Human and Societal values in the writings of modern Indian writers in English

By on March 25, 2012

Modern English writing by Indian authors has truly come of age. They have won accolades at home and abroad equally. As a result, we have now a score of Indian writers who regularly publish their own compositions in English, be they poetry, short stories or novels.

One of the earliest Indians who mostly wrote in English was Sir Nirad C. Chowdhury who was an extremely forthright person and never minced his words in criticizing pseudo- nationalism among many Indians in his compositions. His famous and award-winning composition The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian deals with Choudhury’s growing up in Calcutta during the British Raj, his observations of decadence in Indian society, the deception, his disillusionment with the socio-political transformation of the Indian psyche after 1947.

Later, Salman Rushdie, another Indian author brought out his Booker-winning novel Midnight’s Children wherein the protagonist Saleem Sinai who was born at the stroke of midnight on the 15th of August, 1947 is endowed with some special powers of telepathy. Saleem goes through the entire travails of post-independence India, the partition, the migration across the India-Pakistan border, the socio-cultural changes which sweep through the country and when the Emergency is declared in 1977 Sinai is imprisoned. He finally loses his power and takes refuge in the Sunderbans in West Bengal.

Arundhati Roy, another famous Indian author, in her 1997 Booker-winner The God of Small Things has dealt with the advent and spread of communism in the state of Kerala, the prevailing caste system, the Keralite Syrian Christian way of life as seen through the eyes of Rahel and Estha, the fraternal twins and their journey through life until finally, they could not find the person they could trust and sought refuge within themselves.

Vikram Seth in his 1993 magnum opus A Suitable Boy deals with the political issues till the first general election was held in India in 1952. The characters in the novel go through the entire gamut of experience of inter-caste rivalry, the castration of the lower caste people, land reforms in post-independence India, the abolition of the zamindari system, the abolition of privy purses of feudal princes, the academic affairs, the inter and intra-family relationships etc.

Upamanyu Chatterjee In his 1994 novel, The Last Burden, has dealt in detail about the lives of people within a joint family, their ambitions, disenchantment, their financial, social, familial and emotional problems. Chatterjee has strongly advocated why the present generation prefers a satellite family to a joint family. The frictions and frustrations along with the intense desire to live one’s life independently give rise to an emotional detachment from the joint family system.

Jhumpa Lahiri in her 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Interpreter of Maladies has dwelt on the inter-personal relationship, the emotional turmoil between people. The story Interpreter of Maladies traces the fine lines of the complex social structures in Indian society where religion is intricately woven with culture.

The present generation of Indian writers of English compositions like Chetan Bhagat, Amitava Ghosh etc. appears to pick up their plots from the very social, human and personal milieu from which they have grown up and so they easily strike a bond of familiarity with the readers.


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