Dr. Charu Mehrotra,
Head / Associate Professor,
Dept. of English, Bareilly College, Bareilly
Anita Desai’s description regarding the function of writing has a unique relevance in the context: “I think of the world as an iceberg-the one-tenth visible above the surface of the water is what we call reality, but the nine tenths that is what one is trying to explore. Writing is an effort to discover and then to underline and finally to convert the true significance of things.”1The medium of an artist and a writer may be varied-a sculpture’s medium is stone, a painter’s colors and canvas, musician’s musical notes, whereas a writer’s is words. Irrespective of the fact whether the writer is a poet or a novelist, the ultimate aim is the same i.e., unraveling the truth.
It is evident that no power in the world, no scepter could choke the voice of a man, the freedom of speech, writings of great thinkers and leaders of the time. It is because of the fact that all those books suppressed have had their deep and lasting influences, fresh and energizing impact on readers’ mind.
Human thoughts and activities are usually influenced by two things religious or moral and political. It cannot be refuted that men have the basic instinct to moralize their actions and to see the society comply with certain well-acknowledged ethical concepts thus, men of genius, who discard the age-old sanctities of life. Contemporary social and political events, render irreparable harm to art. No wonder, if the Government and the general public have often been easily upset by the activities of the artists, who are very original and innovating?
Since time immemorial, persons in power have always been ruthlessly imposing restriction on free independent thinking in every sphere of life religious or moral, social, Political, literary etc.
As it is an old saying that literature mirrors the society. “A literary artists therefore ,reflects the social and political aspects and his work of literature is deeply tinged with current contemporary wave whenever there is a political upheaval in the society the work of the writer is affected by it. They being very sensitive and emotional are stirred by it and their feelings are exposed in their works. Boris Pasternak could not ignore the impact of Russian Revolution and mirrored it in ‘Doctor Zhivago’. George Orwell in his novel , Nineteen Eighty Four’ has presented a story of the world ruled by dictatorship of the Stalinist style, was kept under surveillance. Annie Besant edited a paper entitled ‘New India’ which upheld the right of the Indians for freedom, and that landed her in Madras jail in 1917. Gandhi’s ‘Hind Swaraj’ was also banned. Taslima Nasrin wrote ‘Lajja’ (Shame) in the wake of the Babri structure demolition on 6th December 1992 at Ayodhya. Perhaps in Lajja, Taslima Nasreen wanted to show the other side of the picture and to make the riotous temple-breaking mobs of Bangladesh look into their own hearts and ask them sharply whether they were any better than the ‘mosque-breaking’ Hindus or were they not worse, for they had destroyed not only structure of stone but the lives of countless men,women and children and make quite a few of them refugees seeking shelter in India.
Indian literature in English is directly related to the Indian Renaissance which manifested itself in 19th century right from the very first poems of Indian Poet. Henry Derozio The theme of resurgent India is evident in Indian English literature in the works of Tagore, Shri Aurobindo, Harindra Nath, Mulkraj and others. However, this regeneration of Indian polity is most specifically reflected in the fiction of Raja Rao and poetry of Sarojini Naidu.
Raja Rao’s epic novel, ‘Kanthapura’, is a narrative of the Indian Renaissance inspired by Mahatma Gandhi in the early decades of the twentieth Century. The novel has been hailed as a Gandhi-Purana in which political revolution is assimilated in to the racial heritage as myth and legend.
“Kanthapura’ highlights the impact of the Gandhian freedom struggle on a remote South Indian village. Infact, “Kanthapura’ is not just a village-it is India in microcosm. The plot of the novel is set in 1930, when the second phase of the Gandhian movement was in full swing. The British Government is quick to act against the young revolutionaries. Raja Rao has shown the various sides of Gandhian revolution. He has presented it as political movement, moral resurgence, religious renaissance and social and economic reform. The novel emphasizes Gandhi’s impact on india polity, the way he awakened sleeping people into vigoroud action. K.R.S. Iyengar comments ” “Kanthapura’ is a veritable grammar of the Gandhian myth-the myth that is but a poetic translation of reality. It will always have a central place in Gandhian literature.”2
Sarojini Naidu’s ‘Lotus’ addresed to Gandhi Ji and ‘Awake’ addressed to Jinaah are the fine examples of her polical poetry where she emphasis the invincible glory of indian culture inspite of many foriegn invasions India remains a Lotus and, therefore, it cannot be converted into a waste land as visualised by T.S. Eliot, the land of Cacti.
Sarojini Naidu was one of Mother India’s most gifted children, readily sharing her burden of pain, agonies and hopes. She has been struggling all her life between two ideals-1 her allegiance to song 2 the service of the country. She is filled with an overpowering passion of love for mother India which she has naturally to express in some of her poems. In India she was hailed as the Nightingale of India by Gandhi. She is deeply associated with the rise of political consciousness among the Indian people.
She started her poetic career as a romantic poet singing songs of love, nature, joy and sorrows that were mainly personal lyrics. Her poetry upto 1914 is personal and romantic then she got associated with the freedom struggle and came in contact with Tilak, Gokhle, Gandhi and Nehru. Those were the days of Vande Matram, the time was appropriate for her entry into politics. In 1906, at the Calcutta session of the Indian Social Conference, she adroitly linked up the suppression of women’s rights in India with the loss of the country’s freedom. After her active participation in the politics of the Gandhian era she sacrificed her poetic ambition and devoted herself to the service of mother India she became the official poet to the congress party and sang patriotic songs at every convention where she was present. She wrote poems highlighting the personalities associated with freedom movement. In her poems we meet Tilak, Gokhle,Jinnah and Gandhi. Her last volume of poetry ‘The Broken Wing’ has made it clear that the women, the mother, the patriot remained, but the poet was no more than a memory with the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the political scene. Sarojini found a new power to life. She looked into her broken heart and there saw a new vision of the chained Mother and took a pledge to break the bonds. She expressed her feelings in inspiring speeches and fearless action. On her death on 3rd March,1949,Nehru as Prime Minister paid tribute to her in the Constituent Assembly:
“She began life as poetess. In later years, when the compulsion of events drew her into the national struggle and she threw herself into it with all the zest and fire she possessed. She did not write much poetry with pen and paper but her whole life became a poem and a song……….. Just as the Father of Nation had infused moral grandeur and greatness in the struggle, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu gave it artistry and poetry and that zest for life and indomitable spirits which not only faced disaster and catastrophe, but faced them with a light heart and with a song or this lips and a smile on the face.
Love of one’s country was an emotion as much as the love of man or Nature. She was an advocate of National freedom, Cultural unity and Indian tradition. Her poetry is known as the voice of India’s ‘composite culture’. We can hear their cries of Hare Krishna, Allah Oh Akbar, Sat Shri Akal and Zenavesta. Some fine examples of her political poetry are her earlier poems. ‘The Gift of India’ depicts the chivalry of Indians in world war I (1914-18). It reminds the world of the brave who fought and died for the cause of their nation:
“Gathered like pearls in their alien graves
Silent they sleep by the Persian waves,
Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands,
They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands,
They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance.”3
She composed and recited a poem (Awake) at the Indian National Congress held in 1915, in which she described the blessings showered by India upon her children-
Are we not thine, O Beloved to inherit
The manifold pride and power of thy spirit?
Ne’er shall we fail thee, forsake thee or falter,
Whose hearts are thy home and thy shield and thine altars”
‘Anthem of Love’ may be regarded as the offering of love to the mother country-
One heart are we to love thee, O our Mother,
One undivided, indivisible soul
Bound by one hope, one purpose, one devotion
Towards a great, divinely destined goal”4
In her sonnet “The Lotus” she emphasises the invincible glory of Indian Culture. India has suffered many invasions but no foreigner has been able to crush the spirit-the culture of India because it is deeply rooted in the life affirming water of philosophy, religion and tradition. India remains a lotus growing in eternal waters and therefore it can not be converted to a waste land as visualised by T.S. Eliot which is the land of ‘cacti’ this sonnet dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The symbol (Lotus: Gandhi) continues through the entire poem and helps the poet to elevate the personality and character of Mahatma to great heights. His godlike quality of swaying the hearts and mind of men.
“But who could win thy secret, who attain
Thine ageless beauty born of Brahma’s breath,
Or pluck thine immortality, who art
Coeval with the Lords of Life and Death?5
Another very famous poem which was dedicated to Jinnah is a song called “Awake” when she gives a clarion call to her people, exhorting them to dedicate their lives to the great mother India. In this patriotic lyric she praised to the sleeping mother to rise up and bless her children so that they may organise themselves into one dynamic power and defeat the foreign rulers, banishing them from her source. They cry ‘awake’ remains a symbol of Indian Renaissance that is epitomized in her poetry. The children of India have different creeds and culture but they are all united in their dedication to the service of their motherland. In this poem we hear the voices of Hindus,Muslims, Parsees,Christians and people of all other creeds singing a chorus of love and patriotism.
Hindus-Mother! the flowers of our worship have crowned thee!
Parsees-Mother! the flame of our hope shall surround thee!
Mussalmans-Mother! the sword of our love shall defend thee!
Chritians-Mother! the song of our faith shall attend thee!
All creeds-Shall not our dauntless devotion avail thee?
Hearken! Queen and O Goddess, we hail thee!6
Her another patriotic poem “To India” was composed before the attainment of independence. It is addressed to Mother India who is presented as ” young through all thy immemorial years” She invokes her to rise from her gloom of slavery and “beget new glories from the ageless womb. There is prophetic note in the end of the poem.
“Thy future calls thee with a manifold sound
To crescent honors, splendors, victories vast;
Waken O slum bearing!
Mother and be crowned,
Who once went empress of the sovereign past”?
Her poems are immediately intelligible; They rhyme and they scane; there is no ruggedness in their phrasing; they have a feeling for place, occasion and atmosphere. Sir Aurobindo has rightly remarked about Sarojini, “Her work has a real beauty. Some of her lyrical work is likely, I think, to survive among the lasting things in English Literature and by these, even if they are fine rather than great. She may take her rank among, the immortals”.
1. Yashodhara Dalmia, An interview with Anita Desai, The Time of India, April 29, 1979, PD. 13.
2. Indiam Writing English K.R.S. Iyengar P. 396.
3. The Sceptred Flute, Allhabad, Kitabistan 1969, P. 146.
4. The Sceptred Flute, Allhabad, Kitabistan 1969, P. 131.
5. The Sceptred Flute, Allhabad, Kitabistan 1969, P. 167.
6.The Sceptred Flute, Allhabad, Kitabistan 1969, P. 180-81.
7. The Sceptred Flute, Allhabad, Kitabistan 1969, P. 58.
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