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Friday, August 13, 2010

Indian Writing in English

Indian English literature is an endeavour of showcasing the rare charms of Native writing in English. From being an inquisitive national explosion, Indian English has become a new form of Indian culture, and voice in which India speaks. While Indian authors have been making momentous contributions to world literature since the pre-Independence era, the past few years have seen a massive boom of Indian English writing in the international market. Not only are the works of Indian authors writing in English soaring on the best-seller list, they are also receiving a great deal of critical acclaim. Starting from Mulk Raj Anand, Vikram Chandra, Anita Desai, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, Gita Mehta, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Raj Kamal Jha, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharti Kirchner, Khushwant Singh, Vijay Singh, Tarun Tejpal, Amit Chaudhuri, Amitav Ghosh, Vikas Swarup, Rohinton Mistry, Suketu Mehta, Kiran Nagarkar, Dr Birbal Jha and C R Krishnan.… the parade of fine Indian writers is long and lengthening. 
R.K. Narayan is a writer who contributed over many decades and who continued to write till his death recently. He was discovered by Graham Greene in the sense that the latter helped him find a publisher in England. Graham Greene and Narayan remained close friends till the end. Similar to Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, Narayan created the fictitious town of Malgudi where he set his novels. Some criticise Narayan for the parochial, detached and closed world that he created in the face of the changing conditions in India at the times in which the stories are set. Others, such as Graham Greene, however, feel that through Malgudi they could vividly understand the Indian experience. Narayan’s evocation of small town life and its experiences through the eyes of the endearing child protagonist Swaminathan in Swami and Friends is a good sample of his writing style. Simultaneous with Narayan’s pastoral idylls, a very different writer, Mulk Raj Anand, was similarly gaining recognition for his writing set in rural India; but his stories were harsher, and engaged, sometimes brutally, with divisions of caste, class and religion.
Certainly, Indo-Nostalgic writings have much overlap with post-colonial literature but are generally not about ‘heavy’ topics such as cultural identity, conflicted identities, multilingualism or rootlessness. The writings are often less self-conscious and more light-hearted, perhaps dealing with impressionistic memories of places, people, cuisines, Only-in-India situations, or simply vignettes of “the way things were”. Of late, a few Indo-nostalgic writers are beginning to show signs of “long-distance nationalism”, concomitant with the rise of nationalism within India against the backdrop of a booming economy.
One of the key issues raised in this context is the superiority/inferiority of INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH as opposed to the literary production in the various languages of India. Key polar concepts bandied in this context are superficial/authentic, imitative/creative, shallow/deep, critical/uncritical, elitist/parochial and so on. 
Rushdie’s statement in his book – “the ironic proposition that India’s best writing since independence may have been done in the language of the departed imperialists is simply too much for some folks to bear” – created a lot of resentment among many writers, including writers in English. In his book, Amit Chaudhuri questions – “Can it be true that Indian writing, that endlessly rich, complex and problematic entity, is to be represented by a handful of writers who write in English, who live in England or America and whom one might have met at a party?”
Chaudhuri feels that after Rushdie, INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH started employing magical realism, bagginess, non-linear narrative and hybrid language to sustain themes seen as microcosms of India and supposedly reflecting Indian conditions. He contrasts this with the works of earlier writers such as Narayan where the use of English is pure, but the deciphering of meaning needs cultural familiarity. He also feels that Indianness is a theme constructed only in INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH and does not articulate itself in the vernacular literatures. He further adds “the post-colonial novel, becomes a trope for an ideal hybridity by which the West celebrates not so much Indianness, whatever that infinitely complex thing is, but its own historical quest, its reinterpretation of itself”.

To be continued......


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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Race and Gender in Othello

            Shakespeare’s Othello supports many critical readings, however the most obvious of the readings displayed through Othello are the Feminist reading and the Race reading. Through the Feminist readings, the audience/readers can be informed of the inequality between the sexes; oppressed women and dominant males; in the seventeenth century Venetian era. When viewing Othello in a feminist’s perspective, the audience can also observe the treatments of the three main female characters in the play; Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca.
          Although the oppressive treatment of women may be generally accepted in a seventeenth century Venetian society, but modern day feminists believe in the equality between women and men, thus the seventeenth century Venetian society would appear extraordinarily flawed.
         Through a race reading, the audience/readers can witness the discrimination that a character (in this case, Othello) receives due to his non-aristotlean background. In the modern day context,
           In both readings, the setting can be viewed as flawed. Feminists would agree that the victims of prejudice in the society are women whilst race critics would agree that the victim of the play is Othello.
            A race reading would establish Iago, Roderigo and Barbantio as the major racists of the play. It would also establish the Venetian society as one of power loving and prejudice.
For the first few scenes, Othello’s position was clearly that of an outsider. Iago, Roderigo and Barbantio excluded him through their mentioning of him as “the Moor”, “his Moorship”. Via this, the audience can unmistakably observe their racism towards Othello as they notify clearly his background of non-aristocracy.
           When Iago and Roderigo informs Barbantio of Desdemona’s marriage with Othello, Iago constantly refers to Othello in terms of animals; “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” (1.1.97) and “your daughter covered with a Barbary horse”(1.1.125); this undoubtedly illustrate their regard towards Othello as they obviously cannot see the “man” inside Othello, but rather regarded Othello as a “talking animal”.
             Barbantio’s is more subtle when prejudicing Othello, the cause of this may be of his higher social class than that of the other two. However, Barbantio is nevertheless still frank with his opinion as he accuses Othello of using witchcraft and black magic in wooing of his daughter. Through this accusation, the readers can clearly define the meaning of this as witchcraft and black magic is often in association with people of African background (such as voodoo). Furthermore, Barbantio expresses his racism through comments such as “to the sooty bosom”, “of a thing as thou”. Barbantio’s comment to Roderigo after his realization of “O, would you had had her!” shows Barbantio’s sudden attitude change towards Roderigo even though he had rejected Roderigo–Ęs offer in marriage multi-times previously.
The majority of the racial prejudices are presented in the first three acts of the play, but by the end of the novel, Emilia also makes a racist remark when she discovers that Othello had killed Desdemona; “O the more angel is she/ and you the blacker devil”; shows that Emilia may also have been racist. Emilia’s racism may not have been displayed previously may be because of her less important social position and because of her love for Desdemona.
The personality and strong character of the female archetypes on Othello can be seen through the Feminist point of view. The three main female characters; Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca; are all affected and oppressed by society in different ways. Desdemona; the faithful wife; and her servant, Emilia are suppressed by the society’s male domination, and its views that women should be owned by men as if they are property. Bianca, on the other hand, has more freedom than of an average woman due to her role as a courtesan. However, she, also is suppressed by the society due to her work as a courtesan. Thus her lower status in society is paid for by her freedom.
              The men of Othello are dubious individuals. This can be seen through the main character, Othello, himself. Via Othello, the audience/readers can witness a strong sense of irony, which is displayed through his speeches. In the beginning of the play, Othello claims that he believes in his love for Desdemona and her love for him; “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee” – “My life upon her faith!” (1.3.292-294) however, later in the play, he contradicts himself by believing in Iago who, in fact, is the villain of the play. “Damn her, lewd minx! O damn her, damn her!”
               The men within Othello regard women as sexual possessions instead of individuals. As Iago and Cassio talk of Bianca, Othello talks of Bianca;s reputed sexual nature for that of Desdemona: “She gives it out that you shall marry her” I marry her! What? A customer!” This is the monkey’s own giving out (4,1,115-127). Thus here shows Othello’s view point upon Desdemona’s whorish sexuality.
                In conclusion, each reading of Othello establishes certain values to which assists with the understanding and enjoyment of the play. Through the Race reading; Shakespeare takes advantage of Othello’s background into emphasizing the social boundary of race that many are intolerable to. Through the Feminist reading, the readers are shown the oppressive women in the seventeenth century Venetian society and this can be contrasted with the modern day society where feminists strongly believes in the equality of the genders. These readings gives the readers an understanding through different levels, thus possibly making the play more enjoyable.

Dr. Vishwanath Bite

Interesting Fatcs About India

Interesting Fatcs About India
  1. India never invaded any country in her last 100000 years of history.
  2. The name ‘India’ is derived from the River Indus, the valleys around which were the home of the early settlers. The Aryan worshippers referred to the river Indus as the Sindhu.
  3. Chess was invented in India.
  4. Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus are studies, which originated in India.
  5. The ‘Place Value System’ and the ‘Decimal System’ were developed in India in 100 B.C.
  6. India is the largest democracy in the world, the 6th largest Country in the world, and one of the most ancient civilizations.
  7. India has the largest number of Post Offices in the world.
  8. The largest employer in the world is the Indian Railways, employing over a million people.
  9. The world’s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
  10. Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind. The Father of Medicine, Charaka, consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago.
  11. India was one of the richest countries till the time of British rule in the early 17th Century. Christopher Columbus, attracted by India’s wealth, had come looking for a sea route to India when he discovered America by mistake.
  12. Bhaskaracharya rightly calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the Sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. According to his calculation, the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun was 365.258756484 days.
  13. The value of “pi” was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century, long before the European mathematicians.
  14. Until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds in the world (Source : Gemological Institute of America).
  15. India exports software to 90 countries.
  16. The four religions born in India – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, are followed by 25% of the world’s population.
  17. Martial Arts were first created in India, and later spread to Asia by Buddhist missionaries.
  18. Yoga has its origins in India and has existed for over 5,000 years.


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