from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and took a D. Litt. in social anthropology from Oxford. He teaches at Columbia University, New York. His work is regarded highly in the field of English literature. The Circle of Reason which won the Prix Medici Estranger, a top French literary award, The Shadow Lines which won the Sahitya Akademi award, the recent The Calcutta Chromosome and In an Antique Land, a book of non-fiction are his great works.

8.5 Conclusion

The form and function of Indian English is significantly different from those of the native varieties of English. Dustoor suggests, "There will be a more or less indigenous flavour about our English. In our imagery, in our choice of words, in the nuances of meaning we put into our words, we must be expected to be different from Englishmen and Americans alike". The language thus re-created would honestly be expressive of our national temperament and will considerably enrich the English language. Pathak R.S. (1993) rightly points out "Indian English literature is now a reality which cannot be ignored. It was a byproduct of the Indian cultural renaissance of the nineteenth century. Although the contact with the English language was capitalized by what Nirad Choudhuri calls the 'dominant minority' later, Indians have been in touch with it for about four centuries. The roots of English on the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to 31 December 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I granted a Charter to a few merchants of London giving them a monopoly of trade with India. At about the same time Marlowe made his Dr Faustus say, "I'll make them fly to India for gold, Ransack the ocean for orient pearl". The impact of the missionaries started in 1614 and got intensified after 1659. All out efforts were made, as Macaulay's famous Minute of 1835 tells us, to create a culturally distinct group of Indians who would act as "interpreters" between the rulers and the ruled, "a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect" English thus became the language of education in India in 1835 and was made the official language of the then government in 1837. English education created bilinguals, highly imaginative and resourceful, who began to wield the English language effectively and use it as a means of self-expression for creative purposes." Hence, Indian English literature is blooming and has given a source of expression to the Indians and for the rest of the world to see. Today English language and literature is a part of Indian multilingual and multicultural ethos.


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