Indo-Anglian Fiction in English Literature

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      The Indo-Anglian literature is different from the Anglo-Indian literature. The former is the genre written and created by the Indians through the English language; the latter is written by the Englishmen on themes and subjects related to India. The Indo-Anglian literature, therefore, is very much associated with Indian English — “the evolution of a distinct standard — a standard the body of which is correct English usage, but whose soul is Indian in thought, colour and imagery, and now and then, even in the evolution of an idiom, which is expressive of the unique quality of the Indian mind while conforming to the correctness of English usage. It is illustrative of a social type of language phenomenon — a language foreign to the people who use it but acceptable to them because of political and, recently, cultural reasons.”

      The Indo-Anglian fiction owes its origin to the translations of various fictional works from the Indian languages into English, notably from Bengali into English. Tagore cast a sweeping and transforming influence on it. His novels Gora, The Wrecks The Home and the World and short stories were originally written in Bengali. They were translated into English. The form of his novels is old-fashioned. His works brought to Indo-Anglian fiction realism and social purpose. He gave emotional and psychological depth to character portrayed.

      The early pioneering works of Indo-Anglian fiction were social, historical, detective and romantic. They lacked depth and style and technique to leave any permanent imprint. Yet they helped in the development of the genre. Indo-Anglian fiction was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. The period between and after the Freedom Struggle has been the most fertile period. Anand brought to India the new technique of the stream of consciousness. Raja Rao adopted the autobiographical form of narration. Plot and characterization were also enriched. There was larger quantity and better quality. We have the social, the rural, the detective, the historical, and the romantic type of novel. The contributions of K.S. Venkatramani, Shanker Ram, S. Nagarjan, Kumar Guru, A.S.P. Ayyar, S.K. Chettur, G.V. Desani are notable. But the credit of bringing a name and reputation to Indo-Anglian fiction goes to a few contemporary writers such as Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao, R.K. Narayan, and Nirad Chaudhuri. They are the four wheels of contemporary Indo-Anglian fiction. Other luminaries who have enriched the Indo-Anglian fiction are Khwaja Ahmed, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Kamla Markandeya, Anita Desai, Mrs. R. Prawer Jhabavala, Lumber Mascarenhas, Mrs. Vimla Raina, Khushwant Singh and others.

      In spite of diversity in themes and techniques, the Indo-Anglian fiction has some common features, namely, the presentation of a personal narrative against the background of modern Indian history, the conflict of values between the family and the individual, and the awareness of social change. The conflict between the West and the East or between Innovation and Tradition is a perennial theme in Indo-Anglian fiction.

      In the words of Meenakshi Mukherjee, “The Indo-Anglian novel made a diffident appearance in the nineteen-twenties, then gradually gathered confidence, and established itself in the next two decades. The momentum has yet to subside, the more novels have been published in the Sixties than ever before. This increase in output is difficult to account for, especially when there were hardly half a dozen Indo-Anglian novels until the 1920s. Perhaps one of the reasons is that the flowering of Indo-Anglian fiction coincided with the novel’s coming to age in the regional language of India.”

      The Indo-Anglian writers of fiction write with an eye and hope on the western readers. This influenced their choice of the subject-matter. That is why in Indo-Anglian novels there are Sadhus, Fakirs, Caves, Temples, Vedanta, Gandhi, Rajahs and Nababs, etc. — that is to say, there are subjects that interest the Western audience. They represent essentially the Western idea of India. But at the same time there are elements of Indianness, Nationalism and Patriotism, glorification of India’s past and sympathy for the teeming millions of the country, etc., speak of the Eastern orientation.

      According to Prof. C.D. Narsimhaiah, “The Indian novel in English has shown a capacity to accommodate a wide range of concerns: in Mulk Raja Anand a humane concern for the underdog, not just a preoccupation with economic determinism; in R.K. Narayan the comic mode as equivalent to the tragic in his evocation of mediocrity; and K. Nagarajan surprises by his sensitive handling of the human significance in the religious and the logical labyrinth so characteristic of Hindu society. While Raja Rao recaptures the magnificent mythical imagination of Indian antiquity successively in the three novels and short stories he has written to date he has at the same time, to use T.S. Eliot’s words, ‘altered’ the ‘expression’ to accommodate a distinct, profoundly Indian ‘sensibility’. One sees this in different degrees in the writings of Sudhin Ghose, Desai and Ananthanarayan. The women writers, especially Kamla Markandeya, Santha Rama Rao and Anita Desai have a fine eye for the urban scene. Bhabhani Bhattacharya and Khushwant Singh, in very different ways, give us valuable insights into the pathos of economic impoverishment, maldistribution of wealth and human degradation caused by political upheavals.” The wider canvas of the Indo-Anglian fiction can also be seen by a study of typical themes and characters. The range has been more widened by inclusion of untouched themes. Malgaonkar’s The Distant Drum is the only novel about army life in Indo-Anglian fiction.

      The most prominent technique of narration in the Indo-Anglian fiction is the first person narrative. The central character of the hero is the narrator of a novel. This technique is seen in many novels such as Raja Rao’s The Serpent and the Rope, Manohar Malgaonkar’s The Princess, Nayan Tara Sahgal’s/ A Time to be Happy, K. Nagarajan’s The Chronicles of Kedaram, etc. We also find a large number of novels written in the third person narrative, e.g., works of Mulk Raj Anand. In Ahmed Ali’s Twilight in Delhi, and Narayan’s Waiting for Mahatma, and The Guide, Manohar Malgaonkar’s A Bend in the Ganges, etc., we have a fusion of both the modes of narration.

      In modern literature in the West myth is becoming a powerful instrument of literary structure and creation. India has a rich treasure of myths and legends. The Indo-Anglian fiction has imported the technique of the creative use of myth. The Radha Krishna legend is a recurrent myth in Raja Rao’s The Serpent and the Rope. There is the use of myth in Narayan’s The Maneater of Malgudi. In the Old Woman and the Cow, Anand uses the myth of Sita’s fire-ordeal as part of his technique. Similarly, Sudhin Ghose’s The Cradle of the Clouds is also remarkable for its use of myth.

      As regards the medium, that is the English language, it is not yet perfect. Anand’s English is what Khushwant Singh calls ‘Mulkese — a liberal and evocative use of Indian words, literal translation of Indian idioms and abuses. Raja Rao has created an Indian Sanskrit rhythm in the syntax of English. Raja Rao says, “We cannot write like the English. We should not. We cannot write only as Indians. We have grown to look at the large world as part of us. Our method of expression, therefore, has to be a dialect which will some day prove to be as distinctive and colourful as the Irish or the American. Time alone will justify it. Khushwant Singh himself follows Mulk Raj Anand in respect of language.

      So far as the themes of the Indo-Anglian fiction are concerned, they are social problems (Anand, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas); domestic problems (R.K. Narayan, Mrs. Jhabwala, Kamla Markandeya); sex (Khuswant Singh’s I shall not Hear the Nightingale, Narayan’s The Guide, Manohar Malgaonker’s Bend in the Ganges and Kamla Markandeya’s Silence of Desire and Two Virgins). In the words of Kai Nicholson, “Sexual relationships between men and women in post-independence Indo-Anglian literature are interpreted pluralistically. The intensity with which sex is depicted, depends to a great extent on the novelist’s utilisation of examples from English literature and how he interprets it to fit into Indian circumstances.”

      The theme of happiness and fulfilment through suffering and sanyas is also recurrent in the Indo-Anglian fiction. It is found in R.K. Narayan’s Guide, B. Rajan’s Dark Dancer, Raja Rao’s Serpent and the Rope and Bhawani Bhattacharya’s He who Rides a Tiger. Politics is also inseparably the subject matter of the Indo-Anglian fiction from 1920 to 1950. The mood of comedy, the sensitivity to atmosphere, the probing of psychological factors, the crisis in the individual soul and its resolution, and above all, the detached observation, which constitute the stuff of fiction, were forced into the background. The political theme as a matter of choice was very much influenced by Gandhi’s role and philosophy. These themes are the struggle for independence, the Indian National Army, the Indian Army, the present-day politics, the debacle of princely India, the partition and independence. Raja Rao’s Kanthapura and The Cow of Barricades, K.A. Abbas’s Inquilab, R.K. Narayan’s Waiting for the Mahatma, Anand’s Sword and the Sickle,' C.N. Zutshi’s Motherland, Aamir All’s Conflict, Zeenut Futehally’s Zohra, Manohar Malgaonker’s Bend in the Ganges and many others. These novels deal with Gandhi, his way of achieving freedom, revolution, Satyagraha, Quit India Movement, etc. Some other novels related to politics, especially the post-independence politics are Nayan Tara Sehgal’s This Time of Mornings Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Manohar Malgaonker’s Bend in the Ganges, Attia Hossain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column, etc.

      East-West encounter as the major theme occurs in the novels such as Raja Rao’s Serpent and the Rope, J.M. Ganguly’s When East and West Meet (1960), S.K. Ghose’s Prince of Destiny, K.S. Venkatramani’s Murugan the Tiller, B. Rajan’s Dark Dancer. Meenakshi Mukherjee summarising the themes of Indo-Anglian fiction writes as follows: “The Indo-Anglians have explored the metaphysical, spiritual, and romantic aspects of the confrontation each in his or her own way. Even when the novel does not deal directly with the Forsterian theme, the personal crisis in the life of each Western educated hero or heroine becomes inter-cultural in nature.” Then there are other stray themes of love, murder, village life, erotic love, etc. Some recurrent characters in the Indo-Anglian fiction are the anglicised Indians, Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian prince or Rajah, the Sahib or the Englishman, the Eurasian, the Muslim, the Saint or Swami, the suffering woman, etc.

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