A book that persuades the reader to read it in one go till the very end…..every character well etched..the central character and her macabre pursuit of a specific form of art sends chills down the readers soul…one is forced to think about one’s neighbours and whether the calm on the surface is the prelude of some storm brewing …the book is also a reminder to parents to nurture their children by providing them with the right sort of environment and paying attention to their emotional needs.. After all, we humans are a product of nature and nurture isn”t it??
At the beginning of the play the readers are told the play is set in a cottage situated on an island off the west of Ireland. The title Riders to the Sea becomes relevant when the play opens with Nora, one of the characters in the play tells her sister Cathleen that she has brought clothes of a drowned man given to her by the young priest for identification since their brother Michael had been missing and was suspected to have been drowned in the sea. From the beginning itself the premonition of death and destruction looms large in the play. The sea becomes a powerful symbol of both preserver and destroyer of life. The play revolves around the sea. In the beginning the suspense was whether the sea would return the body of Michael and towards the end the suspense was whether the last remaining son Bartley would also be engulfed by the sea. Maurya poignantly describes the havoc wreaked by the sea on her family and her stoic resignation at the cruel blows of fate that took away all her sons and her husband whenever they rode to the sea to eke out a livelihood. The realistic language used in the play strengthens the idea that such circumstances do take place in human life and we have to accept the inevitability of fate.
The entire play is set in a poor fisherman’s cottage. The story is about a family of four surviving members. Maurya, the matriarch had already lost four of her sons and husband in the sea. When the play opens she feared her fifth son Michael also to be drowned however his body was yet to be found. Maurya had already begun lamenting for nine days and was waiting for Michael’s body to be washed ashore. The last surviving son, Bartley had already procured white boards for his brother Michael’s coffin. In the mean time Bartley announces his intention to go to the Galway Fair to sell horses. Maurya desperately tries to stop him from venturing into this perilous journey as she has a premonition that Bartley too would never return home from this journey. Maurya follows Bartley after he leaves so that she can give him a cake and her blessings but on the way she has a nerve wrecking vision of Michael following Bartley. Maurya is convinced that she would never see Bartley alive anymore and incidentally her vision comes true with the arrival of Bartley’s dead body. J.M Synge has masterfully created this well-knit play by not allowing any digressions in the plot and this has helped build the intensity of the plot. An overwhelming foreboding of doom and destruction is build up right from the opening of the play. All past tragedies are skillfully reported by the characters to help lead the play to its conclusion and the dramatic unity of time and place is adhered to by restricting the action of the entire play to a cottage and in one day.
This one act play encompasses the essence of the constant struggle of the island people against the tumultuous sea and their stoic acceptance of their fates sealed by the elements of nature.
The language used in the play is realistic and is similar to the language used by the local people of the Irish islands. Many lines are very poetic as seen in the following lines said by Maurya: “May the Almighty God have mercy…everyone left living in the world“. These lines have a stark poignant beauty and an acceptance of the inevitable cycle of life and death. The recurring use of words and expressions ‘black night’, ‘black cliff’, ‘the pig with black feet‘ etc creates an atmosphere of doom and apprehension. There is a wondrous beauty in the speech of every character in this play. Synge has penned Maurya’s final lines with profound wisdom imbued with pathos: “Michael has a clean burial in the far north, by the grace of the Almighty God. Bartley will have a fine coffin out of the white boards, and a deep grave surely. What more can we want than that? No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.”
This and other poetical and rhetorical lines that permeate this play highlight the clam that emerges in human mind after a great emotional upheaval. This play has a timeless appeal because of realistic depiction of human tragedies, resilience and acceptance. Thus Synge’s “Riders to the Sea” has been termed as one of the greatest modern tragedy in English. Riders to the sea is a realistic play as Synge has tried to present a slice of life in the islands; he has tried to incorporate Irish folklore in the play to depict human failure and helplessness in controlling the elements of the sea. The play revolves around the lives of few characters who are suffering after losing their members of the family who tried to eke out a living by venturing into the sea. This tragedy represents the pain of millions of islanders who continuously lose their dear ones to the powerful sea. The stage directions are also very vivid and elaborate so that any director while creating the set of the play would be able to visualize and create an exact replica of the writer’s vision if the play is enacted on the stage and the audience would also be able to identify with what they would be viewing on the stage.
The word “caste” has its roots in the Latin word ‘castus,’ which means pure or chaste. The caste system is often defined in an idealized manner as constituting four distinct social groups, also known as varnas. The varnas are ranked in hierarchical relation to each other with Brahmins (priests and teachers) at the apex of the social order, followed by Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors), Vaishyas (merchants and farmers), and Shudras (workers and craftspeople), who are at the bottom tiers of the caste pyramid. In addition to these four caste groups, there is another distinct social group of people in the Indian society who, on account of their polluting nature, are regarded as socially unworthy to be included in the caste or varna system. They are a people without any caste identity and hence are the outcastes of the Indian society. Their “outcaste” status does not imply that they constitute a separate society; they are, in many aspects of life very much an integral part of the Indian society. While the outcastes are not part of the caste system, their lives are inextricably tied to caste system. There is little or no caste mobility for the outcastes of the Indian society. They are almost always ranked at the bottom of Indian society. Throughout the known history of the caste system, the outcastes of the Indian society have been called by a variety of pejorative terms such as Chandalas (dirty), Panchamas (the fifth caste) Avarnas (without caste). Untouchables, Depressed classes (under British rule) and Harijans (God’s children, Gandhi) are terms used before the word ‘Dalit’ gained widespread appeal among the caste oppressed communities to assert their selfhood and identity. The term was first used in the nineteenth century by a Marathi social reformer and revolutionary Mahatma Jyotirao Phule to “describe the outcastes and untouchables as the oppressed and broken victims of [the] caste-ridden society”. The term gained mainstream appeal during the 1970s Dalit Panther Movement of Maharashtra where it was used as a constant reminder of their age-old oppression, denoting both their state of deprivation and the people who are oppressed.
The institution of the caste system is a complex and multifaceted exploitative cultural system that for thousands of years has been the primary source of oppression of Dalit communities in India. The caste system is not only a form of socio-cultural exploitation but also a form of group identity for Dalit communities. As an outcaste community, the Dalits in India endure a variety of prohibitions, discriminations, disabilities and segregations imposed on them by the dominant caste groups. The most pronounced form of segregation is the geographical seclusion of their residential areas from mainstream society.
The Dalits constitute a large but significantly distinct population of India whose cultural experiences are profoundly marked by discrimination and oppression based on caste. Even though they are not a homogenous social category, they are demarcated from the rest of the society by a fault line that runs through the Indian society. This fault line is the notion of ritual purity and pollution that is the ideological base to the structural reality of the caste system, a unique but fundamental organizing principle of Indian society that is closely identified with the orthodox version of Hinduism. With no legitimate place in the caste order and deemed as ritually polluted people by the caste Hindu community, Dalits endure the most inhumane forms of oppression and exploitation.
“Dalit literature is one which acquaints people with the caste system and untouchability in India, it’s appalling nature and its system of exploitation. In other words, Dalit is not a caste but a realization and is related to the experiences, joys and sorrows, and struggles of those in the lowest stratum of society. It matures with a sociological point of view and is related to the principles of negativity, rebellion and loyalty to science, thus finally ending as revolutionary.
Dalit life writing is a genre of Indian texts that emerged first in regional languages, and, in the1990s, in English; the genre situates personal and collective suffering within a larger discourse of human rights. “Dalit,” derived from the Marathi—the predominant language of Maharashtra state—literally means “of the earth” and “that which has been ground down” and now signifies socially oppressed caste groups and tribals. Ironically, these marginalized Dalit peoples constitute a large segment of the population, and have been forced to mobilize themselves in order to fight for rights and justice in postcolonial India. Dalit writing is revolutionary in its aims; the destruction of the caste system and the establishment of equality in the social and political spheres. Dalit critics and writers have raised a number of critical questions about Indian literature and Indian literary history. Alok Mukherjee, a literary theorist and a human rights activist, aptly sumps up the significance of Dalit writing, “Indian literary history and theory as well as the teaching of Indian literatures are spectacularly silent about Dalit literature. Yet, dalit cultural and critical productions make a significant critical intervention in the thinking and writing about Indian society, history, culture and literature.”
He identifies two of the important functions of Dalit writing. Firstly, Dalit writing attempts to deconstruct ‘the dominant, casteiest constructions of India identity’ and secondly’ it constructs a distinct Dalit identity.’ Dalit writing presents a dalit centric view of life and constructs Dalit identity in relation to Colonial identity and Indian identity.
The reading and writing of Dalit literature is mostly passionately autobiographical involving the search for the self or identity. Each individual writer makes it her/his privilege to write the stories of their community in the stories of their own. By means of writing these writers break the silence of Dalit community. They as an individual writer articulated or gave voice to Dalit experience which until now was hidden, repressed and secreted. These writings are not just about finding voice but also about finding voice but also about revelation of the most inner life of a community in a public or a kind of confession or a scandal. Their task as a writer is to transform voice and silence into literary tropes. The search is not merely sociological one as a search for Dalit community, culture and so on, but it is a philosophical aesthetic search for Dalitness.
Narendra Jadhav is a well-known economist, public speaker and a social worker. He has also served many international assignments with IMF. Outcaste: A Memoir is an adaptation by Narendra Jadhav, from his own Marathi best-seller Amcha Bap Aan Amhi (Our Father and Us). The novel is a multi-layered personalized saga of the social metamorphosis of Dalits in India. At one level, it is a loving tribute from a son to his father. At another, it gives an intelligent appraisal of the caste system in India and traces the story of the awakening of Dalits traversing three generations. At still another level, it is reflective of the aspirations of millions of Dalits in India. The novel forces us to acknowledge the inhumanity and injustice of a social order that treats humans worse than animals. Outcaste captures the life of India’s villages and Bombay’s slums with an anthropologist’s precision and a novelist’s humanity. The story begins in the 1930s when Damu, the protagonist of the story, is continuously addressed as “Mahar” in his ancestral village in Western Maharashtra where caste determined one’s destiny. Damu, refused to comply with the conventional casteist codes prescribed by society and religion.
The politically conscious of untouchables began to feel that they were being used by caste Hindu leaders and the Congress party. Thus, under Ambedkar’s leadership and initiative the untouchables began to call themselves ‘Dalits’ they aspired to take the leadership of anti-caste movements into their fold without letting either Hinduism or the Congress party meddle with their affairs. This process of shifting the leadership was easier said than done; so Ambedkar followed a strategy of initiating the Dalits into politics and activism through education and awareness. The followers were, of course, driven by passion and fervour for revolution but they also knew they were doing and why unlike the communist, Ambedkar followed a more or less pacifist approach by giving the Dalits time and patience to digest the radical ideas.
Influenced by Dr. Ambedkar’s teachings, Damu stood against the Police and the caste system. Damu was not born a leader, nor did he ever become one. But he had one exception—he chose to rebel against the prevailing caste system and create his own destiny. An intelligent man, with no formal education, he worked hard to be allowed to live with dignity. In his Author’s note, Jadhav, describes Damu as, “Damu was not a leader…but he refused to define himself by circumstances and aimed at shaping his own destiny.” or, “Damu had no formal education …yet he steered his children to educational heights and inculcated in them the spirit of excellence.”, or “Damu was not a guru…but he taught his children to believe in themselves and retain human dignity.”, or “Damu was often humbled. Yet he maintained, goats are special offerings, not lions” or “Damu was an ordinary man, they said …..but he did an extraordinary thing; he stood up against the tyranny of the caste system”. (pp. xi-xii).
‘Outcaste’ is a compelling story of a Dalit family and their subsequent transformation and the novel also chronicle Dalit history. Ambedkar’s philosophy, a major influence on Damu, has been brought in extensively in the novel but without disturbing the thread of the tale. Unlike the accounts given by sociologists and political scientist, the book has meticulously kept track of the common man’s response to each political or social development. It hardly tries to theorize or profess any ideology directly but it shows how even an illiterate like Damu was able to imbibe the essence of Ambedkarism and the rationale behind conversion. Gandhiji and Babasaheb were two towering personalities who could understand the pulse of India through both belonged to different schools of thought. The political and ideological conflict between the two was a much talked about issue in independent India. While Gandhiji offered sympathy and support Ambedkar exhorted them to rise and shine wherever they are. The Gandhi-Babasaheb conflict strikes the readers as the central event happening in the background of Damu’s quest for identity. Ambedkar wanted to break away from the prevailing hegemonic religious and political system which hardly gave a platform for the Dalits to voice themselves. The Dalits chose to support Babasaheb because they could relate to him better than anyone else in the Indian political scenario. Ambedkar felt that Untouchables have to fight their own battle and if others are concerned about them then such a concern has to be expressed in helping them to fight rather than prescribing solutions to them’.
Written in the first person, at times from the perspective of Narendra Jadhavs parents, Damu and Sonu, and at other times from his own the book traces the extraordinary voyage of Damu from a small village at Ozar in Maharashtra to the city of Mumbai to escape persecution. It was a journey that brought back his dignity and “touchability”. In the city, he earned respect in various jobs, despite being a low-caste and an illiterate. The caste differences are not so rigid in the cities and urban areas as they in the villages and suburbs. Right at the beginning Damu acknowledges that ‘the city had brought touch ability to his life’ (pp. 6).While people in the village kept him and his community at bay even while offering them food, the Gorasaheb in the city treated him like a human being with respect. He even doubted whether the Saheb knew that he was an untouchable (pp. 92). It was life in Mumbai which made him aware of his right to existence as a dignified being and introduced him to Babasaheb’s movement.
His uncompromising spirit inspired his wife who realized that their emancipation could be possible only through the pursuit of academic excellence. Outcaste is also the story of Sonabai, the author’s mother. Her innocence as a pre-pubescent bride and horrified reluctance to give up her old and trusted gods for the unknown Buddha are instances of an ordinary Dalit woman’s experiences. In the book, Sonu’s story alternates with that of Damu’s. Damu is one of the few assertive, independent Dalit characters in Indian writing in English. In the opening pages of Outcaste, the readers read Damu doing his yeskar duties (village duties to Mahars) in his native village, Ozar. Damu is forced to run in front of the Mamledar, senior revenue official, announcing his arrival. Later, Damu is asked to guard the dead body of a woman found floating in the well. He was not allowed to go home to inform his wife and also to have his food. He was abused, insulted and forced to stay near the well the entire night. The next morning Fauzdar (a police officer) arrived and asked Damu to get into the well to draw the corpse out. Damu refused to do so under the pretext that he was not supposed to touch the dead body of an upper caste woman. The author declares: “The caste system is so deeply ingrained that change can, at best, be cosmetic. The caste system was disposed by God and not by mortals. It has such a powerful sanction behind it that no laws, no reform movements, and no revolutions will ever change it completely.” Damu was beaten up by the Fauzdar for refusing to obey his orders. He was stubborn and determined. He speaks out, “…Inspite of these inhuman traditions, I am not going to abide by such traditions. I am a man of dignity and I will not go from house to house begging for Baluta. What are all of you going to do? Kill me?”.(pp.10)
Change, however, does take place, in Damu’s life. He decides to leave his village that very night. He runs away along with his wife Sonu to Mumbai, “Together, they started walking towards freedom”. In Mumbai Damu struggled hard, as the author narrates, to survive through the Great depression in the 1930s. He worked in the Railways, the Port Trust and some textile mills to earn his living in Mumbai. Inspired by Ambedkar’s call for Dalit emancipation, Damu participated in Dalit movement. He actively involved himself in the Nasik Temple Entry Movement in 1930, in Mahad Satyagraha in 1927, in the Buddhist conversion movement in 1956, Ambedkar’s funeral procession and other activities of the Dalits. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s teachings have a profound effect on Damu and Sonu and they begin to develop a sense of self—“Truly, we sensed a change in the way we carried ourselves. We proudly proclaimed ourselves Dalits, with our chin up, and we looked everyone in the eye. We began to lose our former servility, associated with being born in low caste”. They inculcated in their children an ambition to succeed in life through education and hard work. Damu refused to be cowed down by all the odds in his life. He always declared himself as the master of his own will. Throughout the narrative runs the slogan coined by Dr. Ambedkar “Educate, Unite and Agitate”. Damu and his wife educate their children to the best of their abilities. He even tried to educate his wife Sonu, something that was unheard of in those times. Fortunately, the children all fulfil his aspirations and rise to high positions in their chosen careers, a great triumph for a man who has devoted his life to bettering their prospects.
Outcaste is more than a mere personal account of the caste divide in India. It examines the Dalit awakening spearheaded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Independence movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement, Gandhiji’s relation with Ambedkar, the mass conversion of Dalits to Buddhism in 1956, and caste in its current reality. One can find Ambedkar’s call for the Dalits to “Educate, Unite and Agitate” as a recurrent theme in the book. Outcaste is the first book to portray Ambedkar as a character in its story. There is also a long note at the end of Outcaste on untouchability, the caste system and Dr. Ambedkar. Dr. Jadhav has wisely retained many Marathi words in the text, thus retaining the essence of the story intact. Personal anecdotes keep the book lively and easily readable. The book ends with a note of self-realization that in modern India dignity rests in the minds and hearts of people, and that archaic prejudices do not really matter. ‘Outcaste’ thus gives an interpretation of caste, which is astonishingly different and enlightening. This remarkable book achieves something altogether unprecedented: it gives voice to India’s voiceless. Jadhav tells the awe-inspiring story of his family’s struggle for equality and justice in India. While most Dalits had accepted their lowly position as fate, Jadhav’s father rebelled against the oppressive caste system and fought against all odds to forge for his children a destiny that was never ordained. Based on his father’s diaries and family stories, Jadhav has written the triumphant story of his parents — their great love, unwavering courage, and eventual victory in the struggle to free themselves and their children from the caste system. Jadhav vividly brings his parents’ world to light and unflinchingly documents the life of untouchables — the hunger, the cruel humiliations, the perpetual fear and brutal abuse. Compelling and deeply compassionate, “Outcaste” is a son’s tribute to his parents, an illuminating chronicle of one of the most important moments in Indian history, and an eye-opening work of nonfiction that gives readers access and insight into the lives of India’s 165 million Dalits, whose struggle for equality continues even today.
In this Memoir, the author examines the issues, which are so deep and penetrating in a manner, which is poignant. From one angle, it is an attack on the social structure of Hindu society. If this novel is studied in another angle, it is a call made to unite all the oppressed and humiliated people to empower themselves by devoting themselves to education and finally to stand as one nation of brotherhood to fight against tyranny, subjugation, slavery, oppression. The book ends with a self-realization that obsolete prejudices do not matter if human beings retain their self-dignity.
Well the name Ananya has become a household name, post Chetan Bhagat’s -Two States..So when I picked up this book I was a little skeptical. However, Preethi managed adeptly to keep my interest engaged with this sweet love story of Ananya and Arjun where they bravely trudge along the path that was never laid with roses for them. The backdrop of the novel is essentially Indian where every mother manages to find faults with the girl that their son chooses as his life partner. Preethi however introduces a new twist in the form of Colonel R.S.Nair who manages to change the course of this about to be doomed love story of Ananya and Arjun . The lovers manage to find their happily ever after and the readers also close the book with a happy smile. Great job Preethi!!
The premise of this book is as hardhitting as the title. The in-depth psychological analysis presented by the author is praise worthy. She raises a pertinent question about the Juvenile law prevalent in Indian legal system which due to its loopholes is misused by juveniles with criminal bent of mind. Like Rudransh Kashyap we need to wake up from our slumber as a progressive society and ensure adequate punishment of heinous crimes like rape. We cannot afford to shrug our shoulders anymore and let criminals walk scot-free. Kudos to the author for writing emphatically on a sensitive legal issue.
P.S. there are few typos/grammatical errors in the kindle manuscript which needs to be looked into…
It is a refreshing take on cross-cultural communication and relationships. Eila and Brett are not the typical couple of contemporary romances, so when they meet sparks do fly and aid in stoking a turbulent romance that finally overcomes all hurdles- love conquers all whether wheatish or white.
P.S There seems to be a error in the name of the waitress in last page of chapter 14, the girl introduces herself as Alisha but later she is named as Wendy.
The novel in India is conventionally thought to have emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century. The year 1854, saw the publication of Alaler Gharer Dulal, a literary piece of work by Pyari Chand Mitra that was highly praised by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Alaler Gharer Dulal is thought to occupy a unique position in the history of Indian, and certainly Bengali, literature as “the first work in Bengali which can be described as a novel.” As in England, where the rise of the novel is associated with the industrial revolution and emergence of a new sensibility, so in India the novel’s beginnings are said to be linked to the penetration of the market economy into the countryside, the emergence of a middle class, and the advent of other forces of ‘modernization’ and ‘Westernization’. The growth of the novel could be associated with the development of the scientific temper and the emergence of the middle class. With the consolidation of British rule, and the transfer of authority from the East India Company to the Crown, supposedly the very embodiment of the ‘rule of law’, both the rulers and the ruled could devote more attention to the much vaunted ethic of ‘improvement’, and “life became more settled and conventional”.
The novel came to India through western channels. During the latter half of the 19th century, the number of western educated people increased because of the spurt in educational activities and establishment of universities in India. Prose writing came into vogue during those days and through English prose only, regional languages of India were cast into prose style. The prose, initially functional, was also used later on as a medium of artistic expression and a class of native writers could even use English prose creatively for their purpose.
It was Bengal that led the Indian reception of the novel form and its use for creative endeavours with its writers like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay, Bibhuti Bhushan, Naini Bhaumik and Manoj Basu among others. Writers from other Indian regions-Nirad Chaudhary, Rajnikant Bardoloi, K.S. Venkatramani, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Sir Jogendra Singh and the famous trio R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao, to name only a few – soon joined the league. They all engaged themselves in the art of novel writing following the model of English type, for it was easily accessible to us and it was practiced by the master colonisers. With colonial complex in operation the English novel came to be the western novel for us and became the pole guiding novel for our writers though there were the few like Bankim Chandra and Govardhanram Tripathi who resisted colonial influence in the ways as different as they themselves were.
There are various factors that proved to be hindrance in the growth of literary novel in India.
Indians believe in the concept of karma and afterlife. According to the Karma doctrine the course of life of every living being here and hereafter is determined by his Karma or his deeds and a pious life leads to comforts, contentment and general well-being in the present life and re-birth in higher and better forms of existence. Evil actions result in birth in lower forms of existence in future life and unhappiness or misery, in the present existence. In short Karmavada may be summarized as the “theory of inevitable consequences of one’s actions.” In India not much importance was given to how individual motives could lead to conflict with others nor was it believed that qualities inherent in individuals could be the catalyst to societal disharmony. In novels much is written about individual motives leading to disruption in societal peace so in India where people thrived on mysticism it was difficult to introduce a concept of individual action leading to societal disharmony.
Another issue in India was that no attempt was made to record the current social environment and all efforts were channelized to attain spiritual enlightenment. In western countries novels derived much plot material from the day-to-day happenings in the society and its effects on people and their relationships. In India since no attention was given to everyday happenings basic plots could not be derived from this resource.
In Novels as stated earlier individuals were given primary importance and many novels were termed as bildungsroman that typically portrayed the growth of an individual from infancy to adulthood. In novels the western concept of individualism, indi
vidual identity reigned supreme. Indians did not stress much on individualism and thrived on community living where individual was secondary. Later writers did write spectacular novels based on community living and paved the path for writings based on group societies like India, Africa etc. The other major problem hindering the growth of novel in India was that no attempts were made to record historical events so Indian novelists could rarely construct a plot based on recorded historical events, they had to resort to extract incidents from folklores any myths which never had any verifiable resource.
Novel is primarily written in prose form though occasionally verses are also included in the novels. In United Kingdom novels thrived during the 17th and 18th centuries as the prose form gained significance during these era. In India though verse form existed since historical times but prose form appeared during the 19th century which accounted for the late arrival of novels in Indian literary panorama.
The factors that obviated the above factors and eventually led to growth of prose fiction in India were many. The major ones were in India traditionally people lived by the diktats of the community and the elders, assertion of individual will was unheard of so portrayals of protagonists fighting against obsolete societal norms was unimaginable. Gradually more and more people came in contact of English language and literature. The nineteenth century intellectuals began to question the Orthodox prejudices, dogmas and superstitions that prevailed in India. The impact of Western learning gave a new impetus to Indian renaissance. Indian society underwent a metamorphosis and progressive thinkers like Raja Rammohan Roy stressed on this aspect in his works. His essay ‘A Defence of Theism’ is lauded as the first original prose publication in English by an Indian author. The people of the country started demanding for changes in values, customs which were met by the government. This dynamism encouraged growth of novels.
The revival of Indian classical learning and the introduction and the study of European arts and sciences gave rise to an unprecedented awakening in India. For the first time in India, a middle class of intellectuals began to emerge from the feudal society, giving rise to intense Nationalism, during which the Indians struggled to articulate their passionate thoughts and feelings through whatever means were available to them. Western education turned the minds of the Indians inside out. It removed the mental blocks and promoted in them a new integral outlook. The transmission of modern scientific and sociological ideas made the Indians aware of the blessings of materialism and social organizations, of the infinite value of democracy as a way of life and of reason as an instrument of analysis and critical inquiry as the champion of free and independent thinking. The awakened Indian started expressing himself in all Western literary forms; especially in the novel. So novel writing received much needed impetus from this class who wrote novels as well as read them.
In the 19th century Indian society was undergoing rapid transformation and the societal fabric was in a state of flux. The British rulers had introduced a number of reforms and English gained a stronghold in the field of education. Through the efforts of the British and the support of groups of educated Indians, the roots of the English language were firmly fixed on the Indian soil. During this period the number of western educated people increased because of the spurt in educational activities and establishment of universities in India. The rise of the Indian Writing in English is, at the onset, to be located historically. The first connection that we should be looking at is the introduction of the English language as a medium of instruction in India and the introduction of English literature as a subject in the Universities. Macaulay’s Minute introduced in 1833 provided for the introduction of English as a medium of instruction with the claim that “the English tongue would be the most useful for our native
subjects.” While presenting his famous minute, Macaulay admitted quite candidly that he had not read any of the Sanskrit and Arabic books and yet did not desist from making such a pronouncement:
“…A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and
Arabia. …All the historical information which has been collected in the Sanskrit language is less than what may be found in the paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools of England…”
India, thus became a kind of testing ground for the launch of English literature in the classroom at a time when English Universities were still steeped in the Latin and Greek classics. English was, as a result, introduced in educational institutions, Courts and offices thus dislodging the traditional use of Arabic and Sanskrit as a mode of communication and documentation. Lord William Bentinck announced in 1835 that the government would “favour English Language alone” henceforth and would move towards “a knowledge of English literature and Science through the medium of English language alone.” The Wood Dispatch of 1854 proclaimed the establishment of the Universities at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta and thereafter made the English language accessible to students, professors and also the officials of Government offices. In the arena of literary studies too English began to assert itself.
Prose writing came into vogue during these days and through English prose only, regional languages of India were cast into prose style. The prose, initially functional, was also used later on as a medium of artistic expression and a class of native writers could even use English prose creatively for their purpose and this paved the way for the emergence of novels in India. In fact, all the literary conditions that operated in eighteenth century England and favoured the rise of the novel were not different from those which operated in nineteenth century India and favoured the emergence of the novel as a literary form in English as well as in all the Indian languages.
The novel of the Indian Writing in English becomes conspicuous in the second half of the nineteenth century. The claimants for the first Indian novel in English are Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Rajmohan’s Wife (1864) and Lal Behari Dey’s Govind Samant (1876). Raj Lakshmi Devi’s The Hindu Wife (1876), Toru Dutt’s Bianca (1878), Kali Krishna Lahiri’s Roshinara (1881) and H. Dutt’s Bijoy Chand (1888). These novels depicted realism and rise of individualism in the life and literature of India. By depicting the scene of the emergence of the individualist social order as against the traditional economic and social order the authors championed the cause of the heroes of economic individualism. This period also witnessed the emergence of women writers and it marked the birth of an era which promised a new deal for the Indian woman. The growth of women’s education and the emancipation of the Indian
woman through reformist movements were in themselves significant social phenomena which favoured the rise of the Indian novel in English and they were also the symptoms of the emergence of the individualistic social order which was indispensable to the growth and the development of the novel as a form of literary expression. A common feature inevitably observed in the writing of these writers of this period is that their theme is invariably the Indian woman, the new woman as the writer saw her emerge in the fast changing social milieu. A striking feature of the novels of these writers is that they are, by and large, like personal memoirs and autobiographical sketches with characteristic emphasis on subjectivity and private experience
The story of the Indian English novel is really the story of a changing India. There was a time when education was a rare opportunity and speaking English was unnecessary. The stories were already there- in the myths, in the folklore and the umpteen languages and cultures that gossiped, conversed, laughed and cried all over the subcontinent. India has always been a land of stories, the demarcation between ritual and reality being very narrow.
The Indian English novel erupted in the fiery talks of Henry Derozio, the spiritual prose of Tagore and the pacifist dictums preached by Gandhi. With the coming of Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K.Narayan, the Indian English novel had begun its journey. In ‘Coolie’ by Mulk Raj Anand, the social disparity in India is laid bare. In R.K.Narayan’s imaginary village Malgudi, the invisible men and women of our teeming population come to life and act out life with all its perversities and whimsicalities. In ‘Kanthapura’ by Raja Rao, Gandhism awakes in a sleepy village down south. India no longer needed to be depicted by outsiders. The perspectives from within ensured more clarity and served a social documentative purpose as well.
The early novels in India were not just patriotic depictions of Indianness. The themes revolved around past history and historical figures of repute. With independence the focus shifted to cultural identity, caste issues, marginalization, women’s issues, alienation etc. Now with the Indian Diaspora being a reckoning force in the publishing world, Indian English speaks a global tongue, unconfined to any particular culture or heritage- the language of the displaced intellectual (the east-west encounter). Some of the writers of English fiction in India had taken up the colonial encounter as their theme in which the scene of social and cultural confrontations between the Englishmen and the natives is depicted. S.M. Mitra and Sarat Kumar Ghosh belonged to this category of writers of the colonial encounter. S. M. Mitra’s Hindupore: A Peep Behind the Indian Unrest; An Anglo- Indian Romance (1909) is as the title suggests, a romance in which the British are among the major characters. It is noteworthy to point out that unlike the British writers who saw and pictured Indians only as Indians and not as men, as individuals, the Indian writers of ‘Anglo-Indian’ novels saw them and pictured them as human-beings first and as Englishmen or Eurasians only later.
Thus with multiple themes and concerns that evolved in each century novel writing as a literary form gained a stronghold in India and still continues to hold a prime place.