By Shaleen Kumar Singh, Jul 26, 2008Budaun, India, firstname.lastname@example.org
Indian English Stories — A review
Though we have seen in past few years innumerable books of criticism on Indian English Poetry and Fiction being published, there has remained a dearth of books of criticism on short fiction. Murli Melwani’s critical and historical survey of Indian English stories, covering a broad spectrum from colonial beginning to Post-modern times, addresses this dearth. Indeed it is the first comprehensive study of this genre.
India has been the land of stories. The Jataka Tales and the Panchatantra stories continue to be read even today. The Katha Sarita Sagara, the largest collections of stories in the world, has been the inspiration for the Arabian Nights and others tales which traveled to Europe via the Middle East.
In the beginning the writers proudly documented the customs and traditions of Indian life. Between 1835 and 1935 we have a succession of writers with this aim. Cornelia Sorabji, Dhan Gopal Mukherjee, A.S. Panchpakesha Ayyar, Shankar Ram, among others, prepared the way for the giants who wrote between 1935 and 1950.
Among the giants, Mulk Raj Anand corrected the impression of India and its inhabitants created by Kipling and other Western writers. R.K. Narayan highlighted the drama of everyday life. Raja Rao incorporated elements of Indian folk tales in his stories.
In the fifties, Khushwant Singh observed Indian life with a satirical eye and Attia Hosian conveyed the horrors of Partition in restrained prose.
In the sixties, Ruth Jhabvala captured the foibles of Indians with a foreigner’s objectivity. Bunny Reuben introduced cinematic techniques to the short story. Ruskin Bond found moving moments in common lives. Bhabani Bhattacharya captured exotic aspects of Indian life.
In the Seventies Anita Desai brought the intensity of her novels to her stories. Keki Daruwalla set his stories in unusual locales. Padma Hejmadi wrote about life in South India. Jug Suraiya and Vivek Adarkar were the voices of youth at the time. Arun Joshi wrote parables of Indian life. The subject of Manohar Malgonkar’s stories was the army. Kamala Das brought the sensitivity of her poetry to her stories. Shashi Deshpande dealt with the questions of a woman’s lot and place in Indian society.
The writers who came in the eighties, and continue to write today, have branched out into newer territory. Life in the city - Bombay in the case of Vikram Chandra, Bangalore in that of Lavanya Sankaran, Calcutta in the case of Amit Chaudhuri - is very much the subject of scrutiny. Nisha Da Cunha writes about the states of women’s minds. Shree Ghatage examines the demands of tradition, family obligations and personal freedom on an individual. Gay life is the subject of R. Raja Rao’s stories. The exploration of new areas of India and the heart goes on in the stories of Githa Haiharan, Anita Nair, Sangeeta Wadhwani, Anjana Appachana, Meher Pestonji, Susan Visvanathan, and others.
Melwani is optimistic about the future of Indian English short stories. The richness of ideas and themes will provide more and more opportunities for story writers to pen stories of significance, beauty and power. Melwani’s book is a seminal work which will, in future, guide the critics to give the short story the same respect and study as they do to Indian English Poetry and Fiction.
Indian English Stories (from Colonial Beginning to Post Modern Tales), by Murli Melwani, Sampark: Calcutta, 2007, Rs-300/-Pages-174
Respected Dr. Shaleen,
Nice Review. Only a few can do it like you have done. Hope to get more from you.
Dr Kalpna Rajput, Budaun, IndiaAug 03, 2008