Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wild Dream called Commonwealth Literature!

Without any pre-occupation R.K.Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao could be easily conferred the rank of early legions in Indian English literary writing albeit before these three committed man, Bankim Chandra Chaterjee’s “The Rajmohan’s Wife” too must be counted for being the first English novel produced by any India during the hay days of British Colonialism. It’s quite intriguing that Raja Rao never remained as much popular as rest of both prolific contemporary and Nirad.C.Chadhury; because in my perspectives, he was less than a product of English enlightment and never said like Mulk Raj Anand that “India could be a laboratory of Commonwealth literature” or giving considerable credit to Graham Green for Mentoring in his literary accession in western world like R.K.Narayan.

Those were the days of imperialism or transition for many countries as a free state but without having own representation of theirs nativity in Standard English writing. Indeed time really moved up over the years and a burgeoning balance from erstwhile colonies like India wouldn’t remain any longer a matter of amazement as the western world used to have earlier with temples, elephant, snake charmers and numerous other symbolism of aboriginal culture. No doubt, English writing in India is passing through high creative assertion with profound regional characteristics and intricacies of modern India is very much different from the imaginative shackle of Commonwealth literature.
Its not that, new generation of modern Indian English writer haven’t inherited the world views of theirs predecessor but theirs cosmic concern are the outcome of idealism that Indian democracy has embodied them in last six decades. Undoubtedly, with great focus on original identity and it’s entwining to a long stretch of history, Indian writing overall have formed a unique blend of wisdom and much needed sensibility.

The first sensation in English writing from India at international juncture, Salman Rushdie had once written a fabulous essay “Commonwealth literature doesn’t exist” with appropriate convictions as British writing is not a part of it, so it creating a sense of paradoxical hierarchies. Much before the landmark work over British colonialism “The Sea of Poppies” {which was beaten by a light and subversively mild novel “The White Tiger” by Arvind Adiga in the race of Booker prize}, Amitav Ghosh had denied to accept the Commonwealth Prize in nineties.
It was a great resistance from a post-colonial writer who gone through the surfaces of India’s historical realities…naturally, persons like him or any free thinker could be much happier if the attention would have come from an association like “Free State Union” or organization with similar spirits though different in nomenclature. Here argument could be prolonged, why these two illustrious expatriate writer rejecting the trap of Commonwealth literature? Did timely revelation made them conscious about the futility of this institution or Britain as shrewd conservator losing its hold from rapidly growing free states that better be leave to enthusiasts of literature and history.

Footprints of British engagement were always bounded with the drain of resources from its colony…no matter, what have changed over the years, but temptations remained same. In recently held Commonwealth Game in Delhi, we spent around $17billion-money that that were scrimped from essential areas; fourteen days long lavish party ended with stellar performance of Indian players but paradoxically disastrous by the organizers of game. They through there sordid handling of resources created new heights of corruption in India whose memories would remain vivid as a legacy of our colonial past and demeaning our own accomplishments in last six decades or time before the British intrusion. During the extravaganza, I entertained an invitation from Sahitya Akademi for a Seminar on Commonwealth literature in Delhi though remained stunned to see the thin appearances of Commonwealth sort of identity flashing there. Foreign speakers delivered their cold observation in good old gesture of passivity albeit some speakers from India drawn timid mood on different themes but alas! I couldn’t hear a single strong voice in favour of post-colonial writing that should have the basis of theirs historical inquisitions regarding colonialism.

Indeed it’s a matter of grave concern that such gathering now turning as an arena of swapation and disbursement of stodgy and saturated ideas…good Indian style of hunting and gathering swiftly being evaporated from our collective action. We Indians have great record in forgetting our own high shot achievements…in the same Mandi House region of Central Delhi at Indian Council of World Affairs premises, we as a young independent nation hosted the first Asian Relations Conference in 1947. Despite having dualism of inheritance, we couldn’t simply deny those early initiatives that used to symbolize our aspirations in a new world…in the time being; our fore-fathers lost the hold on priority that deterred us from remaining the most profound voice among the nations with exploitative colonial track record.

Even joining the Commonwealth in early fifties was neither pragmatic nor essential for India when our alternative world vision started fetching the heeds of newly independent nations. In present context, we shouldn’t be envious with Nelson Mandela’s decision to be part of Commonwealth after spending almost entire life fighting against its inherent evils and inclusion of trivial nations like Peru and Mozambique in this nostalgic colonial association despite never having link with the British colony. Choices may be beautiful or absurd without getting even a chunk of interferences from universalism, so let it be but we must mind our new standing at international arena. So, why not we should reckon our entire history in better way and move out to the world with our complete heritage instead to dwelling with any specific timeframe spasmed through the greedfull British colonialism whose last symbolic reminiscence being carries out with the brand “Commonwealth”.

We have reason to dissociate with such asymmetric institution with having havocking impressions of oppression…as world’s most vibrant democracy; we must stop here and with looking ahead for brighter pastures of forming at least one Association of Freedom. I am really proud upon Amitav Ghosh, when he keeps repeating that inclusion of “desi” word would remain an important form of expression, irrespective of what other think over it through their biased prism. We have registered a tremendous growth in every area including in literature during the last six decades and ofcourse as a citizen of vibrant nation, we could remain an universal entity too even without entangling with artificial and biased structure like “Commonwealth” which exactly resembling the “rejected manuscript”…a sensible humor not the wild one!
Atul Kumar Thakur
October22, 2010, Thursday
New Delhi


  1. Institutions are no longer the place for positive hangouts-no matter the proportion,literarture too struggling a bit to defy those pressures.I am very impressed with your introspection and historical search.
    Ranjan Sen,New Delhi

  2. Thanks for this special piece,the concept of Commonwealth is itself very contentious giving its biased nature towards the contexts.I throughly liked your denouncement of fairy tales like,Commonwealth literature and it's personified assertions.
    Amit Ganguly