Postcolonial Indian English Literature

Dr.Anshu Sharma ( Bhardwaj) Dr.Ram Sharma Senior Lecturer in English Deptt. Senior Lecturer in English Lecturer Arya College of Engg.& I.T. Janta Vedic College,Baraut , Kukas, Jaipur ( Raj.) Bhagpat-250611 Mob.Mo.09219710874 Mob.No.09887031545 Postcolonial Indian English Literature The term ‘Postcolonial’ came after the term ‘colonial’ which was based on the theory of the superiority of European culture or Imperial culture and the rightness of the empire. Colonial literature means the literature written by the native people including the writings by creoles and indigenous writers during the colonial times. Postcolonial literature means the literature written after the withdrawal of the imperial power from the territory of the native people. Having got the freedom from the colonial rule ,the Postcolonial people thought of having their identity. So they raised their voice against the past exploitations and oppressions and attempted at establishing their identity. The question of identity whether it is of the writer or of poet, of the nation or of religion, and of the national or regional literature is important for each. The postcolonial poet Niranjan Mohanty appears very conscious of the identity question and also believes that “no order of things obfuscate/ my identity.”1Undoubtedly, he is “frail, common human being, born here” and is “naked to the bones,” yet he feels pride of being what he is. With a view to explore his identity, he learns “how to begin a dialogue/with none but myself.”2 He realizes, “It‘s perhaps, time to learn / what makes me myself.”3 He associates himself with the world and tries to locate it in himself. He inwardly attempts to reach the core of his identity, “Every moment I live, I try/to locate the world in me/ its dust, debris and dung/its noise, nutrine and song.”4 Even touching the beloved does not let him lose his identity but rather makes him realize his own self, “On touching you / I begin to touch myself, / and all that makes me myself.”5 Thus, this new term ‘Post colonial’ literature is coined to suggest de-centering of colonial literature. The origin of Postcolonial theory has become an enigmatic riddle that occupies the mind of the critics round the globe but no clear cut solution has yet come. Regarding to its origin we remember Rajnath who has stated: “The origins of postcolonial theory are rather complex .Did it emerge out of the ruins of post-structuralism? Was it a version of Marxism? Was it a reaction against formalism? Said’ s relationship with other critics and critical trends are far from simple. He has acknowledged the influence of Foucault who is both a structuralism and post- structuralism .For his political emphasis he can be clubbed with Marx. He has not dismissed formalism but finds it inadequate, just as he finds Post structuralism and Marxism inadequate. Nevertheless, the best way to view Said’ s postcolonial theory is to see it as a reaction against Formalism, particularly Anglo-American New Criticism which ignored worldliness of a text. Whereas formalism focused on the pristine text with no affiliation to the author or the reader, let another the world, Said’ s Intervention brings in the world with a vengeance. The Publication of ‘Literature and Society’ in 1980 edited by Said marked a significant mutation an Anglo- American criticism. In his ‘Introduction’ to the volume Said expressed acquiescence in the critical position taken by the contributors to the volume, which goes contrary to the New Critical stand, Said’s own magnum opus Culture and Imperialism’ published in 1993, brings out with considerable emphasis the political subtext of the mainstream Western writing.”6 In fact, the postcolonial discourse means “to get connected with what is important for the lives of ordinary people-their culture, or on the other, “ to show how people are being constructed and manipulated by cultural forms.”7 In the postcolonial era the lives of ordinary people and their culture have been widely discussed in both Indian English Fiction and Indian English Poetry by the different perceptions of different writers and poets of different cultures. In Indian English Fiction, representation of colonialism, offers an unbiased common man’s and common sense perspective on colonialism in India .Mulk Raj Anand , R.K. Narayan ,Raja Rao and A.S.P. .Ayyer whose life views and language stem from Indian perceptive have discussed Indian landscapes and culture in their writings on the wide scale. We can notice in R.K. Narayan’s novels “the pattern of the Indian fairy tales.”8 Bhabani Bhattacharya, Manohar Malgonkar , Kushwant Singh and Arun Joshi focus on specific socio-political problems placing the country whereas the novelists like R.P.Jhabvala ,Kamala Markandaya, Nayantra Sahgal and Anita Desai view, from feminist perspectives ,socio-political as well as personal problems. Some recent novelists like Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Githa Hariharan and Amitabh Ghosh highlight postcolonial issues in more specific ways. Darkness of ignorance , illiteracy, starvation, poverty, suffering and humiliation prevailing in Indian writings .In this paper we discuss the writings of Kamala Markandaya, Kushwant Singh, Salman Rushdie, Bhabani Bhattacharya and R.P. Jhabvala on the map of Post colonial English Fiction.In her novel, ‘ Nectar in a Sieve’ Kamala Markandaya shows how urbanization of rural areas make the people landless and homeless. Further she notices Rukmani’s relentless struggle for survival in the context of urbanization of rural areas where a new founded Tannery upsets the tranquil life of peasant people during the time of rain ,rice, draught and fine weather, hope and fear, hunger and starvation and then the become the captives of failure of crops, fear and the lure of the essay pleasures of life. In the paddy fields lies the hope of farmers attuned to a patterned existence: This is one of the truths of our existence as those who live by the land knows that sometimes we eat and sometimes we starve. We live by our labours from one harvest to the next, there is no certain telling whether we shall be able to feed ourselves and our children, and if bad times are prolonged we know we must see the week surrender their lives and this fact, too, is within our experience. In our lives there is no margin for misfortune.9 This view is also apparent in Kushwant Singh ‘s poem‘I Shall not Hear the Nightingale’ when he observes, “ Our country has never been free and we have developed a servile mentality .We are frightened of power.”10 Salman Rushdie also writes in ‘Midnight’s Children’: It is the privilege and the course of the midnight’s children to be both masters and victim of their times ,to forsake privacy and be sucked in to the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace.11 Bhabani Bhattacharya’s ‘So Many Hungers’ is an analysis of the strength and endless struggle of human beings against the evil forces of mankind. Kajoli’s mother does not sell the cow Mangala , since she regards her as a mother symbol that has provided nourishment to her family. She meets a desperate starving woman with no milk in her breast for her dying baby who in concern for her child says, “Poor godling, so hurt with hunger! Look, my breasts have no milk. … he has no throat to cry. If he sleeps a little! Where is sleep? He is hurt and hurt all the time with his hunger.”12 The favourite theme of Postcolonial literature is east-west fusion that makes its presence felt in the English speaking world by breaking a new ground both in themes and techniques of both fiction and poetry. There are many European characters that come to India and adopt the Indian culture and also remember their culture so there creates a matter of compare and contrast between the east and the west. Jhabvala’s ‘A Backward Place’ shows a very fusion of the east and the west as her European sensibility mixes with Indian sensibility and presents the compare and contrast of two cultures. In this context Balachandra Rajan writes: …the presence of two cultures in one’s mind forms a wider and therefore saner basis on which to originate the quest for identity, and …the discordance between these two cultures can be creative as well as merely confusing. Perhaps one can go further and suggest that the man with mixed allegiances is contemporary Everyman.13 Judy and Etta are the women central characters of this novel. They came to India and stayed for a long time. One can easily find the contrast in their habits and preferences. Etta is a seeker of husbands and wants to marry an Indian and lives in India within western style. She is expert at love-making art and to her, “Marriages are made to be broken” and broken marriage is “one of the rules of modern civilization.” That’s why, she has married several times only for getting the comforts. She thinks that a flexible marriage is better than the permanent marriage for her. On the other Judy appears as pure an Indian character who passes through poverty, superstition, violence, suffering and communal effort that are the real Indian characteristics. Judy is a typical Indian mother who does not much oppressed by her own sufferings but the health of her little son Prithvi torments her more .In this condition Prithvi desires his father to stay with him and asks her the water with ice in a weak voice. There is no ice at home. Then the sense of mother in Judy arises and asks her husband Bal to get it. Bal who wishes to attend on Krishna Kumar ,a Bombay film star on a visit to Delhi ,ignores her and his son and says , “It is getting very late .They must all be waiting for me.” Seeing Prithvi ’s high temperature ,Judy asks Bal to stay at home but fails. So she pushes him in the street, catching him by the sleeve of his kurta, asking him to do his duty as father. At that time the colour of her face changes into pink and her eyes, looking at him very directly ,are stark blue and angry and he says, “Get the ice. Let go.” Without caring for the norms of the society, she carries him catching him by sleeves on the road only for fulfilling her son’s desires. Bal yields before this typical Indian mother. In spite of being an European character, she has a strong urge to feel herself an Indian responsible lady with a sense of belonging. As a matter of fact, Judy’s character is a fine fusion of east and west that is bound with the culture winds. It is said: Between East and West the cultural wind blows both ways, though a hasty present-day inspection might suggest that it blew mainly eastward…The wind from the east is quieter, older, and less immediately detectable; it penetrates and mingles, and its note is deep…Today the student from the Orient may find Himself to some degree at home in Western thought for the elements of his own culture that are missed in it.14 On the map of Post colonial Poetry we place Shiv K.Kumar and Niranjan Mohanty for their post colonial themes and techniques appear in their valuable writings. Shiv .K. Kumar himself underlines the favourite theme-east –west fusion of Postcolonial Indian English Poetry and also states, “ Another recurring theme in most contemporary Indian Poetry in English is East-West cultural encounter .This perhaps relates to the fact that several of our poets have had their education abroad at Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds or some American University .So they often tend to write like expatriates or exiles while living in the west and look back nostalgically on their western experience when they return home.”15 Kumar’s poem ‘A Letter from New York ’included in his poetic volume ‘Subterfuges’ is the best example of the dichotomy between the east and the west and also reveals his great longing for returning to India. He says: Here I live in a garbage can and pile grows bigger each week with the broken homes splinted all round.16 and further makes the contrast between the two cultures of east & west and points out that nothing is there but emptiness : Incidentally, there are no beggars at Grand Central or Broadway, no cripples on wheel barrows no lepers with patches of scraped skin. Only eyes, eyes, eyes staring at lamp-post.17 Postcoloniality emphasizes a contemporary state and therefore ,Kumar as a post-colonial poet writes poems of contemporary interest .He is well-versed with the new postcolonial terms like ‘hybridity ’and ‘diaspora’ and his poetry is a living example of these terms in action and operation. As Leela Ghandi who considers Postcoloniality is another name for globalization, has rightly pointed out: Post colonialism pursues a post national reading of the colonial encounter by focusing on the global amalgam of cultures and identities consolidated by imperialism .To this end, it deploys a variety of conceptual terms and categories of analysis which examine the mutual contagion and subtle intimacies between colonizer and colonized. In this regard, the term ‘hybridity’ and ‘diaspora ’,in particular stand out for their analytic Versatility and theoretical resilience. 18 Apart from the themes, one important ingredient of postcolonial literature is the language in which it is written. It was the conspiracy of the colonial rule to introduce English with the intention of converting the colonized into mimic men, but this tool proved to be the nail in their coffin as the Indians learnt how to pay them in the same coin. But today it is not the problem because English has become a global language, and has become a medium to represent the east to the west in an emphatic manner. Niranjan Mohanty is well aware of the language of the language question, and hence thinks that it is only through language he can find a link to tie the other members of his tribe. He asks God to teach him, “ how to begin my lesson with this /talkative machine called language”19 and finally concludes, “ Perhaps language is a river now /where I can swim and float any way I like /only to get a feel that I’m a part of the tribe. ” Hence he chooses to write in English with the intention of introducing the orient to the occident. Being a postcolonial poet, Mohanty is not blind to the contemporary Indian landscapes which reflect their original colour. The poet weeps over the pitiable condition of his countrymen .He opines the windows for light but they show him the true picture of the country. Very candidly he expresses, “here it is my country / burning, and every instant falling a part /Terrorists, their tempestuous uproar/everywhere./ Bears and tigers lolling out thirsty tongues /like the tropical summer./In the temple , blood bath./ In the streets, bomb blast/ In the house, frozen-necked fears./And a godless emptiness/ everywhere./ What hell my country has turned into.” 20 Mohanty’s postcolonial consciousness can be traced in his treatment of Indian culture which he has imbibed in his life ,and accordingly he lives and feels satisfaction within. Indianness seems to flow in his veins. His roots are in Indian soil and hence, will not think of the western winter. “I began to realize that/the less we speak of winter /the more is the glitter /of summer or any other season /that sustains us, trains us/to face the stings of pain,/in a night without rain.”21 The writings of the writers are purely postcolonial in texture and structure as their writings deal with notional and transnational themes with a poet mind. Poverty, superstition injustice, hypocrisy double dealing, east-west encounter and suffering of language and typical Indian ness in the contemporary society. All come within the purview of their writings. Through techniques the poets succeed in their mission of preserving the rich Indian heritage. We quite agree with Pandey when he says, “The poet is rooted to the traditions and cultures he lives by and that his vision is one of preserving the values which lie embedded in such traditions and cultures.”22 References: 1 .Niranjan Mohanty, ‘Prayers to Lord Jagannatha’ Indus, New Delhi,1994,p.154 2. Niranjan Mohanty, ‘On TouchingYou and Other Poems’ Cambridge, Calcutta, 1999, p.64 3. Niranjan Mohanty, ‘Life Lines’, Cambridge, Calcutta, 1999, p.40 4. Ibid p.32 5. Niranjan Mohanty, ‘On Touching You and Other Poems’p.59 6. Rajnath, ‘Edward Said and Postcolonial Theory’, Journal of Literary Criticism, 9:1 (June2000) p.73 7. Sarangi, Jaydeep, ‘Third World Orientations In Postcolonial English Literature’, in Indian Book Chronicle, Aalekh Publishers, Jaipur, 2009, Feb.vol.xxxiv, No.2 8. Meenakshi Mukherjee, ‘The Twice-Born Fiction, Pub. Arnold Heinemann, New Delhi, 1971 9. Kamala Markandaya, ‘Nectar in a Sieve’, Pub. Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, 1956, p.135 10. Kushwant Singh, ‘I Shall not Hear the Nightingale’, RaviDayal, 1997, p.86 11 .Salman Rushdie, ‘Midnight’s Children’, Vintage, London, 1995, p.647 12. Bhabani Bhattacharya, ‘So Many Hungers! ’Hind Ketabas Ltd., 1947, p.168 13. Rajan Bala Chandra, ‘Identity and Nationality’ in Common Wealth Literature, Heinemann Educational Books, John Press, London, 1965, p.108 14. Amalendu Bose, Times Literary Supplement of 26.12.58, p.751 15. Shiv.K.Kumar, ‘Contemporary Indian Literature in English (in collaboration with Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla) New Delhi, Manohar Publications, 1992,p.5. 16. Shiv. K. Kumar, ‘A Letter from New York’ Subterfuges, Oxford University Press, 1976, p.17 17. Ibid.p.19 18. Leela Gandhi, ‘Postcolonial theory: A Critical Introduction’, OUP, Delhi, 1999, p.129 19 .Niranjan Mohanty ,’ Prayers to Lord Jagannatha’,p.38 20.Niranjan Mohanty , ‘On This Bloody Game’, Poetry Publication, Behrampur p.79 21.Niranjan Mohanty, ‘Prayers to Lord Jagannatha’,p.126 22. Santosh K. Pandey, ‘The Eternal Flute – Player, A Study of Niranjan Mohanty’s Krishna,’ The Atlantic Literary Review, 7.2, April-June, 2006, 89-101


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