Monthly Archives: October 2009

“a high-class cheez”


Novelist Chandrahas Choudhury on the state of novel in English in India:

In a scene early in Vikram Chandra’s massive 2006 cops-and-robbers novel Sacred Games, the small-time gangster Ganesh Gaitonde sells some stolen gold and feels, for the first time in his life, wealthy and powerful. He goes looking for pleasure on the streets, and a pimp offers him “a high-class cheez.” But no sooner is Gaitonde left alone with the prostitute than he begins to feel set up. He has only one way of finding out whether his “cheez” is as high-class as promised. “Speak English,” he orders the woman. When she complies, Gaitonde cannot understand the words, but it doesn’t matter. “I knew that they were really English,” he thinks to himself. “I felt it in the crack of the consonants.”

The prostitute’s utterances in English earn her fee, just as the Indian novelist who chooses to write in English has often been accused, especially by readers and critics at home, of being inauthentic or a sellout, forcing characters with their roots in the words and worldview of some other Indian language to “speak English.” The debate, of course, is old, fraught with the historical baggage of India’s British colonial past…

More here.  To read more of Chandrahas Choudhury go here.

Dalit English Poet – Meena Kandasamy


Recently I came across an exciting voice in Indian English poetry: Meena Kandasamy. I first read her poems in a blog and found about her through blogs, her own as well of others. This is an indication in itself that blogging is beginning to be the dominant medium for accessing poetry. Blogging has several advantages in this respect as it unshackles the poets from being dependant on publishers or magazines. It is as democratic as is currently possible. More and more poets, despite their background, can find their  readers without being subjected to the humiliating process of the publishing industry.

Meena Kandasamy has some interesting things to say about blogging. She is a Dalit writer from Tamilnadu who writes poetry in English. She is also an active translator. Her blog makes for interesting reading. A new voice in the field of Indian English Literature, she is very articulate about the aspirations of the dalits. One of her recent blogs was insightful. Here she talks about blogging, caste oppression and women. Here is an excerpt:

from: Meena Kandasamy blog

Big media houses which own the major publications rarely give opportunity to Dalit (ex-untouchable) writers, and there’s an absence of Dalit/anti-caste writers who write in English. The elitist writers want to write the feel-good stuff, India Shining myths, and that’s the work that gets into print. So, I wanted to tap the power and enormous outreach of the internet: how anyone can write and be read/heard in the virtual space. I was not writing because anyone was commissioning me, I didn’t have to follow other people’s diktats, I could speak my mind. Google and tagging ensure that I can get heard without having my own column in any newspaper. Sometimes its helped me bring some happenings to light—such as the recent inside story of Dalit students being beaten up at a law university in Chennai (the mainstream media merely reported it as a “clash” at first) and so on. Blogging on feminist issues, with a caste perspective, was also something that I set out to do, because feminism in India forgets that caste exists at all, and that women at the bottom of the caste hierarchy do suffer more.

Since the cost of establishing alternative media in India is extremely high, activist groups have taken to the Internet in a big way. There is a hunger to use the potential of this media, and human rights defenders are doing it the right way. The campaign to free Binayak Sen; the exposes on state terrorism, fake encounters and police atrocities; the virulent speed in which fact-finding reports can be circulated; the ease with which the LGBT community in India came together and organized their shows of strength in every major city—these have all been possible because of the digital sphere and the space for social networking, discussion and dissemination that it allows.

She has another blog where she has posted several of her poems. She has published a collection of her poems called Touch. Kamala Das wrote the forward where she calls Meena an exciting writer. Believe her. Or decide after reading her poems. One of them is ‘Becoming a Brahmin‘:

Algorithm for converting a Shudra into a Brahmin


Step 1: Take a beautiful Shudra girl.
Step 2: Make her marry a Brahmin.
Step 3: Let her give birth to his female child.
Step 4: Let this child marry a Brahmin.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3-4 six times.
Step 6: Display the end product. It is a Brahmin.


Algorithm advocated by Father of the Nation at Tirupur.
Documented by Periyar on 20.09.1947.

Algorithm for converting a Pariah into a Brahmin

Awaiting another Father of the Nation
to produce this algorithm.

(Inconvenience caused due to inadvertent delay
is sincerely regretted.)

While this poem is a frontal attack, there is a nuanced poem which is rich in irony yet trenchant in its critique of the caste system – varna system.


Have you ever tried meditation?
Struggling hard to concentrate,
and keeping your mind as blank
as a whitewashed wall by closing
your eyes, nose, ears; and shutting out
every possible thought. Every thing.
And, the only failure, that ever came,
the only gross betrayal—
was from your own skin.
You will have known this.

Do you still remember,
how, the first distractions arose?
And you blamed skin as a sinner;
how, when your kundalini was rising,
shaken, you felt the cold concrete floor
skin rubbing against skin, your saffron robes,
how, even in a far-off different realm—
your skin anchored you to this earth.
Amidst all that pervading emptiness,
touch retained its sensuality.
You will have known this.

Or if you thought more variedly, about
taste, you would discount it—as the touch
of the tongue. Or, you may recollect
how a gentle touch, a caress changed
your life multifold, and you were never
the person you should have been.
Feeling with your skin, was
perhaps the first of the senses, its
reality always remained with you—
You never got rid of it.
You will have known this.

You will have known almost
every knowledgeable thing about
the charms and the temptations
that touch could hold.

But, you will never have known
that touch – the taboo
to your transcendence,
when crystallized in caste
was a paraphernalia of
undeserving hate.

Photo from: Meena Kandasamy blog.

Bhakti Expressions


H S Shivprakash is a brilliant poet who writes in Kannada. He has been a from: wikipremier poet and dramatist in Kannada for decades running. A poet of unique voice, he beats no trodden path, or perhaps he retraces the lost paths. Persistent in his search for alternative traditions to the hegemonic ones, Shivprakash has not hesitated to turn against the mainstream literary practices. Serving as a professor at JNU, Delhi, Shivprakash has also edited Indian Literature for some time. While he has a special liking for the vacana tradition, he has taken to explore the Sufi, bhakti, and other diverse mystic traditions in both life and letters. Shivprakash’s poems are not attempts to retrieve the bhakti form of writing poetry but that of bhakti spirit. More often Shivprakash’s poems explore the ‘narratives’ of the bhakti, sufi and other mystic personalities. Here again, he usually wanders far into the untrodden ways to steer away from the hegemonic fields. His poetry is a poetic rendering of the history of marginal forms of life.

Here is an excerpt from his article on Bhakti traditions “Transmutations of Desire and Power in Bhakti Expressions”.

One of the challenges associated with viewing India , as unified literary space is to trace continuities between creative practices in far-flung times and spaces of the many-tongued subcontinent. In this context, the study of various Bhakti movements assumes great significance for the simple reason that, as pointed out by Manager Pandey, Bhakti is the first and greatest pan-Indian literary and cultural movement across languages and regional barriers which altered cultures of people at large. The socio-historical and at times even the philosophical aspects of this pan-Indian movement have received sufficient scholarly and critical attention; at the same time, the literary and aesthetic dimensions of the movement have not yet received the attention they deserve. Because Bhakti mode of expressions dominated Indian creative psyche for well over a millennium, the study of patterns of continuities and divergences of the enormous body of literary and aesthetic practices relating to Bhakti can go a long way in helping us understand India as a common literary and cultural space.

A judicious mixture of synchronic and diachronic approaches is necessary to arrive at a comprehensive view of the achievements of Bhakti movements.  The obstacles are many, however. As Manager Pandey pointed out again we do not have in India the likes of continental critics of the west – Rene Wedlock or George Steiner, for example – whose scholarship extends over several languages, classical and modern.   This is true of literature on Bhakti, too.  For instance, even an eminent authority like V Subramaniam, who has written the most comprehensive account of Bhakti movement from a comparative perspective, can be accused of lopsidedness. For his superb analysis of Tamil Bhakti in relation to North Indian Bhakti passes silently over Karnataka, the next door neighbour of Tamil Nadu. The Karnataka experiment pioneered the subaltern forms of expressions of urban artisan Bhakti that paved the way for Nirguna Bhakti of North and of Orissa. Neither does he say anything about Sakta Bhakti whose paradigms are considerably different.

Attempts made to synthesize Bhakti in classical Bhakti texts also suffer from shortsighted view. For instance the typology of Bhakti worked out in Narada Bhakti Sutra in the form of nine types of Bhakti, though it relates Bhakti to mundane ways of relating, ignores some forms of labour-centered expressions characteristic of artisan Bhakti.

Such lopsidedness results from a) the enormous volume and bewildering variety of Bhakti expression and (b) our own limited familiarity with this vast material.

More here.



Kannada theatre and modernity


What is the significance of modernity in India? The question is quite old and has fostered diverse debates. But the answers have varied. A historical view from: hinduonnet.comof the debate on the status of modernity in India may trace various positions. For a long time the debate basically took a pro and anti stance. There were also questions about the form it takes in India. In the recent past, sociological theories of modernity have been quite influential. Increasingly people have been undertaking micro studies insisting on the diverse ways in which modernity has been accessed and practiced in India.

Recently Akshara, who is a theater scholar and a major figure in the Kannada literary scene, wrote an interesting piece on the ‘contradictory multiplicities within Kannada modernity’. He argues that the story of theater history is imprisoned in colonial categories and has not sufficiently attended to the diverse negotiations that Kannada theater has made with modernity. He indicates that the urge for coherent and linear narrative is the reason why the contradictions are not adequately incorporated in the story of modernity in India. He recommends a fragmentary, non-coherent historiography to develop a nuanced theater history. Akshara presents such a fragmentary narrative in his essay “The Contradictory Career of the ‘Modern’

in the Kannada Theater”. In this essay he grapples with the issue of ‘modern Kannada theater’ and asks how one can constitute a category such as this. He enacts his own recommendation by presenting micro-stories of Kannada theater to comment on the categories of historiography of theater in Kannada. He suggests ambitiously that if such a study is successfully carried out, it is possible to discover a ‘desi modernity’.

Here is an excerpt from this very fine essay. A shorter version of this essay appeared in Seminar here.

How do we account for these contradictory instances of ‘modernity’ while we write our history of Modern Kannada Theatre today? – This seems to be the key question to me, and this is the reason with which I set out to write my essay, invoking the contradictory multiplicities within Kannada modernity, that is perceived to be one single body. It is generally accepted by critics in Karnataka today, and elsewhere, that the term ‘modern’ denotes not only different things in different contexts, but is also defined by the particular context it emerges from. Today, we are also aware that the future of this concept, especially in the desi languages/cultures in India is an intricately woven multifaceted narrative. On the one hand, it is a fascinated acceptance of Western modernity (as it was perceived), and on the other, there are various attempts to adapt, alter, and even parody it, consciously or unconsciously. But what we have still not been able to do is to develop a nuanced narrative that captures the contradictions, ambivalences, multiplicities within the Kannada theatre traditions, without resorting to simplistic stereotypes generated about it.  Or, in other words, we have still not been able to create new ways of conceptualising the contradictory career of our modern theatres and instead, we are stuck with the imported and imposed categories like ‘folk’, ‘urban’ and ‘commercial’ and the like in almost all our narratives on the history of regional theatres.

Akshara is a fine playwright and an all encompassing theater personality. He currently heads the theatre school NINASAM. Read an interview with Akshara here. He is not an intellctual pretender. He writes with deep commitment. Not easily swayed by current fashions, Akshara’s views are always refreshingly practical and uncluttered.

Seamus Heaney, Digging


Seamus Heaney


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.



Caste consciousness and the sociology of public culture in India


In his book Mistaken Modernity Dipankar Gupta has an essay presenting a sociological explanation for the unclean public spaces in India. The apparent dirt in the public environs is something everyone comments on. Everyone notices it. Many attempts to clean up have been made both by the state and by the individuals. But the general habit of dirtying up the outside-the-home-environs seems to defeat all efforts to clean up our environment. Surprisingly, in our society with regards to inside-the-home, the general habit is the opposite of this: there is an excessive concern to clean the house.

This attitude finds itself expressed in public parks, tourist centres, bus and railway stations, hospitals, roads, and even cinema halls. Spitting and urinating in the public, littering the place with polythene bags and pieces of paper, tossing cigarette buts or food crumbs onto the road are all too common to shock us. You can rarely find a public utility place – hospital or a bus-stand – which is not spattered with the colours of pan or gutka.

Is this so because we are a dirty tribe? Such a characterisation can fall into the essentialist trap because what can explain a habit common in our society though across any recognisable commonality of social practice? Dipankar Gupta in fact gives exactly such an explanation by invoking that which is common across the country and that which inculcates a certain attitude to cleanliness in us. He contends that this has to do with caste consciousness. Gupta argues that the attitude to cleanliness in our society is related to caste. He points out that the idea of there being castes to clean up the toilets and the gutters meant that cleaning the public place is an inferior job meant, in the caste conscious mind, for the ‘lower caste’. This attitude leaves the responsibility of keeping the public places clean on the ‘cleansing castes’. In short, Dipankar Gupta, much more clearly and persuasively than my summary can do here, argues that the Indian middle class does not consider it their responsibility to keep their environs clean as they take it for granted (a) that it would lower their status to do so and (b) that it is someone else’s job (the cleaning castes).
This argument is very convincing. It also leads me to think that we should be able to find explanations for several of our social evils in this manner. Ambedkar in his “Annihilation of Caste” does a similar sociological analysis: he points out that the reason why there is so much political disunion is to do with the caste feelings in this society.

I think it is important that we conduct such a sociological theorisation explaining social phenomena with respect to caste because otherwise these tendencies will be seen as natural. For example, through the analysis of caste consciousness in the society we must try to find the reasons for such general habits as:

i. easily accepting inferior quality in any work

ii. easily resorting to destruction of public property

iii. failure of our education system, even in private sector institutions

iv. extreme disregard for environment in every endeavour

v. extreme disregard for public hygiene and health in manufacturing sector

vi. extreme disregard for public convenience or safety in our town planning

vii. etc.

Bibliography – Indian English Literature


Here is a fragmentary bibliography for the study of Indian English Literature. I am posting these fragments with the hope of putting together a more comprehensive bibliography some day.

General Resources on Indian English Literature

1. King Bruce, Modern Indian English Poetry. New Delhi: OUP, 1989.

2. Khair, Tabish. Babu Fictions: Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Novels. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

3. Lal, Malashri. The Law of the Threshold. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1995.

4. Mukherjee, Meenakshi. The Twice Born Fiction. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann Publishers: 1971.

5. Naik, M.K. Twentieth Century Indian English Fiction. Delhi: Pencraft International, 2004.

6. Shirwadkar, K.R. The Indian Novel in English and Social Change. Bombay, Shalaka Prakashan: 1991.

7. R.K. Dhawan, (ed.), Indian Women Novelists, vol. I – IV, New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1991.

8. M.K. Naik, S.K. Desai, G.S. Amur (eds.), Critical Essays on Indian Writing in English. Delhi: Macmillan India, 1972.

9. Sudhakar Pande, R. Raj Rao (eds.), Image of India in the Indian Novel in English 1960 – 1985. Bombay: Orient Longman, 1993

10. Viney Kirpal (ed.) The New Indian Novel in English: A Study of the 1980s. Bombay: Allied Publishers Limited, 1990.

11. C.D. NArasimhaiah (ed.). Makers of Indian English Literature. Delhi: Pencraft International, 2000.

12. K.K. Singh.

Indian English Poetry After Independence. Jaipur: Book Enclave, 2006.

13. Jaydeep Sarangi (ed). Explorations in Indian English Poetry New Delhi: Authorspress, 2007.

14. M.K. Naik.  Indian English Poetry: from the Beginnings upto 2000. Delhi: Pencraft International, 2006.

15. Saryug Yadav and Amar Nath Prasad (eds.) Studies in Indian Drama in English. Bareilly: Prakash Book, 2003.

16. C.L. Khatri and Kumar Chandradeep (ed.) Indian Drama in English : An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Jaipur: Book Enclave, 2006.

17. Basavaraj Naikar (ed.).  Indian English Literature, Vol.I – VI, New Delhi, Atlantic Pub., 2007.

18. Nandini Sahu. The Post-Colonial Space : Writing the Self and the Nation. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2007.

19. Nand Kumar. Indian English Drama: A Study in Myths. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2003.

20. K. Venkata Reddy and R.K. Dhawan (eds). Flowering of Indian Drama : Growth and Development. New Delhi: Prestige, 2004.

21. Neeru Tandon (ed.). Perspectives and Challenges in Indian-English Drama. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2006.

Shashi Deshpande: That Long Silence

1. Joshi, Padmakar. Shashi Deshpande’s Fiction – A Study in Women Empowerment and Postcolonial Discourse. New Delhi: Prestige Books. 2003.

2. Saikat Majumdar, “Aesthetics of Subjectivity, Ethics of ‘Otherness’: The Fiction of  Shashi Deshpande”, Postcolonial Text, vol. 1, no. 2 (2005).

3. Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, “The Feminist Plot and the Nationalist Allegory: Home and  World in Two Indian Women’s Novels in English” in Modern Fiction Studies. vol. 39, no. 1 (1993). p. 80.

4. Parvati Bhatnagar “‘Go home like a good girl’ : an interpretation of That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande” in R.A. Singh (ed.) Critical Studies on Commonwealth Literature. Jaipur, Book Enclave, 2003.

5. V.K. Pandey. “Sufferings and suppressed desires of women in Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence”  in Binod Mishra (ed.). Critical Responses to Feminism. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2006.

Girish Karnad Hayavadana

1. Tripathi, Vanashree, Three Plays Of Girish Karnad: A Study In Poetics And Culture. Delhi, Prestige, 2004.

2. Manoj K. Pandey. The Plays of Girish Karnad and Tradition. New Delhi: Adhyayan, 2007.

3. P. Dhanavel. The Indian Imagination of Girish Karnad. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 2000.

4. Jaydipsinh Dodiya. The Plays of Girish Karnad : Critical Perspectives. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 2004.

5. Mohit K Ray. “Tradition and Avant-garde in Girish Karnad’s “Hayavadana” in R.A. Singh (ed.) Critical Studies on Commonwealth Literature. Jaipur, Book Enclave, 2003.

6. Sudha Shastri and Amith Kumar P.V. “Locating Bakhtinian Carnival in Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana and Naga-Mandala” in Urmil Talwar and Bandana Chakrabarty (eds). Contemporary Indian Drama: Astride Two Traditions. New Delhi: Rawat, 2005.

7. Anshuman Khanna. “Karnad’s Hayavadana: myth redefined” in K.V. Surendran (ed.). Indian Literature in English: New Perspectives. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2002.

Mahesh Dattani Final Solutions

1. Charu Mathur. “Dramatic structures in Mahesh Dattani’s Tara and Final Solutions” in Urmil Talwar and Bandana Chakrabarty (eds). Contemporary Indian Drama: Astride Two Traditions. New Delhi: Rawat, 2005.

2. Venkat Ramani. “Meaning in Abyss: Dattani’s seven steps around the fire” in Urmil Talwar and Bandana Chakrabarty (eds). Contemporary Indian Drama: Astride Two Traditions. New Delhi: Rawat, 2005.

3. Sangeeta Das. “The sensational issues in the plays of Mahesh Dattani” in K. Venkata Reddy and R.K. Dhawan. Flowering of Indian Drama : Growth and Development. New Delhi: Prestige, 2004.

4. Neeru Tandon. “Mahesh Dattani and Badal Sircar” in Neeru Tandon (ed.). Perspectives and Challenges in Indian-English Drama. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2006.

5. Reena Mitra. “Mahesh Dattani’s Final Solutions and Other Plays: “A Living Dramatic Experience” in Reena Mitra. Critical Response to Literatures in English. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2005.

6. Amar Nath Prasad “The plays of Mahesh Dattani: a fine fusion of feeling and form” in Amar Nath Prasad. British and Indian English Literature : A Critical Study. New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, 2007.

Jayant Mahapatra

1. PRASAD, MADHUSUDAN ed. The Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1986.

2. MOHAN, DEVINDER. Jayanta Mahapatra New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1987.

3. DWIVEDI, A.N ed. Studies in Contemporary Indo-English Verse Bareilly: Prakash  Book Depot, 1984.

4. King Bruce. Modern Indian English Poetry. Delhi: OUP, 1989.

Nissim Ezekiel

1. KARNANI, CHETAN. Nissim Ezekiel. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1973.

2. DWIVEDI, SURESH CHANDRA. ed. Perspectives on Nissim Ezekiel New Delhi: K.M. Agencies, 1989.

3. “Nissim Ezekeil Special Issue”, JOURNAL of Indian Writing in English 14.2, 1986.

4. RAHMAN, ANISUR. Form and Value in the Poetry of Nissim Ezekiel. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1981.

5. WISEMAN, CHRISTOPHER. “The Development of Technique in the Poetry of Nissim Ezekiel” in KULSHRESHTHA, CHIRANTAN, ed. Contemporary Indian-English Verse: An Evaluation. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1980.

6. SREENIVASAN, S. “The Self and Its Enchanted Circle: A Perspective on the Poetry of Nissim Ezekiel” Littcrit 16.1&2, 1990.

7. RAIZADA, HARISH. “Nissim Ezekiel’s Poetry of Love and Sex” in Madhusudan Prasad (ed) Living Indian English Poets. New Delhi: Sterling, 1989.

8. DAS, BIJAY KUMAR. “The Search after Reality: A Study of Ezekiel’s Poems” Journal of Indian Writing in English, 10.1&2, 1982.

Daruwalla, Keki N.

1. DWIVEDI, A.N. “K.N. Daruwalla’s Poetry: An Assessment” in DWIVEDI, A.N ed. Studies in Contemporary Indo-English Verse. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1984.

2. INAMDAR, F.A. “K.N. Daruwalla’s Poems: Individual Response” in RAM, ATMA. ed. Contemporary Indian-English Poetry Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1989.

3. KING, BRUCE. “Keki Daruwalla: Outsider, Skeptic and Poet” The Indian Literary Review, 4.2, 1986.

4. MUKHERJEE, PRASENJIT. “Relating the Subjective: An Approach to the Recent Poetry of Keki N. Daruwalla” Chandrabhaga 4, 1980.

5. NABAR, VRINDA. “Keki N. Daruwalla: Poetry and a National Culture” in Shahane, Vasant and Sivaramkrishna, eds. Indian Poetry in English: A Critical Assessment. Madras: Macmillan, 1980.

6. NAIK, M.K. “‘Drama Talk’: The Poetry of K. N. Daruwalla” in Naik Studies in Indian English Literature New Delhi: Sterling, 1987.

7. Prasad, Madhusudhan. “Keki N. Daruwalla: Poet as Critic of His Age” Literary Half-Yearly, January 1987.

8. VENKATACHARI, K. “The Idiom of Autochthon: A Note on the Poetry of Keki N. Daruwalla” in Madhusudan Prasad (ed.) Living Indian English Poets. New Delhi: Sterling, 1989.

Ramanujan A.K.

1. DWIVEDI, A.N. A.K. Ramanujan and His Poetry Delhi: Doaba House, 1983.

2. King Bruce, Three Modern Indian English Poets, Delhi: OUP, 1994.

3. BHASHYAM, KANAKA & CHELLAPPAN, K. “Encounter and Synthesis in the Poetry of A.K. Ramanujan” Journal of Indian Writing in English July, 1984.

4. CHAR, M. SREERAMA. Prayer Motif in Indian Poetry in English. Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1988.

5. PAL, K.S. Ezekiel and Ramanujan: A Comparative Study. Delhi: Astha Prakashan, 1981.

6. DEVY, G.N. “Alienation as Means of Self-exploration: A Study of A.K. Ramanujan’s Poetry”, Chandrabhaga 6, 1981.

7. MARZI, TAQI ALI. “A.K. Ramanujan’s ‘Particular Hell'” in SHAHANE, VASANT and SIVARAMKRISHNA, M. eds. Indian Poetry in English: A Critical Assessment Madras: Macmillan, 1980.

8. NAIK, M.K. “A.K. Ramanujan and the Search for Roots” in PRASAD, MADHUSUDHAN ed. Living Indian English Poets. New Delhi: Sterling, 1989.

9. NAIK, M.K. “Landscapes and Inscapes”, Kavya Bharati . 1, 1988.

10. DAS, BIJAY KUMAR. ” Ramanujan’s ‘A River’: An Explication” Journal of Indian Writing in English 13.2, 1985.

11. PARTHASARATHY, R. “How It Strikes a Contemporary: The Poetry of A.K. Ramanujan” SHAHANE, VASANT and SIVARAMKRISHNA, M. eds. Indian Poetry in English: A Critical Assessment. Madras: Macmillan, 1980.

12. REUBEN, ELIZABETH. “The Presence of the Past: The Sense of Time in the Poetry of A.K. Ramanujan” Journal of Indian Writing in English. 17.1, 1989.

13. SRINATH, C.N. “The Poetry of A.K. Ramanujan” in DWIVEDI, A.N ed. Studies in Contemporary Indo-English Verse Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1984.

Das, Kamala

1. KOHLI, DEVINDRA. Kamala Das. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1975.

2. Rahaman, Anisur. Expressive Form in the Poetry of Kamala Das. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1981.

3. RADHA, K. Kamala Das. Madras: Macmillan India, 1987.

4. De SOUZA, EUNICE. “Kamala Das” in Shahane, Vasant and Sivaramkrishna, eds. Indian Poetry in English: A Critical Assessment. Madras: Macmillan, 1980

5. DWIVEDI, A.N. Kamala Das and Her Poetry Delhi: Doaba House, 1983.

6. RAGHUNANDAN, LAKSHMI, Contemporary Indian Poetry in English: with Special Emphasis on Ezekiel, Kamala Das, Parthasarathy and Ramanujan, New Delhi: Reliance Publishing House, 1990.

7. KULSHRESHTHA, CHIRANTAN., ed Contemporary Indian-English Verse: An Evaluation. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1980.

8. AGRAWAL, ISHWAR NATH. “The Language and the Limits of the Self in the Poetry of Kamala Das” in SINHA, KRISHNA NANDAN Indian Writing in English 1979.

9. Daruwalla, K.N. “Confessional Poetry as Social Commentary: A View of English Poetry by Indian Women” in RAM, ATMA. ed. Contemporary Indian-English Poetry Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1989.

10. JUSSAWALLA, FEROZA. “Kamala Das: The Evolution of the Self” in Journal of Indian Writing In English 10.1&2, 1982.

11. BREWSTER, ANNE. “The Freedom to Decompose: The Poetry of Kamala Das” Journal of Indian Writing in English 7.1&2 1980.

12. RAMAKRISHNAN, E.V. “Kamala Das as a Confessional Poet” Journal of Indian Writing in English 5.1, 1977.

Gieve Patel

1. KAPOOR, PREM P. “Violence, Pain and Death in the Poetry of Gieve Patel” in RAM, ATMA. ed. Contemporary Indian-English Poetry. Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1989.

2. NABAR, VRINDA. “Gieve Patel: Poet as Clinician of Feelings” The Indian Literary Review. 3.3, 1985.

3. SAHA, SUBHAS. “Gieve Patel’s On Killing a Tree: An Analysis” in DAS, BIJAY KUMAR, ed. Contemporary Indo-English Poetry. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1986.

4. SARMA, M.N. “The Ambiguous Fate of Being Human: The Poetry of Gieve Patel” in SHAHANE, Vasant and SIVARAMAKRISHNA, eds. Indian Poetry in English:  A Critical Assessment. Madras: Macmillan, 1980.

5. VIBHAKAR. “Gieve Patel’s Poetry: An Exploration of the ‘Body'” in DWIVEDI, A.N ed. Studies in Contemporary Indo-English Verse. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1984.

Amanuddin, Syed

1. DWIVEDI, A.N. Syed Amanuddin: His Mind and Art. New Delhi: Sterling, 1988.

2. DWIVEDI, A.N. “Re-creating ‘The Living Scenes of Contemporary Life: The Poetry of Syed Amanuddin” in DWIVEDI, A.N ed. Studies in Contemporary Indo-English Verse. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1984.

3. DWIVEDI, A.N. “Poetry of Syed Amanuddin: A Study in Diction and Versification” Journal of Indian Writing in English. 13.2, 1985.

4. YASEEN, MOHAMMED. “Syed Ameeruddin’s Poetry: A Critical Appraisal” in DWIVEDI, A.N ed. Studies in Contemporary Indo-English Verse. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1984.

Honnalgere, Gopal

1. SRIDHAR, S.N. “A Note on Honnalgere’s Zen Tree and Wild Innocents” Journal of Indian

Writing in English 3.2, 1975.

Raja Rao. Kanthapura

1. NAIK, M.K. Perspectives on Indian Fiction in English New Delhi: Abhinav  Publications, 1985.

2. K.K. Sharma, (ed.) Perspectives on Raja Rao Ghaziabad: Vimal Prakashan, 1980.

3. Meenakshi Mukherjee (ed.) Considerations: Twelve Studies of Indo-Anglian Writing, New Delhi: Allied, 1977.

1. NAIK, M.K. Raja Rao Madras: Blackie & Sons, 1982.

2. NARASIMHAIAH, C.D. Raja Rao New Delhi: Arnold Heinemann, 1973.

3. NARAYAN, SHYAMALA A. Raja Rao: Man and His Works New Delhi: Sterling, 1988.

4. RAO, K. RAGHAVENDRA. The Fiction of Raja Rao Aurangabad: Parimal Prakashan, 1982.

5. SHAHANE, VASANT A. “Raja Rao: Kanthapura” in PRADHAN, N.S. ed. Major  Indian Novels: An Evaluation New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1986.

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

1. Hamner, Robert D., ed. Critical Perspectives on V. S. Naipaul. Washington, D. C.: Three Continents Press, 1977.

2. Hughes, Peter . V. S. Naipaul. London: Routledge, 1988.

3. Kamra, Shashi. The Novels of V.S. Naipaul: A Study in Theme and Form. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1990.

4. King, Bruce. V. S. Naipaul. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2003.

5. Kumar, Amitava. The Humour & the Pity: Essays on V.S. Naipaul. New Delhi: Buffalo Books , 2002.

6. Macdonald, Bruce F. “The Birth of Mr. Biswas.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 11.3 (1977): 50-54.

7. Manjit Inder Singh. V. S. Naipaul. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1998.

8. Mason, Nondita. The Fiction of V. S. Naipaul. Calcutta: The World Press, 1986.

9. Panwar, Purabi. V.S. Naipaul: An Anthology of Recent Criticism. Delhi: Pencraft International, 2003.

10. Rai, Sudha. V.S. Naipaul: A Study in Expatriate Sensibility. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1982.

11. Ramadevi, N. The Novels of V.S. Naipaul Quest for Order and Identity. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1996.

12. Walsh, William. V. S. Naipaul. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1973.

13. S.P. Swain “The crisis of identity: Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas” in Mohit K. Ray (ed.) V.S. Naipaul : Critical Essays. Vol II. New Delhi, Atlantic Pub., 2002.

Asserting atheism


A group of atheist organisations, Big Apple Coalition of Reason, is getting



active in raising awareness about living without god. Some of us might feel it is time atheists started to spread rationalism a little more actively and visibly. This organisation has planned a program at the busiest junction in New York – the New York Subway station with posters that assure a happy life without the aid of divine crutches.

More here.

Education in India, School is a Scandal


It has become imperative to talk about the education system.

It is too old fashioned to talk about education system.

The bare fact is that education in India now is nonviable.  So we simply maintain the education system. Maintaining the system requires periodical overhaul as the system has the callous habit of biting every now and then.

The teaching mechanism (it is a mechanism not because of the its programmatic condition but also because it is mechanical) weighs everything by the self-sustenance coin. Whatever happens the show must go on.

A very large part of what happens in schools, colleges, universitites, research establishments is pure ‘time pass’. No body who goes through this machine emerge any better because of it, but despite it, thankfully.

A very very large part of the books meant to be studied in our state, central and international schools are optical illusion.

A large part of the professional education in their books, lab work, practical work, apprenticeship – in every detail – in our medical colleges, engineering colleges, MBA etc are totally maya.

Out there on the street if you dont know how to use ma-behen gali you can hardly cross the street, and here in the schools we learn pious diction!

Out there on the street there are rapes taking place, we dont discuss it anywhere.

Out there in the homes, drunk father abuses the daughter for clinging to the mother whom he is berating for refusing to part with her daily wages, and here we ask the girl if she has finished her homework.

Out in there, the society tells the callow youth to join the electioneering and earn a bottle for the night, and here we ask the boy to learn about Renaissance.

Out there the government snatches away the small piece of family land for industrial estate, and here we ask the children to do a project on local governance.

Out there in the courts everyone with grave ernestness utters pre-determined lines to produce a prescribed verdict, and here we ask the child to learn duties of the citizen.

Which course in which level of our education teaches us how to survive the corrupt revenue office, the devilish netas, the adulterated food products, the profeeteering in hospitals, the doubly-lying ‘factual’ reports…. Where do our children go to learn to deal with a system that toils day & night to produce ever greater misery for the common people?

Every soul associated with education in India – from the education ministers to administrators, management, textbook writers, teachers, clerks, students – know that they deal with two distinct spheres daily. As they enter the ‘education sphere’ – the campus, the classroom… – there is this world of hallowed ideas. You step out of the class, the textbook, the building, and you can completely ignore everything said and heard in there.

Given this conditions, how do I place any trust in what I read? How does it matter how I writer what I write? How does it matter how I get my grades? Passing, marks, degree, everything has lost any meaning. Because, education is completely irrelevant now. It is a holding area.

What I experience in the society and what I learn in the book seem to lye on either sides of the mirror.

There in the texts only the sacred speaks. Here back home, there is nothing akin to it.

I go to the class and be one person. I come out of it and be another.


School, ah, it is a scandal.

An Essay on Nissim Ezekiel’s Background, Casually

from: google images

from: google images

Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘Background, Casually’ is one of his most known poems. If ‘Night of the Scorpion’ is a popular anthology piece, this poem is more keenly read by the more academic readers of his poetry. The poem’s significance to Ezekiel’s oeuvre lies partly in it being an autobiographical poem which is seen to indicate crisply his ‘official view of life’ as it were (whatever that means). Ezekiel’s general tendency in his poems to be more communicative than be imagistic is evident here. Similarly, the ironic tone that swings between whipping the self and the society around it is also on abundant display in this poem. Some of the other recurrent motifs of Ezekiel’s poetry that we see in this poem are:

* finding satisfaction in limited ambition

* a set of experiences stated as providing deep insights

* use of unrhymed metrical lines

* probing the question of identity in a firm social context

* controlled fragmentation unlike the modernist tendency of obscurity

The poem is divided into three sections which approximate the childhood, adult and old-age experiences of the poet-speaker. The three sections do not merely present a chronology of significant experiences but reflections over these experiences that draw out lessons on the status of the identity of the self. Allow me to comment, in a rather school boyish manner, stanza by stanza.

Background, Casually
by Nissim Ezekiel

from: google images

from: google images


A poet-rascal-clown was born,
The frightened child who would not eat
Or sleep, a boy of meager bone.
He never learned to fly a kite,
His borrowed top refused to spin.

Notice the references to facts twisted to accommodate the present assessment of that fact. The first line for example is the present valuation of the past. The line also introduces a preference made all through the poem: the self perception of the speaker as a poet. This self-perception is immediately attached to irony with the addition of rascal and clown. From irony, this present perception of the past slides to self-pity, a rather clever ploy that corners the readers sympathy as well as explains away the lack of heroism in the self. The reader is required to agree that this ‘boy of meager bone’ with not even the skill to fly a kite, is not destined to achieve anything too noble; so the assertions of self-satisfactions at the poetic achievements of this self in the third section of the poem come to be accepted easily.

I went to Roman Catholic school,
A mugging Jew among the wolves.
They told me I had killed the Christ,
That year I won the scripture prize.
A Muslim sportsman boxed my ears.

I grew in terror of the strong
But undernourished Hindu lads,
Their prepositions always wrong,
Repelled me by passivity.
One noisy day I used a knife.

The second stanza slips from third to first person. In the 2nd and 3rd stanzas the multicultural mix of the society in which the speaker has grown up is introduced through the self-pity ploy. These two stanzas insistently introduce a major strand of this poem’s thematic: identity. The challenge to coherent formation of identity is indicated here as related to the mixing of cultures that are not devoid of intolerance toward one another. Amid the unhappy school life, a poetic career has without much ado announced itself: ‘That year I won the scripture prize’. This line is suggestive of the inclination of the child.

At home on Friday nights the prayers
Were said. My morals had declined.
I heard of Yoga and of Zen.
Could 1, perhaps, be rabbisaint?
The more I searched, the less I found.

Twentytwo: time to go abroad.
First, the decision, then a friend
To pay the fare. Philosophy,
Poverty and Poetry, three
Companions shared my basement room.

The last line of the 4th stanza is typical of Ezekiel in the use of antithesis. Intimations of failure are always around the corner in his autobiographical poems. The above two stanzas squeeze a long duration into rapidly moving lines. Growing up amid diverse influences the speaker expands the base of the incoherence of his identity to include yoga, zen, jewish theology. The alliterative line ‘philosophy, poverty and poetry’ burdens the experiential statement with the load of a life-time inclination. Many of Ezekiel’s poems suggest this inclination: ‘Enterprise’ for example. Usually they indicate symptomatically the poetic credo of this poet: to treat personal experiences philosophically to produce poetic significance.


The London seasons passed me by.
I lay in bed two years alone,
And then a Woman came to tell
My willing ears I was the Son
Of Man. I knew that I had failed

In everything, a bitter thought.
So, in an English cargoship
Taking French guns and mortar shells
To IndoChina, scrubbed the decks,
And learned to laugh again at home.

The second section of the poem brings in adult experiences as suggested toward the end of previous stanza. Amid rather tedious lines the above quoted stanzas introduce the summary dismissal of the self that recurs in Ezekiel’s poems. The sense of failure is recurrent. But Ezekiel usually positions these statements strategically in the poems. Their function is not to state to the reader the sense of the speaker’s disillusion. These lines are positioned by Ezekiel in such a way as to herald the experiments that lead the self toward the present significance. This strategy is also to be found in ‘Enterprise’. The stanzas also indicate the speaker’s decision to turn away from the metro-centricness of the colonial mentality. The last line could have been interpreted as being puerile patriotism had it occurred in a poem less ironic than ‘Background, Casually’.

How to feel it home, was the point.
Some reading had been done, but what
Had I observed, except my own
Exasperation? All Hindus are
Like that, my father used to say,

When someone talked too loudly, or
Knocked at the door like the Devil.
They hawked and spat. They sprawled around.
I prepared for the worst. Married,
Changed jobs, and saw myself a fool.

The song of my experience sung,
I knew that all was yet to sing.
My ancestors, among the castes,
Were aliens crushing seed for bread
(The hooded bullock made his rounds).

A lasting question, something that has characterized Ezekiel’s approach generally, is introduced in the first line of the next stanza: ‘How to feel it home’ is a question raised by many of Ezekiel’s poems about identity. What I want to indicate is that the manner Ezekiel frames the identity question is apparent here. Ezekiel makes out a case for homely feeling as a measure of identity. With homely feeling comes a responsibility. For Ezekiel, this responsibility requires that one not only see ones home in appreciation but also with a certain critical distance. Ezekiel practically indicates the figure of the ‘homely critic’ as the frame of reference. This homely critic manages a stance that is not shy of scathing criticism, yet asserts the value of home. It is thus that Ezekiel develops a critique of Naipaul’s tourist perspective of India in his well known essay that appeared in Adil Jussawala edited ‘Penguin New Writing from India’: ‘Naipaul’s India and Mine’. It is an essay that would have won the prize for walking the tight rope. For in this essay, Ezekiel defends the indefensible. The essay was written at a time when the patriotic pitch was so shrill against Naipaul that anybody critcising him would have sounded like whistling along. Ezekiel maintains a remarkable cool in pointing out the perspectival problem in Naipaul’s narrative. We easily see Naipaul’s ‘An Area of Darkness’ full of prejudicial whining at personal slight and inconvenience rather than a balanced criticism.


One among them fought and taught,
A Major bearing British arms.
He told my father sad stories
Of the Boer War. I dreamed that
Fierce men had bound my feet and hands.

The later dreams were all of words.
I did not know that words betray
But let the poems come, and lost
That grip on things the worldly prize.
I would not suffer that again.

The third section swiftly moves on in life: the speaker is mature now. He is through his experiments. He is ripe with his experiences so that he can now give out his conclusions. That is, within the poem the narration of experiences is now over, and it is time to draw out philosophical implications. ‘The later dreams were all of words’ picks up the theme of poetic career. The poem is now poised to give us a peep into the poetic process.

I look about me now, and try
To formulate a plainer view:
The wise survive and serve–to play
The fool, to cash in on
The inner and the outer storms.

This is a remarkable stanza which very concisely states a complex attitude to poetry. The speaker puts simply that his approach to poetry is rather pragmatic. The inner and the outer storms are not to be seen as problems to be solved: it is not a measure of ones wisdom to solve them. The wisdom is in playing the fool yet cashing in on these inner and outer storms by making them the subject of ones creativity. It is a pithy way of saying that the poet has to respond through his/her creativity.

The Indian landscape sears my eyes.
I have become a part of it
To be observed by foreigners.
They say that I am singular,
Their letters overstate the case.

I have made my commitments now.
This is one: to stay where I am,
As others choose to give themselves
In some remote and backward place.
My backward place is where I am.

These two stanzas, jerkily moving away from the earlier stanza, sum up the speaker’s socio-political stance. The colonial divide between the metropolis as the centre and ‘India’ as a backward place is alluded to here. Staying in India is seen as a committed move. The ambivalent place of the ‘homely critic’ is stated in the first line of the above quoted stanzas: ‘Indian landscape sears my eyes’. The necessity to assert ones commitment to ones station arises because of the ‘the foreigners’ viewpoint. From their point of view, being in the ‘backward place’ warrants an explanation. The speaker seems to agree that his station is backward, though it is his own.

What I find interesting in the poem is the way it frames the question of identity. The poem quite clearly takes India as the place from which this view is generated. The view that raises the question of identity and the backwardness of the place, first of all, sets up a binary opposition. This binary opposition conveniently sets up two categories: something called India and something called foreign. With this opposition there is a termination of the question. Then the poem sets out to resolve the puzzle. It admits that the ‘identity’ of the speaker spills over a pure category. That is what the ‘foreign’ experiences suggest in the poem. Therefore, the speaker has to point out the ambivalence in the identity of the self – critical yet committed to home. This view at once enables a distance from the totalized category of ‘India’ and an identification with it. The problem of course is that, the binary invoked here deals with essentialisms. The perspective developed in the poem is very comforting in a way, and often is seen as politically correct too. But it confronts the question of identity in a reductive polarization between ‘India’ and ‘the foreign’.

Dalit Poetry in Kannada III – Moodnaakadu Chinnaswamy


There are some excellent dalit poets writing in Kannada these days. I don’t have too good an access to the latest dalit poetry emerging in Kannada as my visits to Karnataka are not vary frequent. I try my best to get as much as my friends can send me. Continuing my earlier posts, here and here, I present a translation of another Kannada Dalit poet. This time another well known name: Moodnakadu Chinnaswamy. I am familiar only with a few of his poems and they are very good. Here is one ‘Footwear and me’ in my poor translation. I read it in a magazine and can’t find that copy around me. So I am a little unsure if this is the complete poem or if I managed to translate only a fragment. I am sorry, I haven’t done enough homework on this. But I promise I will soon rectify this deficiency. I also don’t have a picture of the poet M. C. If anybody has one, do share, please….

Footwear and me

* Moodnaakadu Chinnaswamy

When I go to the temple

The footwear is not left outside

It is I who is outside

Shoes on cobbler’s feet

Makes as much news as when

A man bites a dog

Taking off the shoes

Everyone’s feet

tread all over me

I am a plant:

and they just don’t realize

that under their feet are my roots

Like a crane craning her neck

to the dried up lake’s spring

I stand on my toes

and peep in to steal

as much of god’s form as I can see