Modern English poetry in India is one of the many new literatures which began to emerge at the end of the Second World War, after the end of colonialism. Unlike the Africa and Caribbean creative writings, modern Indian poetry in English did not have an obvious direct relationship with the cultural movements that had led to national independence.
The emergence of modern English poetry was a part of modernization which included urbanization, industrialization, mobility, independence, social change, increased communication (in the form of films, television, radio, journals and newspapers), national and international transportation networks, mass education and the resulting paradox that as an independent national culture emerged and it also participated in the international modern usually westernized world.
Gradually with passing time the English language poetry became more indianized in nature. The change that came about reflected the change in mentality that had ushered in among the Indian poets. Such Indianisation had been proceeding for several generations and is prominent in the poetry of Kamala Das and Pritish Nandy and present although more nuanced in the work ofKeki N. Daruwalla it is more likely to be felt in the verse of Nissim Ezekiel and Jayanta Mahapatra or in the kind of rapidly expressed ironies found in the poetry of Ramanujan.
The modern poets as a group tended to be marginal to traditional Hindu society not only by being alienated by their English language education but also more significantly by coming from such communities as the Parsis, Jews and Christians or by being rebels from Hinduism and Islam or by living abroad. Many of the writers came from the families that had already been partly westernized or that moved extensively during their childhood.
There are identifiable periods when Indian English poetry took new directions. In the early 1960s poets, like, Kamala Das and Ezkiel, focussed on the actuality of personal and family life; on the other hand, the experimental poetry of Mehrotra, Kolatkar, Nandy, Chitre and Mahapatra began to appear in the late 60s and early 70s. A renewed more detailed satirical and yet compassionate focus on communal and family heritage had become an important trend in the modern English poetry in India.
It can be said about the modern Indian poetry in English that with every passing decade an increasing immediacy and heightened awareness of actual Indian experience is noticeable. In the beginning it seemed that modern Indian verse was indebted to British as well as to a few European models but in the present age it reveals an awareness of most of world literature including contemporary American, South American and older Indian devotional verse in regional languages.
An important characteristic of modern Indian English poems is that they have an openness which is especially noticeable in the middle portions of the poems and the association that is created in the poems is very logical in nature. The narrative which is generally used in the poem has become an experience itself instead of an example in an argument. In modern Indian poetry in English there has always been a confessional tradition which was particularly noticeable in Ezekiel`s poetry.
Besides the immediacy, experimentation, openness and self revelation of modern Indian poetry in English there has been noticed an increasing interest in long poems as a means of going beyond the fragmented vision and isolation associated with the short lyric. Such long poems can be called closest modern culture which can come to the shared national and communal values and experience of the classical epic. In fact the distance between the modern sceptical individual and the traditional beliefs of a community is however the subject of this modern equivalent of the epic. . Literary Journey The journey of Indian literature commences from the social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy who protested firstly against the exploitation of woman and advocated the rights of press in his writings as well as actions and movements. According to M. K. Naik, Roy wrote A Defense of Hindu Theism which was ‘the first and original publication in the history’. Later on Henry Derozio (1808-31) who wrote first original poetry in English was less social conscious but more patriotic. Derozio and Kashiprasad set the tone or the love of India which was followed by Toru Dutt, R. N. Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, M. M. Dutt, Sri Aurobindo, Kashiprasad Ghosh, Goroo Chand Dutt and R. C. Dutt. Similarly the first quarter of twentieth century followed Romanticism, Victorianism. Poets like ‘Meherji, A. F. Khabardar, N. B. Thadhani, Nizamat Jung, Harendra Nath Chattopadhyaya, and Ananda Acharya exploited Indian and oriental thought in the typical Indian manner’. The second quarter of twentieth century leaded a rich harvest of poets like ‘V. N. Bhushan, S. R. Dongerkery, T. P. Kailasam, N.
Krishna Murti and A. Menezes’ continued the humanistic trend while Nolini Kant Gupta, Dilip Kumar Roy, E. L. Vaswani, Nirodvaran K. D. Sethna, Nishi Kanto, and Themis carried forward the tradition of mystical poetry. ‘The third quarter of 20th century has seen the further strengthening of modernist as well as new symbolist’s trend’. Here the poets published from ‘Writers Workshop’ like, P. Lal, Kamala Das, V. D. Trivedi, Marry Erulkar, A. K. Ramanujan and several others seem to reveal significant development modernist lines in Indo-Anglian poetry’.
The age from 1922 to 1947 can easily be called the age of indianness as all the writings of this period were either glorifying the rich heritage of India or admonishing her decline, but there was no upsurge of protest in the poems of that time as the people of this period were (under Colonialism) struggling for freedom of nation or dazzled by the light of industrial revolution. But few poets cum social reformers protested against the social evils and ills that had taken birth in the medieval age. 4. Post Independence English Indian Poetry Indian English poetry before and independence has been a debatable topic among the critics.
Critics are bifurcated into two groups on the achievement of Indian English poetry. There is group of critics like C. D. Narasimaih and V. K. Gokak who applaud the poetry of Sri Aurobindo and his Sarojini Naidu, while critics like Parthasarthy and others have appreciated the poetry of post-independence era (after 1947) and have outrightly condemn the poetry of preindependence period. According to these critics there has been no serious poetry written before independence and this poetry was lacking the voice of protest and common mass and steeped more into ‘Romanticism’ or Lyricism. ’ B. K.
Das says: Post independence Indian English poetry is genuine because it is deeply felt and addressed to the whole community; Indian situations form a vital part of it. (4) In fact, these ‘Indian Situations’ of post-independence period which were full of struggles, sufferings, protest of new India against the age old dogmas and customs and traditionswhich have already lost their grace, sanction and hold on society in the medieval ages, were responsible for giving birth to ‘protest’- a term refreshed by Marx and Engels in Modern ages, and the same term, gained new charms in Indian English poetry after independence.
Besides, women poets like Kamala Dass, Gauri Deshpandy,Lila Dharmraj, Malti Rao, Monika Verma, Anna Sujata Modayil, Laxmi Kannan, Rita Malhotra and Margret Chatterjee protested not only against men and their oppressions but widened their horizons and wrote considerably on the exploitations done by the other people of power and pelf. Gauri Deshpande’s ‘Rain Poem’ provides a realistic image of rains and floods of Kerala and the measures taken by the Government in this regard: Saudamini (Sucheta Pai Jaweli) writes protest poems voicing the agonies and woes of modern Indian woman.
Especially her poem, ‘We Are the Domestic Jews’ narrates the miserable lot of woman: Saudamini (Sucheta Pai Jaweli) writes protest poems voicing the agonies and woes of modern Indian woman. Especially her poem, ‘We Are the Domestic Jews’ narrates the miserable lot of woman: Post-Independence Indian English poetry is both a break with the past and a continuation with it too.
Modernity in recent Indian English poetry, which essentially means a break with the past, has three identifiable manifestations: one – a past-oriented vision which is associated with a sense of loss and hopelessness, a sort of cultural pessimism; two–a future-oriented vision, associated with a desire to remake the world; three–a present-oriented attitude, ahistorical, amoral, neutral, stoic, ironic, ambiva¬lent, absurdist. This modernity has two modes of “expression”–¬one, it might result in one turning inward going on one’s “voyage within”; two, it might result in an ironic observation of reality, in “voyage without. The incipient romanticism and rapid narcissicism of the early Indian English poetry are now discarded in favour of poetry as “a criticism of life. ” Post-Independence Indian English poetry tries hard to set its roots and develop its own artistic credo. It has successfully risen above “decadent romanticism” and in the hands of such brilliant poets as Nissim Ezekiel, A. K. Ramanujan and R. Parthasarathy, it is acquiring new dimensions. Introduction
Traditionally, the work of Indian women writers has been undervalued due to patriarchal assumptions about the superior worth of male experience. One factor contributing to this prejudice is the fact that most of these women write about the enclosed domestic space, and women’s perceptions of their experience within it. Consequently, it is assumed that their work will automatically rank below the works of male writers who deal with ‘weightier’ themes. Additionally, Indian women writers in English are victims of a second prejudice, vis-a-vis their regional counterparts.
Since proficiency in English is available only to writers of the intellectual, affluent, educated classes, a frequent judgement is made that the writers, and their works, belong to a high social strata, and are cut off from the reality of Indian life. The majority of these novels depict the psychological suffering of the frustrated housewife, this subject matter often being considered superficial compared to the depiction of the repressed and oppressed lives of women of the lower classes that we find in regional authors writing in Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, and other native languages.
In the nineteenth century, both progressive and orthodox reformers supported female education in India, believing that social evils could be eliminated through education. However, the concept of education was limited to producing good homemakers and perpetuating orthodox ideology, as women were believed to support the traditional values of Indian society. Christian missionaries and British rulers, especially in Bengal where the British had made their first inroads in the mid-nineteenth century, started girls’ schools, and in the 1880s, Indian women started to graduate from universities.
The vast majority of girls, however, did not attend school, as education for women was mainly confined to the larger towns and cities. Indian women authors Prior to the rise of the novel, many Indian women composed poetry and short stories in Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. Women were the chief upholders of a rich oral tradition of story-telling, through myths, legends, songs and fables. Once literacy began to filter through society, those stories were transformed into poetry and drama.
The novel was not at first a common form, perhaps because the majority of women had less access to education than men. It was not until prose began to be used in the late nineteenth century by Bengali writers who had been exposed to European culture that the novel form took hold in India. The volume of Indian literature written in English is smaller than that written in the various regional languages, and spans a smaller range of time, having only commenced with the spread of the English language and education.
But in the last two decades there has been an astonishing flowering of Indian women writing in English, the literature of this period being published both in India and elsewhere. The authors are mostly western educated, middle-class women who express in their writing their discontent with the plight of upper-caste and class traditional Hindu women trapped in repressive institutions such as child-marriage, dowry, prohibitions on women’s education, arranged marriages, suttee and enforced widowhood. Poetry
Toru Dutt (1856-77) was the first Indian woman poet to write in English, and her work depicts archetypes of Indian womanhood, such as Sita and Savitri, showing women in suffering, self-sacrificing roles, reinforcing conventional myths in a patriotic manner. Her first book, published when she was twenty, was a book of verse translations from French, A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields: Verse Translations and Poems (1876). Kamala Das originated a vigorous and poignant feminine confessional poetry, in which a common theme is the exploration of the man-woman relationship.
This style was subsequently taken up by other women poets such as Gauri Deshpande, Suniti Namjoshi, and Chitra Narendran. The predicament of a single woman, spinster or separated, has also been a prominent theme in women’s poetry. Tara Patel shows in Single Woman (1991) that in the harsh reality of the world, the quest for companionship without strings is a difficult one. Anna Sujata Matha in Attic of Night (1991) writes of the trauma of separation and the travails of a separated woman.
Poetry for her seems to be an act of transcendence of agony, in the name of survival. But the image of woman she projects is strong and determined, and she argues for a sense of community, justice and companionship. While in women’s poetry we hear the voice of the New Woman’s definition of herself and a quest for her own identity, we hear the conventional male voice and see a conventional, often negative portrayal of women, in men’s poetry. An example is the six volumes of Nissim Ezekiel’s poems, which depict women as mother, wife, whore, sex object or seductress.
Woman’s voice was heard for long and from ages but only in the songs sung to highlight the spiritual yearning or in the lyrics and the passionate love songs. Indian woman for long had been encircled in the whirlpool of pain and suffering of orthodox society. Though much has been done to relieve them from the plight from the time of William Bentick to curtail the evil practices against woman and that social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy clamored for widow remarriages and for restoration of her rights. But the pace of reformation is still slow. preliminary exercise in identifying the such features and the overall view of women poets about Indian women is intended to present the poetry of women poets in our country is Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Das, Gauri Deshpandey, Monika Verma, Lakshmi Kannan, Mamta Kalia, Lila Ray, Gauri Pant, Margaret Chatterjee, Chitra Prasad, Rohini Gupta and Anna Sujata Modayil. The emergence of a large number of women poets is significant features of Post-independence Poetry. These Indian English women poets communicate a powerful female sensibility which does not find expression in their male counterparts.
Women poets write consciously as women. What distinguishes their poetry is their confessional and autobiographical note, frank, candid, bold and realistic expressions of their attitude to woman. Commenting on the feminine sensibility in Indian English Poetry Murli Das Melwani says: Their themes are few in number. Thwarted desires, the frustration of living in a male dominated world, Sex and of course Love are common ones. Contemporary situations are finding more frequent mention in their poems. The viewpoint is peculiarly feminine, a distinctive tone setting of their work from the rest of Indo English Poetry.
Another distinguishing mark is the frequency with which imagery is used to suggest personal reactions. (Melwani: 35) A vast impact of surrounding milieu can be glanced in the poetry of these Indian Women Poets. Toru Dutt and Sarojini Naidu are called the precursors of women poetry. In those olden times the condition of woman was not so crucial as is now but there was also rampant the slavery of orthodox beliefs, although a strong impression of righteousness, love and peace can be seen in the women of ancient times. In the past the image of woman was hat of Kali, Uma, Lakshmi, Durga, Sita and Anusuya whom man also gave full reverence. The images of the woman are basically drawn from the Hindu religious texts i. e. the Ramayana, the Mahabharata Shrimad Bhagvada Gita and Vishnu Puran. A. N. Dwivedi aptly remarks: Savitri ,Sita and Jagadhya Uma are the ideal representative of Indian womanhood and offer an opportunity to the poetess to reveal the mysterious feminine nature. Toru’s intimate feelings are expressed through them. Sarojini Naidu or the Bharat Kokila is the most lyrical woman poet of India.
She made more definite contribution to Indian English Poetry. Her poetry reflects her involvement with Indian life. She is an epitome of Indian womanhood and commands respect from the younger generation as an intrepid freedom fighter. She said about herself: The lyric child had grown into the lyric woman. All the instincts of her awakening womanhood for the intoxication of love and the joy of life were deeply interfused with the more urgent need of the poet’s soul. For a perfect sympathy with its incommunicable vision its subtle and inexpressible thoughts.
In her poems like “Indian Love Song”, ‘Village Song’, ‘Pardanashin’ and ‘Indian Dancers’, she has portrayed the life of Indian Woman of different sects where women are seen dancing enjoying and involved in the thoughts of their lovers. Kamla Das in her poetry carries the theme of independence in her . Another luminary poetess Gauri Deshpande shows different feminine sensitivity; full of events, baffling, sensuous and captivating. Lakshmi Kannan, a bilingual writer in Tamil and English is a well known signature of Indian English Poetry. Lakshmi Kannan, a bilingual writer in Tamil and English is a well known signature of Indian English Poetry.
The poetry of Anna Sujata Modayil is poetry of experience and an insight into life. As such, it does not remain isolated from the global trends and can be corroborated by the fact that it has incorporated itself the manifestations of the feminist movements that swept through Europe, America, Canada, and Australia since 1960s. At the same time in India appeared the poetry of Kamla Das , Eunice de Souza , Mamta Kalia, Tara Patel , Imtiaz Kalia, Gauri Deshpande , Suniti Namjoshi,Gauri Pant, Lakshmi Kannan, Vimla Rao,Meena Alexander, Margaret Chatterjee, Charmayne D’Souza , Mamta Kalia, Sujata Bhatt etc.
Tejdeep Menka Shivdasni and a few other women poets who not only totally upset the phallogocentric discourse of Indian English poetry by introducing in it a new array of thematic contents in new voices, but relate their experiences in their art from a broad spectrum of styles. Kamla Das is one of pioneering post-independence Indian English poets who have contributed immensely to the growth and development of modern Indian English poetry. Menka Shivadasni’s poetry hold together a private world of chaotic emotions through its logical development and its strikingly imaginative icons.
Sujata Bhatt born in India and educated in the United States, now living in Germany has been shaped by cross-cutural experiences as reflected in her three collections. These and many more recent women poets bring out the conflict of gender through the Indian female psyche in its interaction and correlation with the male psyche. Written in a personal and confessional style, their poetry acts as a social document because they themselves are victims and agents of social change.
In the twilight zone in which the creative mind dwells, there is a natural feminine ability to turn inwards, to accept intuition and tenderness as values long with the gentle sensitivity to one’s natural environment and to the latent communications among human beings which mobilize the feelings and imageries and bring forth the new feminine voices creating new terrains. Female bonding in literature has thus taken a variety of forms, the agenda being common,women need to come together and call into question all the diverse strategies of patriarchy.