Essay: Indian English Literature

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  • Published on: 6th June 2012
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Indian English Literature

The 21st century is the current century of the Common Era, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001, and will end on December 31, 2100. It is the 1st century of the 3rd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 2000s, which began on January 1, 2000 and will end on December 31, 2099.
The 21st century in literature refers to world literature in prose produced during the 21st century. The range of years is, literature written from the year 20 01 to the present.
The socio-political conditions and the changes which have occurred in this 21st century are as follows:-
Genocide still remains a problem in this century with the concern of the war in Darfur and the growing concern in Sri Lanka.
Some territories have gained independence during the 21st century. This is a list of sovereign states that have gained independence in the 21st century and have been recognized by the UN.
These territories have declared independence and secured relative autonomy but they have only been recognized by some UN member states:
AIDS which emerged in the 1980s continued to spread yet more treatment of AIDS made the disease less of a deadly threat to those with access to treatment. A cure is still not found despite expectations.
Same-sex marriage has slowly become more accepted, and has become legal in some countries. In 2001 the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legalize this type of marriage. The 2000s decade saw significant change surrounding this social issue and the change has continued into the 2010s.
By 2001 most Western countries had removed the remaining racial language in their laws.
The world population was about 6.1 billion at the start of the 21st century.The world population reached 7 billion in October 2011, and is increasing at a rate of 78 million per year.
Indian English Literature refers to the body of works by authors in India who write in English and whose native or co-native language could be one of the numerous languages of India. It is also associated with the works of members of the Indian diaspora. The very definition of the adjective 'Indian' here is hazy. Many of these writers neither live in India, nor are Indian citizens. As a category, this production comes under the broader realm of postcolonial literature ' the production from previously colonised countries such as India. Though one can trace such writers in India to a century back, Indian writing in English has come into force only in the last couple of decades or so, as far as literature goes.
The history of the Indian English novel had though begun to emerge from these benevolent English gentlemen themselves, precisely in the fiery talks of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio. This very timeless strand was held strongly soon after by the spiritual prose of Rabindranath Tagore and the anti-violence declarations preached by Mahatma Gandhi. With the bursting in of `colonialism` genre in Indian literature, novel writing never did remain the same. Under men like Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan, the historical journey of the Indian English novel had begun to take its gigantic strides into the world of post-colonialism and a concept of the daring Indian novelists had emerged. In "Coolie" by Mulk Raj Anand, the social discrepancy and gross inequality in India is very much laid down stripped from any social constraints. In R.K. Narayan`s much-admired visionary village Malgudi, the invisible men and women of the country`s ever-multiplying population, come to life and in a heart-rending manner, re-enact life with all its contrarinesses and arbitrarinesses. In `Kanthapura` by Raja Rao, Gandhism truly comes alive in a quaint laid-back village down south. The Indian ness of novel writing in English, which was once viewed as a taboo and things of scorn due to English stronghold, was no longer needed to be depicted by outsiders; par excellence writers had come to light and with what consequences! People like Tagore or R.K. Narayan have proved this in shining glory time and again. The perspectives from within ensured more clarity and served a social documentative purpose as well.
This displaced intellectual class, explicated as the `Indian Diaspora` had become victorious enough to raise the curtain on the unlikely mythical realities that were integral part of domestic conversations in the villages. The history of the Indian English novel was once more standing at the crossroads in the line of post-colonialism, with literature in India awaiting its second best metamorphosis. Men like Salman Rushdie have enamoured critics with his mottled amalgamation of history and language as well. He had indeed served as that mouthpiece, who had opened the doors to an overabundance of writers. Amitav Ghosh plays brilliantly in postcolonial realities and Vikram Seth coalesces poetry and prose with an aura of Victorian magnificence. While Rohinton Mistry tries to painstakingly decode the Parsi world, Pico Iyer fluently and naturally charts the map in his writings.

In the postcolonial era Mulk Raj Anand's novel Untouchable and The Road, Raja Rao's Kanthapura, Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Narendra Jadhav's Outcast: a Memoir Life and Triumphs of an Untouchable Family in India , Vikas Swarup's Q & A and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger have faithfully documented the social history of the untouchables. Together they constitute a powerful critique of the moral corruption and hypocrisy of the Indian society which allows untouchability to continue. The work offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of modern India.
Women novelists have loved to explore the world of the much trodden lore again and again, condemning exploitation and trying to make sense of the rapidly changing pace of the `new India`. History of Indian English novels however, does not only end here, with Kamala Das scouting women`s quandary in India and the world and others like Shashi Deshpande portraying characters who blame their self-satisfaction for their pitiable state of affairs. Arundhati Roy begins her story without actually a beginning and does not really end it also, whereas Jhumpa Lahiri`s well-crafted tales trudge at a perfect pace.
Indian English novel and its eventful historical journey had begun with a bang when Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and by the time V.S. Naipaul had earned the same, the Indian English novel owned a far flung reach. Now more than ever, English novels in India are triggering off debates concerning colossal advances, plagiarisation and film rights.
Other major writers of this era are R. K. Narayan, Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Mohammed Hanif, Vikram Chandra, Arundhati Roy, Basharat Peer, Kiran Desai, Mohsin Hamid, Narayan Wagle, Raja Rao, Naipaul, Shoba De, Nayantara Sahgal, Jhumpa Lahiri,Vikram Seth, Bapsi Sidhwa, Neelkamal Puri, Writer Shaji, Ram Karan Sharma, Monica Ali, Nadeem Aslam, Rupa Bajwa, David Davidar, Hari Kunzru, Shaiju Mathew, Barhati Mukherjee, Radhika Jha, Sunetra Gupta, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Manil Suri, Vikas Swarup, Subramanian Swamy, L. K. Advani, Amit Chaudhuri, Rohinton Mistry,Chandrahas Choudhury, Mulk Raj Anand, Kamila Shamsie,Attia Hosain, V.S. Naipaul,Pankaj Mishra, Khushwant Singh, Bharati Mukherjee, Ahmed Ali, Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga.
Indian english novels starting from R.K.Narayan to Shyam Selvadurai goes in this chronological order:-
R. K. Narayan: The Guide (1958)
Attia Hosain: Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961)
Anita Desai: Games at Twilight (1978)
Bapsi Sidhwa: Cracking India (1988)
Bharati Mukherjee: Jasmine (1989)
Salman Rushdie: East, West (1994)
Shyam Selvadurai: Funny Boy (1994)
Shyam Selvadurai was born on 12 February 1965. He is a Sri Lankan Canadian novelist who wrote Funny Boy (1994), which won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Cinnamon Gardens (1998). He currently lives in Toronto with his partner Andrew Champion.
Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father who are both members of conflicting ethnic groups whose troubles form a major theme in his work. During the 1983 riots Selvadurai and his family emigrated to Canada as the atmosphere in Sri Lanka became tensed due to the riots between two major ethnic groups Tamils and Sinhalese when he was nineteen. This conflicting backdrop of Tamil-Sinhala situation has been one of the major themes of his work. Like the protagonist of his novel, Selvadurai himself is a homosexual. He studied creative and professional writing as part of a Bachelor of Fine Arts program at York University.
Shyam Selvadurai burst onto the Canadian literary scene in September 1994 with his first novel, Funny Boy published by McClelland & Stewart. Not quite 30 at the time, Selvadurai was a young gay man who had immigrated from Sri Lanka a decade earlier at the age of 19.Funny Boy is a coming-of-age novel. The novel won the Lambda Literary Award for gay male fiction and the Books in Canada First Novel Award.
Set in Sri Lanka where Shyam Selvadurai grew up, Funny Boy is constructed in the form of six poignant stories about a boy coming to age within a wealthy Tamil family in Colombo. Between the ages of seven and fourteen, he explores his sexual identity, and encounters the Sinhala-Tamil tensions leading up to the 1983 riots.
In 1998, Selvadurai published a second novel, The Cinnamon Garden, set in 1920s Ceylon. The book tackled similar themes as those found in Funny Boy: Sri Lankan politics and homosexual identity.
Selvadurai recounted an account of the discomfort he and his partner experienced during a period spent in Sri Lanka in 1997 in his essay "Coming Out" in Time Asia's special issue on the Asian diaspora in 2003.
In 2004, Selvadurai edited a collection of short stories: Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers, which includes works by Salman Rushdie, Monica Ali, and Hanif Kureishi, among others.
He published a young adult novel, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, in 2005. Swimming won the Lambda Literary Award in the Children's and Youth Literature category in 2006. He was a contributor to TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 1.
The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of monsoons. Fourteen-year-old Amrith is caught up in the life of the cheerful, well-to-do household in which he is being raised by his vibrant Auntie Bundle and kindly Uncle Lucky. He tries not to think of his life 'before,' when his doting mother was still alive. Amrith's holiday plans seem unpromising: he wants to appear in his school's production of Othello and he is learning to type at Uncle Lucky's tropical fish business. Then, like an unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith's ordered life is storm-tossed. He finds himself falling in love with the Canadian boy. Othello, with its powerful theme of disastrous jealousy, is the backdrop to the drama in which Amrith finds himself immersed. A coming of age book for mature readers, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea explores first love in all its complexity and turmoil.In this, his first young adult novel, he explores first love with clarity, humor and compassion.
In 2013, he released a fourth novel, The Hungry Ghosts.
His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Time Magazine, Toronto Life, Walrus Magazine, Enroute Magazine, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He served as Festival Curator for the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka for two years. His latest novel, The Hungry Ghosts, will be published in April 2013 in Canada, India and Sri Lanka.
The themes mentioned in the book, 'Funny Boy' are as follows:-
Homosexuality (from Ancient Greek ''', meaning "same", and Latin sexus, meaning "sex") is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As an orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectionate, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same sex. "It also refers to an individual's sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."
The most common terms for homosexual people are lesbian for females and gay for males, though gay is also used to refer generally to both homosexual males and females. The number of people who identify as gay or lesbian and the proportion of people who have same-sex sexual experiences are difficult for researchers to estimate reliably for a variety of reasons, including many gay people not openly identifying as such due to homophobia and heterosexist discrimination.
Gender and Sexuality
Gender is the range of physical, biological, mental and behavioral characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. The term may also refer to biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.
Shyam Selvadurai's historical novel Cinnamon Gardens, set in 1927'28 Ceylon, is a valuable contribution to the study of gender and sexuality in national discourses, for it explores in nuanced ways the roots of gender norms and policed sexuality in nation building. Cinnamon Gardens indigenizes Ceylonese/ Sri Lankan homosexuality not by invoking the available rich history of precolonial alternative sexualities in South Asia, but rather by tying sexuality to the novel's other themes of nationalism, ethnic conflict, and women's emancipation. Although the novel rarely links sexuality overtly to the nation, Selvadurai in fact makes the link through the tension between endogamy and exogamy.
Marriage appears several times throughout the course of the novel, as it is something Arjie is fascinated with. In 'Pigs Can't Fly,' Arjie and his female cousins reenact a Sri Lankan marriage in the game of 'bride-bride.' Arjie assumes the most coveted role, that of the bride. The most exciting part of the game is the transformation into the bride. The draping of the white sari, allows him to 'leave the constraints of [his] self and ascend into another, more brilliant, more beautiful self, a self to whom this day was dedicated' . Marriage serves as a source of bonding with Radha Aunty, Arjie's aunt who comes to live with his family who is due to marry Rajan Nagendra.

In psychology and sociology, identity is a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations such as national identity and cultural identity. The concept is given a great deal of attention in social psychology and is important in place identity.
Identity may be defined as the distinctive characteristic belonging to any given individual, or shared by all members of a particular social category or group. Identity is thus best construed as being both relational and contextual.
An important part of identity in psychology is gender identity, as this dictates to a significant degree how an individual views him or herself both as a person and in relation to other people, ideas and nature. Other aspects of identity, such as racial, religious, ethnic, occupational' etc. may also be more or less significant ' or significant in some situations but not in others. In cognitive psychology, the term "identity" refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self.
Psychologists most commonly use the term "identity" to describe personal identity, or the idiosyncratic things that make a person unique. Meanwhile, sociologists often use the term to describe social identity, or the collection of group memberships that define the individual. However, these uses are not proprietary, and each discipline may use either concept and each discipline may combine both concepts when considering a person's identity.
Ethnic Identity
As the novel is set during and at the start of the Sri Lankan civil war, the characters are impacted, and constrained, on an individual level by the tensions between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority, which includes Arjie and his family. For example, the relationship between Radha Aunty and Anil who was Radha Aunty's romantic interest, cannot progress because Anil is Sinhalese. Arjie's father foresees the difficulties of being a minority Tamil and enrolls his sons in Sinhalese language classes at school, so that future opportunities are not limited to them. Arjie's father is optimistic and is eager to see the tensions between the two ethnic groups end, and is reluctant to see that the best option for his family is to immigrate to Canada.
Sexual Identity
Stripped to its most fundamental form, the novel documents Arjie's journey to his own sexual identity. His sexuality, while a topic of discussion for his family, is not confronted directly. Instead he is always referred to as 'funny.' He recognizes that this term carries a negative connotation, but doesn't understand its complexity, stating that 'It was clear to me that I had done something wrong, but what it was I couldn't comprehend'. Throughout the novel, Arjie is also increasingly aware of his feelings towards the boys in his school, accepting that he thinks of the shorts they wear and longs to be with them. However, he only fully grasps his sexual identity and its familial implications after a sexual encounter with one of his male classmates. Arjie then understands his father's concern and 'why there had been such worry in his voice whenever he talked about me. He had been right to try and protect me from what he feared was inside me, but he had failed'.

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