Anglo-Indian Poetry, Indo-English Poetry, Indo-Anglian Poetry, Indian Poetry in English BY
Bijay Kant Dubey
Bijay Kant Dubey
They debated it long ago, still it is, put forth and countered as well simultaneously, what is it in essence, Anglo-Indian poetry, Indo-English poetry, Indo-Anglian poetry, Indian poetry in English or Indian English poetry, which but a few have questioned, known it and tried to answer it correctly, as because what it seems to be is not. Leave it Macaulay’s minutes and lectures, what did he say or remark about the Indian vernaculars or the national language of importance as they were colonial people serving for a purpose as the agents of the trading companies and the British Empire? Anglo-Indian entity starts with the seldom settlement of the English in India, barring colonial purpose, but they could not keep in their identity as they did in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Caste, creed, society and class appeared to be an aberration, embarrassment and the medievalism hung it so heavy over that turned they superstitious, backward and uncultured as for poverty and misrule, living in fear, darkness, fear and suspense during those days of the raid, loot, plunder and invasion of India by the foreigners. Secondly, the heat and dust could not make them settle, the varied and variegated dimension and spectrum of the every-place varying Indian climate and the domains exotic and alien and impregnable even for the natives. The inhabitants and natives of one region never could they dare to know others or go beyond. The dietary habit too hindered from as the upper class desisted from taking beef and pork. India had not been India as we see it today, but a sub-continental syndrome. A bundle of contradictions, contraries and aligning somehow, misinterpreted and taken to comprehension was it. Indo-English connection refers to an exchange of thoughts and ideas as it seems to be a mutual relationship. Indo-Anglian is actually a term used by K.R.S.Iyengar. P.Lal who had been a mediocre too turned it into a common man’s agenda; commoners’ poetry and his Writers Workshop a factory of poets and poetesses. Great poets did not come out definitely from his press. Only the poetasters, rhymers, non-poets and the commoners writing trivial verses and perfecting it; the so-called latter-day masters and managers of trivia.What it marvels us is this that only his friends are the modern established poets and poetesses of today who have but come of age and have evolved in due course of time. They kept searching the lane of every capital, with the words, supposed to be, is there a man writing in English, is there anybody who knows English? But never did they give a chance to those dwelling in far-flung cities and villages of India; the Indian villagerly maniacs wanting to be Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth imitatively.
Before calling them poets and poetesses, practicing writers of Indian English poesy, we would to seek to draw to the fact that without reading or going through the texts, we mean the English classics and works, how can they be called poets? How could they have? One should keep it in mind that Derozio too was under Scott, Byron and others. Toru too is no exception to it. She too suffers from Anglo mania.Tagore himself has not stated it whose influence is it that hangs over him? How has he drawn from? Tagore’s works are studies in translations. Had Tagore not gone through the Bible and the poems by Browning, could he have? Another charge against Tagore is this that he shakes of the influence of Kadambari Devi as Pt.Ravi Shankar did to Annapurna Devi. W.B.Yeats admired Tagore’s Gitanjali, wrote an introduction to it, but never could he the criticism of Yeats’ poetry. Aurobind’s Savitri seems to be a Miltonic version of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained apart from Vedism, Upanishadism and Puranic studies lurking around. Aurobndo too is a self-published poet as his works have arrived from his Pondicherry Ashrama and he has written in imitation to them. The theme may be Indian, but the style is alien. Many of his poems appear to be Latin and Greek texts. Whatever be that, his is a Latinized diction intermixing to a sublime hybridity, sometimes fails in coming to a nicer fusion.
What is Indian in Indian English poetry? How the base of it? Who the poets? How the poetical themes employed in? Indian English poetry if there is anything like it is but an off-shoot of English poetry; world literature in English, a part of Commonwealth matter. Had it been so, there would have been the dialects of its own to nourish and nurture the branch language as the colonial hang-over naturalized with the settlements of own, but there is nothing like that. The English never did take it as their home and chose not to settle in. Even if they, came to propagate Christianity in the tribal belts, attracting the weaker sections of society. English is neither spoken in any home or village of India. Even in the towns and cities it is not. But the English strove in connecting India; in chartering the course of it through the schools, colleges, offices, bridges, dams and so on. Let us think had the train been not, the bus or any method of transportation, what would it have? Had the hospital been not, what would we have? Malaria, plague, cholera, small pox and typhoid would have wiped Indian villages and faith would not have cured them all. The Christian doctors really served them. Had the post-office, the telegram and the telephone been not, what would it have? Electricity and modern appliances helped us. Our mud houses could not let us to be modern. Villagerly India, exotic and inaccessible, definitely benefited from modern usage and modules.
What is Indian English? There is nothing as Indian English. King’s or Queen’s speech is not our language. It depends on the native speakers how they use the language learnt laboriously. There are so many dialects and languages in India and the speakers of those use the language in their own way. Bihari English, Bengali English, Oriya English, Assamese English, Punjabi English, Haryanvi English, Cchatishgarhi English, Gujarati English, Marathi English, Sindhi English, Kashmiri English, Himachali English, Tamil English, Telugu English, Malyalam English, Kannada English, how to do with such a variety of speakers using the language for communication and linkage? The people from the north-east too use it for an exchange of thoughts and ideas. In the past the Indians used to apply in grammatical English, written English as for hesitant communication. But today in the age of the television and the mobile phone handset, they are using in spoken English. Bhojpurian English reminds us of Nissim Ezekiel’s Gandhian patriot speaking in broken English, but Bihari Bhojpurian English more blunt and rough and tough. A few of the Bhojpurian English knowing are placed as rustic professors of linguistics and phonetics in not the undergrad, but the post-grad departments of English. They speak English putting Indian paan into their mouth with a hypocrisy and ego of their own. These are not the varieties of the English language, but to show it how the people of the linguistic groups such as Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Chinese, Dravidic and Austro-Asiatic use it under the shadow of the speech defect of the native source. It is also a fact many know English well, but fail to speak in English and those who fluent in, many of them not so well up in writing.
If you sit to read Indian English poetry, poetry not, verse, you will be hurt to mark it that there is nothing as standard in it. Everything is but derivative, substandard, copious, imitative and puerile. We call them great moderns? Are they really? In comparison to modern English poets and poetesses, they are not at all what hey seem to be. Is there any work like that of Wordsworth’s Lucy poems? Is there anything like Tennyson’s In Memoriam? We do not know it. Even by Jayanta, Daruwalla, Nissim, Kamala, Arun, these have not come down to us. Arun Kolatkar’s poems too are not good and standard poems. P.Lal too is not a standard poet, but his publicity is too much. We do not know it if Lal, Ezekiel, Mahapatra, Mehrotra and others are Ph.Ds. though they may be creative writers. The birds of a feather flock together is the case with the band of P.Lal and his orchestra. Even the first-poem writers too have got place in the first anthology of Lal brought out as a collective venture and edited by him and a political science professor named Raghavendra Rao who too has turned into a poet.
The modern Indian English poets are the hollow men writing poems in English. Jayanta Mahapatra’s base too is one of physics, not of literature. Sometimes he blurs us with his images and word-play. Light and darkness chapters of physics endow him with the flashes of poetry and he evaluates in the light of this all. The words lure us magically, but repetition and meaninglessness disturb us too at the same and we claw for meaning, which is but immaterial in him, bordering on the theme of nothingness. We search for meaning and paraphrase, but it comes to naught. A poet of the sea and silence, he enlightens us. The earlier verses of his had been weaker quantitatively. A poet of Oriya space, he clutches along regionalism, nationalism and internationalism. Sometimes we feel it within that his poetry is for the foreigners to enjoy as he tells the tales of hunger and poverty in a flimsy style of writing. Nissim too is one from the minority community and that too a Maharashtrian Ben-Israeli. So, it is natural Indian karma and dharma will not cast an impact of its own on him. Bereft of Indian thought, culture and philosophy, spirituality, religion and ethics, theology, metaphysics and cosmology, morality and didacticism, myth and mysticism, he will tell of something different from these. The Vedas, the Upanishadas, the Puranas and others are not the things of his studies. He is a poet of Bombay and the Bombyans; the urban space and urban values, tea parties, love marriages, cinema-hall meets, outings and goodbyes. Why is Vikram Seth so famous? What is it new in him? We do not know it. A student of economics, he is conventional in his format. His first book too saw the light of the day from Writers Workshop, Calcutta.
Actually the theme of Indianness bails it out, the question, what is Indian in Indian English poetry? At the hint of the Englishman which Edmund Gosse suggested to Sarojini, the theme of Indianness has come to its rescue otherwise nothing would have bailed it out. This very question also saves Nissim though questions him in the right perspective as for what is Indian in his very Indian English poetry? To read Kamala’s poetry is to get the foul smell of a billy-goat. It is better to observe the sculptures in love and relationship carved out on the temple walls of the rock-built temples of Konark and Khajuraho rather than reading her verses; it is better to go through Vatsyayana’s Kamsuttra.
Indian English poetry is short of classical texts and treatises. Can Kamala’s texts be called classics? Kamala’s are not a study in classicism, but amorous and erotic romanticism bordering on the fringe of sexuality and sexual dreams. A poetess of thin matters, slender poetical texts, hers is a study in sensuality and love and sex and its dreams. She is not well-read as well as scholarly, but a trite fiction or thriller writer. The body is the canvas of her writings. To do nautanki for the media glare is the job of her. Kamala seems to be a disciple of Freud, Lawrence and Rajneesh. We not know if she has read Vatsyayana’s Kamsuttra or not. We do not know it if she has visited the Konark Sun-temple and Khajuraho or not. Shiv K.Kumar too is sexual and bodily rather than endowed otherwise. Kolatkar is no writer of The Canterbury Tales though we have heaped praises over him. Mehrotra too has not come through. Most of the modern poets and poetesses are but the minor voices swapping their places and positions. Modern Indian English poetry does not represent the whole of India; it is just a study of P.Lal and his company. After becoming famous the modern poets are writing their swan songs and masterpieces just to save their prestige.
Indian English poetry is a study in poems, not in poetry books as because we get the poems of the authors in anthologies of poems rather than books. The books of the self-published poets remain out of reach once these are published as personal venture. R.Parthasarathy’s single anthology of ten poets cannot be the example of our long-time repeated research. His fame too as a poet rests on merely one book of verse named Rough Passage. When will he write his second? Perhaps he may not as because has become famous writing many urgently required for any standard recognition. What it is deplorable is this that we have abandoned many of the neglected poets of the per-independence period who at least tried to write and add to such a nondescript realm of writing. The problem with Indian English poetry criticism is this that the Indian English poet too is a no-man and the critic too a no-man, a no-man writing about another no-man whose whereabouts unknown and thereafter the poet goes missing. Even now one may not find the books of the modern established poets in the market as these are out of print
If one turns to Indian English poetry with a view to reading classics, one may not as because there is a dearth of classics and classical scholars. Classical scholarship is something different, not easily found and is rare now-a-days as because scholars like not to show and express loosely. The aroma of classical scholarship Thomas Gray and Matthew Arnold themselves can say about in An Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard and The Scholar Gipsy while T.S.Eliot see it in The Hollow Men and W.H.Auden in The Unknown Citizen .
The old-timers used to take it in a bad light. Never did they like and love to turn it over whatever be the praise of Sarojini Naidu who too was a shrewd lady drawing and deriving from British literature. Mahatma Gandhi was mistaken in calling her the nightingale of India. She is not a nightingale, but one of the cuckoos of India. One who has read and appreciated Wordsworth’s Upon The Westminster Bridge, Lost Love, Auden’s Look, Stranger!, John Masefield’s Sea Fever, Walter de la Mare’s Martha and others will not admire her so easily. Had she been not to England, what would it have happened? The poetry of Mira hangs heavy over her. Her love for Naidu can also be marked as she had been mad after him and married too finally barring societal taboos and constraints. Adolescence love is one of the strongest points of her poetry.
One thing one cannot deny it from accepting, modern Indian English poetry though not exactly modern, modernistic and post-modn as the English are is meaningless poetry and this cannot be called poetry, but verses if we pick the right word to express it. Today in this age of connectivity and linking, the mobile phone handset and the television, people are getting modern in villages. Still many are below the poverty line and are unable to take food and sleep on cots. If this be the state of things then how to call us modern?
Indian English poetry is a study in minor voices and slender anthologies. All and sundry, Jack and Jill, Tom, Dick and Harry, all are poets here. A crowd of so many, here lies the fear of being lost and to identity properly. The critical studies of it too are histories rather than something different. The historiography too is as such that Indian English poetry has flowed as a thin trickle of poesy down the ages. To cross over the “saat samudras” (seven seas) then was a social boycott and many of those who used to return used to get the head tonsured and a dip into the Ganges taken as for a cleansing, but the same as the diaspora poets are admired today. It is a matter of prestige to go to England or America or elsewhere and to return back home. Indian superstitions too wreaked havoc in destroying the sublime culture and tradition of it which were but a type of madness and mania.
Today the situation has worsened it all. All are after poesy, the lines of it, which but come to them not so naturally and spontaneously. These city-bred people just like their predecessors like to indulge in versifying and they write rhymed doggerels. Many of them edit literary journals just to highlight their poems and paper-publications rather than serving literature selflessly. One editor of a small journal praises the poetry of another editor in the exchange journals so that they can be highlighted mutually. Many small poets as university heads like to get Ph.Ds. on their poetry or the poetry of their friends registered personally or through the god efforts of their colleague supervisors. How can it be? Does morality not prick their conscience? Have they become so much moralless? Can they go to such an extent of degradation and fall in standard? Sometimes it has also be seen one editor writes an article on one’s poetry oneself and after writing it, attributes it to another subscribing candidate hailing from the other part of India so that one cannot doubt it that it is not by him and the guts lie in the fact to be shown that really someone has taken up his poetry for his paper-writing and promotion.