Category Archives: South Asian literature

A poem by Surjit Paatar



Light these candles.
Rise, light these candles.
There will remain,
These quarrelsome winds,
But you should light these candles.

May darkness not think the moon scared.
May night not think the sun dead.
Light these lamps to honor life.
Rise, light these candles.

Granted, the night’s reign may be stubborn,
But rays of light still survive.
On dark pages, verses revealing life.
Rise, light these candles.

These cruel whirlwinds will remain,
The fall will shake away the leaves,
But this does not mean that new leaves will not grow.
Rise, light these candles.

Unafraid of the poison that spreads daily in the wind,
Nature continues to do its duty,
Of transforming poison into nectar.
Rise, light these candles.

Girls, do not cry, this is the time of Rahiras.
Do not linger on death, reflect upon the passage of time.
These difficulties will pass away.
Rise, light these candles.


Translation Courtesy: Wikipedia

Githa Hariharan on Kannada Vachanas


Vachana means, simply, “what is said”. They are intensely personal, even intimate conversations, between the poet and the beloved — some form of Siva the vachana composer is deeply enamoured of. I fell in love with the four major Virashaiva “saints”, Basava, Dasimayya, Allama, and Mahadevi.

I think I was attracted most by Mahadevi’s work at first. For a girl whose literary intimacies were confined to Jane Austen, at best George Eliot, how heady it was to read lines such as “Take these husbands who die, decay, and feed them to your kitchen fires!” and “How can I bear it when He is here in my hands, right here in my heart, and will not take me?”

But as I read on, the need to “identify” with the writer — so major a guiding force in adolescent literary judgement — loosened its hold. The intellectual puzzles in Allama Prabhu’s vachanas teased me with their complexities. His poems are called “bedagina vachanas”: “fancy” poems, apparently obscure and riddle-like, written in “twilight” or “topsy-turvy” language. The yield, I found, usually made up for the difficulty of cracking the hard little nut open with persistence. (“Light devoured darkness. I was alone inside. Shedding the visible dark, I was your target, O Lord of Caves.”)

But perhaps it was Basava’s poetry which summed up best everything I learnt from Ramanujan’s vachana translations: that it’s possible to find a contemporary voice in the past. That the tussle between tradition and modernity is a continuous one; that the gap between the powerful and the powerless is as wide (if not wider) within a temple as it is without. “The rich will make temples for Siva. What shall I, a poor man, do? My legs are pillars, the body the shrine, the head a cupola of gold. Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers, things standing shall fall, but the moving ever shall stay.”

Read full here.

Image courtesy:

“Urdu is very much alive in contemporary India”

Words Without Borders have focused in their current issue on the Urdu fiction from India with a delightful bunch of stories including those of Qurratulain Hyder, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Zakia Mashhadi and others. Muhamma Umar Memon has edited the issue and has written an introduction. An excerpt from the intro:
The partition of British India in 1947 took its tragic toll not only in human lives and displacement, but also in culture. Like everything else, the Urdu language, an unmistakable product of India, in which all Indians participated without regard to religion or creed (of the three most celebrated Urdu fiction writers of the twentieth century, one was a Hindu, the other a Sikh, and the third a Muslim), also split apart in the frenzy of linguistic nationalism, with distinct religious identities foisted upon it. So now it is a language of the Muslims and Pakistan—Indians believe that and, worse, even Pakistanis believe that. Nevertheless, Urdu is very much alive in contemporary India. And not just among its Muslim minority, roughly the size of the population of Pakistan, but also among the expatriate South Asian communities in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. The total tally of those who can speak Urdu runs into several hundred million, a greater number than the combined speakers of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.
An excerpt from Hyder’s story “Beyond the Fog”:
Throughout the day English sahibs, memsahibs, and their baba log cross the bridge on mules and horses or riding in rickshaws and dandis. In the evening, the same bridge becomes the site of milling crowds of Indians. The swarm of rushing humanity going up and down the slopes huffing and puffing looks like the surge of a massive tidal wave. Movies starring Esther Williams, Joan Fontaine, Nur Jahan, and Khursheed are playing in the local cinemas. Skating continues in the rinks. In the ballroom of the Savoy the Anglo-Indian crooner and his band will soon start “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.” Drums will be struck; maharaja and maharani log, nabob log, bara sahib and bara mem log will start dancing.
Following is an excerpt from Sajid Rashid’s story “Fable of a Severed Head”:

5:40— verar local express

Shifting his heavy, red canvas bag from his left shoulder to his right, he looked up at the Churchgate Station monitor and scurried toward Platform 3. People were practically running to the platform to board the 5:40 local. Women office workers were scrambling into the ladies’ compartment, pushing and shoving, being pushed and shoved in the wild crush, barely managing to keep their stride under the weight of their dangling purses and shoulder bags, as if this was the last train. Dog-tired from the day’s grueling work, he only wanted to plop down by some window and let the fatigue of the day, indeed of his whole life, slowly ooze out of his bones.

Questioning the Conceptual Validity of Nativism


Among the literary critics in India are some who feel that the quiet acceptance of the Euro-American critical models in literary criticism in India is a problem. They insist on developing native models of literary criticism.  This school of thought is less pronounced these days though some years ago it was in circulation more prominently. I am unsure of the conceptual validity of this school of criticism. My article on the issue “Violated Spaces: Questioning the Conceptual Validity of Nativism”  was recently published in The Atlantic Literary Review, January-March 2009 issue. Below is an extract of the article.

What is nativism? It is a bad question. Because before completing itself as a question, it takes on the shape of answers. These become visible if we attend to its parts: the first part ‘what’ is already imposing a structure to the possible answers as ones that offer an essence, an identity as against, say, a time, a space or a mode. The second item ‘is’ presupposes singularity, presence, not something past, yet complete, total and definite. Contrast it with ‘are’, ‘may be’. The third item is a name, indicating an already formed entity, the ‘ism’ suggesting its reaches as a model and programme of action. The symbol item ‘?’ asserting it to be a question despite the answers already posited, presenting the sentence as a seeker of answers but that are within the structure of the question itself. There is yet another item which is unstaged in the sentence: that is the asker, the seeker who may also be the provider, the one structuring the answers. Thus the question is an act – a performance, an action in time/space, a pretence and in its insistence on structuring, a law. Some of the difficulties alluded above are implicit also in the conceptual field bearing the name ‘nativism’.

Why should we talk about nativism? I consider this concept a major departure from the imperial and brahminic paradigms of cultural criticism in India. In sentiment, nativism is both anti-imperialist and anti-brahminical. But practically, in some of its manifestations I am here considering, it is neither entirely free of the structures of thought that are entangled in imperialist or brahminic discourses, nor does it have the potential to be a pan-Indian theory in literary and cultural criticism. While the conceptual terrain of nativism makes the claim for a native theory of being, of cultural self, the very condition of the proposition and its field of operation are violated by the simultaneity of the singularity of self and the extensive plurality of everyday life. In this sense, the hope that nativist thinkers entertain, of inhabiting an uncontaminated homogenous space, is always already violated. This paper is concerned not so much with the merits of nativism, whatever those might be, as the problems with the concept.

The journal is published by the Atlantic Publishers, New Delhi.

Embedded Imagination and Otherness in Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence


Intersections is a journal maintained by Australian National University’s Gender Relations Centre. The current issue is a special issue on “Face)t)s of Woman: Gender in the Indian Cultural Context” guest edited by Subhash Chandra. The journal’s editor is Carolyn Brewer.  It has several interesting articles including those by Joya John, Malashri Lal, Chaitya Das etc. Access to the journal is free. My article on Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence appears in the issue. Below is the basic argument I make in the paper. Here is the link. Do visit.

Shashi Deshpande’s novel That Long Silence, through details of everyday practices, routine, mundane, and particular stories, engages with issues of collective identity. The novel explores how images of nation are embedded in the ordinariness of lives and how the nation-state through an affective mechanism of individuals’ imagination institutes them as citizen-subjects. Through this exploration the novel develops a critique of the patriarchal construction of ‘nation’ and contests the legitimisation of the male discourse as the ‘normative’ national discourse. I wish to argue in this paper that the equalised terrain of the victimisation of women that the novel presents glosses over the cultural marks of the women characters represented in the novel leading to the appropriation of the cultural other into a universalised brahminical ‘woman.’ This critique is further supported by calling attention to the way there is a belittling of female discourse in the novel.

Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, nationalism and caste


Raja Rao’s Kanthapura enacts some of the motifs of postcolonialism. In my previous post here I point out that Raja Rao critiques the simple position al010that the discourse of colonialism instituted a notion of the natural superiority of the colonising race and this was internalised by the colonized. In the second piece on the novel I point to how the novel problematizes viewing colonial modernity as having had a liberating impact on the Indian society. Let me take this reading further.

The problematising potential of the novel extends to anti-colonial nationalism too. In order to examine this let us turn to another dimension of the novel. The emergence of novel as a genre in 19th century India raises the question of whether it is derivative. While there is a debate on this issue, the novel’s role in enabling the notion of nation-state to take shape is an important one. Benedict Anderson has argued that novel is partly responsible for a community to imagine itself as a nation. The novels written in 19th century and even beyond in India may be used to support this claim. While in Kanthapura, the action is restricted to the village itself with none of the characters venturing too far out, yet the village is not insulated against the happenings in other places. In fact, the stimulation for action is not local. The grand events that form the focal points of the novel take place in response to events elsewhere – Lahore, Bengal, Gujarat, etc. The village community moves from an insulated identity towards a national identity. In one sense, Kanthapura chronicles the formation of a national identity within a remote village. This thematic is also supported by the manner in which the village becomes a kind of a microcosm of the nation. The narrative tends towards mythicizing. For example Moorthy’s fast, Ramakrishnayya’s death, the receding of the flood, and nationalist struggle itself are mythicized. The narrative takes recourse to Vedantic texts and Puranas and inserts nationalist struggle into them. For example, in a harikatha, Jayaramachar brings in an allegory between Siva, Parvati and the nation. The three eyed Siva stands for Swaraj. Later Rangamma standing in as the commentator of Vedanta after the death of her father reads the Puranas allegorically, interpreting hell as the foreign rule, soul as India and so on. Shall we say nation is thus constructed hermeneutically?

The process of imagining a community – of imagining nationhood – also underlines the homogenising tendency of nationalism. The congress workers, who so vehemently are ‘swadeshi’ and give up anything foreign, unwittingly embrace the European model of nation. This notion requires a nation state to have a singular form. A nation is a community of people who have a common language etc. Thus in Kanthapura, Congressmen including Moorthy follow the same model of the nation-state. Sankaru epitomises this: his insistence on speaking Hindi even to his mother instead of the local language Kannada; his fanatic resistance to the use of English and so on. This conception of the nation informs that of everyone: e.g. the narrator visualises Moorthy {when in prison} to be wearing kurta pyjama instead of dhoti. The Hindi teacher is not from any Hindi speaking region but a Malayali [Surya Menon]. Thus, the very conception of ‘Nation’, which is conceived after the European model of the nation-state, undermines the ‘Swadeshi’ spirit of nationalism. Any pure form of nationhood untouched by colonialism is seriously questioned.

Another problem arises when this novel is read as a record of a nation-in-the-making.  It would seem to exemplify Jameson’s argument that third world literature is necessarily a national allegory. When we keep in mind that Benedict Anderson’s thesis about the emergence of nation-state is a work on the emergence of nation-state in Europe, Jameson’s argument seems to put third world literature in the past of European literature. This only re-enacts the familiar theme that comes across in the colonialist historiography of Indian nationalism: that Indian nationalism is a learning process as has been pointed out by Ranjit Guha (Subaltern Studies I). This particular view of nationalism characterises Indian nationalism as a response to the stimulus of colonial administration. The view of the history of the colonised society as a march towards the teleological goal of becoming ultimately ‘Europe’ places them always at a past time in relation to the colonisers present time. The denial of coevalness of time is a necessity in the discourse of colonialism.

This view of India’s history being bound to Europe takes us to Dipesh Chakravarthy’s thesis that as far as history as a discourse is concerned, Europe remains the sovereign theoretical subject of all histories, including the one we call Indian (Provincialising Europe OUP, 2001). Further, he says, as opposed to other narratives of self and community, history is the meta-narrative that looks to the state/citizen bind as the ultimate construction of sociality. Other constructions of self and community speak an anti-historical consciousness. With modernity, history becomes the site where the struggle goes on to appropriate other collocations of memory. In Kanthapura, the narrative in the beginning reflects an ahistorical consciousness. The description of the village life is as a timeless continuum in the form of Sthalapurana. Or the Harikatha wherein nationalist figures become mythical. Whereas, colonialism disrupts the narratives of the community and introduces ‘history’. In as far as the change in the narrative technique, which becomes more linear while narrating the freedom struggle in Kanthapura, history really begins with Europe inhabiting Kanthapura. This is most clearly suggested in the loss of mythicizing tendency of the narrative in the later part when the arrival of newspapers, novels and pamphlets has exposed the first person narrator to techniques of historicizing.

This whole reading of the novel harps back upon the exchange between the coloniser and the colonised. The interesting insights offered by the novel are about the immense complications and violence that attend the arrival of colonial modernity in India.

The novel highlights with no subtlety the collusion between colonialism and Brahmanism. The manner in which Moorthy becomes an outcaste in the Brahmin quarters with his campaign against untouchability indicates the tension between Brahmanism and nationalism. For Brahmanism, the colonial ruler is not the enemy but Gandhi’s anti-untouchable movement is. The collusion between Brahmanism and colonialism is suggested through the alliance between Bhatta, Bade Khan the policeman and the Sahib of the Estate. Swami, who is waging a war against ‘caste pollution due to this pariah business’, sees British rulers as protectors of the ancient ways of Dharma. Swami receives a large amount from the govt as Rajadakshina and is promised that he would receive moral and material support in his war against caste pollution.

While this reading posits nationalism in conflict with brahminism, something more interesting is available if we push our reading a little further. Moorthy’s politics in the village mobilises people of all castes for the struggle against colonisers. In so doing Moorthy radicalises his sociality by visiting the untouchable quarters, and even having milk offered by one of them. Interestingly after this he is troubled by his action and takes a bath. Though he does not change his sacred thread as then he would have to do it daily, he does take a little Ganga water and we are promised that he would do that every time he visits the pariahs. His politics aims at assimilating the lower castes into the nationalist movement. This may also operate as a move towards containment. For example, the discourse of nationalism meets the discourse of religion at different levels in the novel. While Bhatta, Swami and their followers {who have often material motives such as Venkamma) resist Gandhism in the name of religion, in Kanthapura, the nationalists increasingly employ the religious discourse and customs and symbols for nationalist purposes. Religious resources are mobilised for the politicisation of the people. But the customs, rituals and symbols that become tools of nationalist mobilisation are primarily Brahminic: arthi, puja, conches, bells, Vedanta, bhajan etc. They do not include the cultural practices of the lower castes though their participation is prominent.

The overall idea I have of the novel is that it is an immensely clever novel that very ably reflects much of the nationalistic themes including the patronising attitude towards the lower caste society. The novel, much like hegemonic Indian nationalists, deploys anti-caste postures to dissemble the projection of brahminical culture as the legitimate national culture.

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.



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.

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’.

Girish Karnad Bibliography


Girish Karnad is an important playwright of the modern India alog with Vijay Tendulkar. Karnad’s works are easily available in his own English rendition. Therefore he is very often studied as a representative of Indian drama. Here is a brief bibliography on Karnad. I have not read all these and suspect only some of them might be serious works.

from: google images

from: google images

If you know of any good book on Karnad do add.

Girish Karnad Bibliography

Karnad’s Works

1. Collected Plays Volume 1: Delhi: OUP, 2005

Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Bali: The Sacrifice, Naga-Mandala: “Tughlaq”, “Hayavadana”, “Bali – The Sacrifice”, “Naga-Mandala”

2. Collected Plays Volume 2: Delhi: OUP, 2005.

Tale-Danda, The Fire and the Rain, The Dreams of Tipu Sultan, Two Monologues: Flowers, Broken Images: “Taledanda”, ” The Dreams of Tipu Sultan”, ” Macaulay’s Children”.

Works on Karnad

1.      Brian Crow, Chris Banfield, An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theatre. Cambridge, CUP. 1996.

2.      Dharwadker, Aparna, Diaspora, Nation, and the Failure of Home: Two Contemporary Indian Plays, Theatre Journal – Volume 50, Number 1, March 1998, pp. 71-94.

3.      Mohit K Ray: Tradition and Avant-garde in Girish Karnad’s “Hayavadana” Indian Drama, Interliteraria.

4.      Julia Leslie:  “Understanding Basava: History, Hagiography and a Modern Kannada Drama” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 61, No. 2 (1998), pp. 228-261 (on Taledanda)

5.      Zook, Darren C. The Farcical Mosaic: The Changing Masks of Political Theatre in Contemporary India Asian Theatre Journal – Volume 18, Number 2, Fall 2001, pp. 174-199

6. Neeru Tandon (ed.) Perspectives and Challenges in Indian-English Drama: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2006

7. Dhanavel, P, THE INDIAN IMAGINATION OF GIRISH KARNAD: Essays on Hayavadana. Delhi: Prestige. 2000.

8. Tripathi, Vanashree, THREE PLAYS OF GIRISH KARNAD:A STUDY IN POETICS AND CULTURE New Delhi: Prestige. 2004.

9. Aparna Dharwadker, “Historical Fictions and Postcolonial Representation: Reading Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq” PMLA, Vol. 110, No. 1 (Jan, 1995), pp. 43-58.

10. Jaydipsinh Dodiya, Plays of Girish Karnad Delhi: Prestige. 1999.

11. C.L. Khatri & Sudhir K. Arora (Ed). Thunder On Stage:A Study of Girish Karnad’s Plays. Book Enclave, Jaipur, India, 2008.

12. Tutun Mukherjee (Ed.) Girish Karnad`s Plays: Performance And Critical Perspectives. Delhi: Pencraft, 2005.

13. Manojk Pandey, The Plays Of Girish Karnad And Tradition. Delhi: Adhyayan Publishers 2007.

14. Peyma, Nasser Dasht. Postcolonial drama : a comparative study of Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott and Girish Karnad, Jaipur: Rawat Publications.

15. L S Gill. Girish Karnad`s Hayavadana: A Critical Study. Delhi: Prestige. 2005.

Punjabi Novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana’s Gone are the Rivers


Gone are the Rivers is a novel by the Punjabi novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana.



Tiwana is considered as the leading prose writer in Punjabi. She has written novels, short stories, autobiography and literary criticism. She was a professor  of Punjabi. Her first novel is Agni Prikhy (The Ordeal of Fire) in the late sixties. One of her early works was the famous Eho Hamara Jivan. Her autobiographical work Travelling on Bare Feet is also much discussed. As these titles suggest her works are bent towards the metaphorically.

I have read only one of her works: Gone are the Rivers. It made an immediate impact on me. Primarily for two reasons: it revises the form of the novel. secondly, it has clear unmisty eyes about the past.

Gone are the Rivers uses two kinds of temporalities. The first refers to a feudal time while the second to a modern/democratic time. The narrative in the first part is cyclical, episodic, symptomatic and never linear. The second part is refers to the post-Independent time; the narrative is more linear, more realistic, more like the ‘novel’. This internal refraction about the genre seems to be alive to the burden of a postcolonial writer. This novel becomes important, I think, because of this experiment in relation to the novel form.

The second feature I like is that it is least nostalgic. One of the irritating aspects of some novels is the nostalgia for the bygone lifestyle. A nostalgia that seems to express craving for the feudal social structure. While this novel narrates the passing of time and the transformation in society and culture, major reshuffling in social relations, at no pint this novel indicate a desire for the revival of what is past.

It begins with a graphic portrayal of the lifestyle of the courtiers of the state of Patiala. This depiction is not a chronological narrative. It follows in an episodic manner the various walks of life. The novel builds up a dense picture of the political economy, the social relations, the sexual domain, the familial relations, the  master-servant relations etc. The story line relates the changes in the life of a high ranking minister of the Patiala court.

The second part of the novel refers to contemporary India. Here, the feudal classes have been humbled, there is now the social relations are more flat.

More in the next blog.