Indian English literature: It's Early Development and Later Maturity


No doubt, Indian English has attained its maturity in the hands of Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand, and R. K. Narayan, with the international writing circles begin to take notice of Indian writing in English. However, in spite of English being one of the official language of India, a link – language, as well as the language of higher education, it has often been doubted whether Indians can actually write creatively in English. An India writer literature in English was often compound to a woman preaching or a dig walking on its hind legs. But as the noted critic Francis Watson pointed out in 1950s that shot astonishment the bulk and verity of Indian Literary achievement in the English language offers us no warrant. In the 1990s one can hardly take issue with such a statement. Even if ketaki kushari Dyson in the 1991 issue of the “festival” issue of The Statesman, points out the difficulty of writing in the language which usually the vehicle for an alien culture, she herself has gained considerable recognition as an English poet. Similarly Raja Rao who had voiced his trepidation about writing “In the language that is not one’s own “ (“Preface” to Kanthapura) became celebrated in the English speaking world with his The Serpent and the Rope, A novel which has often been compared to an epic. Today, the likes of Amitava Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Anita Desai and finally Vikram Seth who has set the Western World agog by receiving the largest ever advanced for a single book, have become household names in U.K. and U.S.A. in the words of Mulk Raj Anand,  Indian English writing has come to stay as part of world literature.

            The beginning of humble Literature is the creation of three factors –the race, the milieu and the moment - said Taine. The milieu and the moment were provided when the Indian English renaissance come with Macaulay’s celebrated Minute resulted in the use of English in India from 1935 onward for education. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, one of the creators of modern India and a farm advocate of English was also the first f the Indian Masters of English prose. He wrote auto – biographical sketches in the Literary Gazette, setting a trend for lucid yet powerful prose. Henry Derozio, with an Indian mother and Portuguese father was an Indian by temperament and came to be recognized as the first Indo – Anglican poet. Oaten has not inaptly compared into Keats, “for in both men there was a passionate temperament combined with unbounded sympathy with nature. Both men died while their powers were not yet fully developed”.  Famous for his shorter lyrics and sonnets, he also wrote a long narrative poem The Fakir of Jungheera. Michael Madhusudan Dutt the renegade was one who essayed freely in English prose, verse and even drama and his narrative poem, The Captive Lady (1849) recounts the story of Prithivi Raj and Rani Samyukta. Two young Bengali ladies Aru Dutt and Taru Dutt and particularly the later touched many English hearts with their poetry. A Sheaf Gleamed in French Field which appears in 1875 was read by Edmund Gosse, with “surprise and almost raptured”.

Raja Rammohan
A new chapter of Indian writing in English came with Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo Tagore, whose most fecund output was in Bengali, achieved the Novel Prize, paradoxically to the Bengali readers, for English literature. This was for his English Gitanjali which was his own translation of his original Bengali version. When Gitanjali appeared, English and American critics were carried off their feet. The poem seemed to waft them into the supernal realms of spiritual ecstasy. Apart from the translations, certain prose works such as Sadhana, Nationalism, and The Religion of Capital Man were originally in English and the sparklingly lucid prose is almost in harmony with is lyrics. Sri Aurobindo’s literary output is phenomenal. He wrote five blank – verse plays including Perseus the Deliverer based on an ancient Greek myth and Eric, a romance of Scandinavia. He also wrote much lyrical poetry, the bulk of its suffused with a philosophical or mystical glow. His life Divine, the lonely modern epic in English, is treatise on metaphysics, as a work of prose art which has been called “a prose – symphony”.

Even though Bankim Chandra had attempted to write the first English with his the English Novel by Indian writers came of age with three stalwarts -Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan. All of them have to their credit a corpus or creative fiction of sufficient bulk to merit serious study Mulk raj Anand’s most famous novels are Untouchable, Coolie and Two Leaves and A Bud. Like Bulzak and Zola and like Tegore and Aurobindo, he wrote realistic fiction. He presented those trodden people, Munoos and the Gangus who were the targets of exploitation and cast – system. The novel of R.K. Narayan, on the other hand, presents ordinary Indian Life, in all its joy and sorrow with a rich vein of humor and pathos, in limpit prose. Like Hardy’s Wessex, he chooses the locality of Malgudi for his background, though it is actually an everywhere, among his novels are The Guide, the financial Expert, Swami and friends and Bachelor of Arts. Raja Rao has a wider range than either Anand or Narayan. His First novel Kanthapura, is an old woman’s narration of the Upheaval and the spirit of unity against the British in pre – independence days. It recounts the spiritual experience of Rama who goes on scholarship to France roams around the world, marries a French woman Madeline, loves another, Savithri, and goes through a spiritual crisis.

The 1960’s was primarily was the age of Indian English woman novelists, though male novelist like Bhabani Bhattacharya and Manohar Malgaonkar, too, made a name for themselves Kamalamar kandya’s first novel, Nector in a sieve which chronicles life in south Indianvillage has been compared to Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, Ruther PrasserJhabvala wrote novels like The nature of Passion which chronicles divers kinds of life Ranging from the local to the cosmopolitan. Anita Desai has added a new dimension to the achievement of Indian women writers in English by presenting the inner rather than the outer climate of the characters. Since her preoccupation is with the inner world of sensibility rather than the outer world of action, she has forged distinctive style to convey the fever and fretfulness of the stream of consciousness of her principal characters. Among her most famous novels are Cry the Peacock, Voices In The City and In Custody which is about to be made into a film.

As far as the tradition of poetry is concerned, after Derozio and Taru Dutt it was the turn of Sarojini Naidu to enchant with her sheer lyricism. In her early poem she tried to catch and reproduced in English the lyric and atmosphere of folk songs. Her collection of poems includes The Golden Threshold and The Feathers of the Down. Of the “new” poets Dom Morales is famous the confession cast of his poetry especially John Nobody. Nissim Ezeniel’s poems are splendidly evocative and satisfyingly sensuous. The poems in A Time to Change he is painfully and poignantly aware of the flesh, its insistent urges as well as its filiations’ worth the mind. Among other well-known poets writing in English are P. Lal, P. K. S. Saha, Kamala Das etc.

           Some Indian English writers who are creating ripples both national and international are Amitava Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Gita MehetaVikram Seth. Amitava Ghosh writes in the vein of Salman Rushdie, mingling reality and fantasy as in Aloo’s tail of his life in The Circle of Reason. Upamanyu Chatterjee’s first novel Indian August is a fairly lucid semi – autobiographical story of an alienated IAS Officer. Gita Meheta in spite of the rather catchy titles such as Karma Cola and River Sutra does not, unlike Shobha De in The two Sisters, present the merely sleazy tale of sensuality and power. The appeal to the more humane qualities is ever present. Vikram Seth is one novelist who has already attained immortality by his popularity and prolific quality. He has written books of poem like From Heaven Lake, and a rhymed book of fables, Beastly tales. The Golden Gate is the first ever modern novel inverse, a sequence of sonnets in iambic tetrameter about a young man in a personal crisis. But is A Suitable Boy set in India which has made him the highest paid writer in English in history brought the Indian writer of fiction in English has indeed come a long way.

Ardhendu De


Popular posts from this blog

Dr. West’s New Method of Teaching English :Its Merits and Demerits

Analysis of Mulk Raj Anand’s Story, "The Lost Child": Accepted Part of Our Multicultural Neighborhood in the World

Critical Appreciation of Philip Larkin’s Poem, "The North Ship": Life Award for Best Philosophical Access