Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Our Words and Hearts are Common

M. Ranjan Chandra Mohan Rao

(A study in Commonwealth Literature: Indian Perspective)

“At the centre of literary creation, we have now, not Europe and America but the nations of Latin America, Africa and Asia”, says Namwar Singh, one of the most radical and innovative literary critics living in India.

It is true, the hegemony of America and Europe, in World literature came to an end with the end of colonial era in many parts of the world.  The countries which were under the helm of imperialism are now producing the most innovative, radical and thought-provoking literature.  It is the social conditions and movements of these countries that have become the inspiration for the commonwealth literature or third world literature, when the progress in First World Literature came to a standstill with ‘stream of consciousness’ and the Second World Literature could not produce much qualitative literature after the Russian Revolution.  Of course, it would also influence at random the writers of First and Second World Literatures.

Third World Literature emerged as powerful by being influenced by the factors which are common to most of the countries in post-colonial era.  For example, after the Industrial Revolution, society needed more man power and raw material for rapid production.  With this, the colonies expanded.  For large scale production, huge amount of capital was needed and this made the common man to abandon his enterprise and become a labourer.  The agriculture too was affected on which most of the Third World Countries depended.  And as a result of this, the joint family system was broken, simultaneously the capital with all its complexities, started crystallising the individual.  This led to the confusion in consciousness.

Examples can be given in this regard for the mal-development of social relations (i) from a Kenyan Novel ‘DEVIL ON THE CROSS’, Written by Ngungi Wa Thiong in which unwarranted and ugly developments of the capital which grossly affected the human life can be seen (ii) from a Telugu Novel ‘VEIYEPADAGALU’ by Vishwanatha Satyanarayana, in which the breakdown of the feudal system and its values are lamented  (iii) from a Kannada Novel ‘MARALI MANNIGE’, by Sivaram Karanth, in which the alienation of human life from the traditional agriculture and the country side, is well depicted.  Thus, the deteriorating social relations due to the exploitation of new conquests of the capital could sharpen the purpose of literature.

Secondly the foreign ruler introduced the laws which were beneficial to him only, in many ways.  Though he began to do something in a country, the native people of that country realized that it was only another infrastructure for better exploitation.  It made them feel gruesome and fight for their rights. This enriched the content of Third World Literature.

When the freedom struggles began, people were caught in a spell of nationalism. The fight against the colonial rule for their freedom resulted in the multi-dimensional scope, for the emergence of powerful literature.

The rulers were very successful in selecting what was potentially mischievous to distract people from their struggle for freedom. Coming to the post-colonial era, the ruling class which emerged on the heels of the colonial rulers, had the colonial legacy manifested in their rule and started suppressing any kind of upsurge against the establishments.  And this complexity is very much being reflected in the Third World Literature.

In a piece of poetry written by Pitika Ntuli, the poet portrays the fearful intensity of the colonial suppression.
“I was scared:
by day I guard my tongue
by night my dreams.”

The writer skillfully shows the situation of South African common man who is betwixt the apartheid and the colonial repressions.
In the post colonial era, it is watch every where. A Telugu poet, Shiva Sagar in his poem ‘ALALU’ (Waves), laments the conditions of a free thinker and an intellectual in the state of suppression and the watch.
“Watch on the waves
Watch on the dreams dreamt by waves
Watch on the tuneful melody of a breezy sitar
That shows affection on wages”                                          
(-Translated by J.C.)

Post-colonial era could not make the natives in South African and Latin American Countries, feel at ease. The colonial era which ended could not stop the feeling of “Apartheid” in these countries.  In the post-colonial era, the section which emerged as the most powerful began to dangle the sword of dominance over the natives, leading the blacks to struggle against the Apartheid.

In countries like India, where the complexities are more, the suppression is in the form of upper castes crushing the lower-caste people to the depths of degradation.  This became a vital aspect in the production of post colonial literature. ‘Dalit Literature’ can be mentioned in this context.  The racial discrimination has its ugly marks well reflected in Third World literature.  A poem, “PIGEONS AT THE OPPENHEIMER PARK”, written by Oswald Joseph Mtshali.  A South African Poet, reflects the conditions of blacks under the minority rule.

I wonder why these pigeons in the oppenhemier park
Are never arrested and prosecuted for trespassing
On private property and charged with public indecency.
Everyday I see these insolent birds perched
On “Whites only” benches, defying all authority.
Don’t they know of the separate Amenities Act?
Impact of Russian Revolution is that it generated confidence and a tremendous feeling among the people that socialism was no more an utopia but a social reality which can be achieved by the scientific means. It also provided a genuine hope that there would be a relief from exploitation of the ruling classes with a struggle against them.  This revolution had shown ways for the intellectuals in the Third World to educate the masses.  They could use literature in supplementary form of propaganda for their purpose. The woes and problems of the society began to be viewed with a new approach.

Apart from class-consciousness, there emerged another consciousness on the subject of women’s liberty and the movements for women’s emancipation started.  A woman poet, Vesna Krampotic, addresses the child in her womb and assures her that,

“No other love will ever
Permeate the whole of you
Nor will you share your blood
With anyone as with me”.

But considering the geographical length of our country, our contribution to Third World Literature is meagre.  This is because, English was considered to be the colonial language and was not heartily accepted by Indian people since decades.  Even for those who are proficient in the English language, the scenario of our social conditions is not familiar to them because of their urban, upper middle class and aristocratic environments. The Literature in various regions, has been coming in regional languages.  While academicians in other Third World Countries are trying to glorify their tradition and national importance through translations from the native languages, the scenario in India, in this regard is almost bleak.  We could have seen in Third World Scenario, a Bibhuthi Bhushan Bhandopadhya, a Mahaswetha Devi, a Nanak Singh, a Pannallal Patel, a Shivaram Karanth, a Subramanya Bharathi, a Shivashankar Pillai, a Sri Sri, a Gurajada, or a Siva Sagar, whose impact on Indian literature is considerable.

It might sound strange but true that till now no unified approach has been made to understand the Third world Literature.  No serious and objective contribution is made in Indian Writing in English and the English reader is not aware of the great literatures and movements which are taking place in various regions in the country.

However, what is vividly noticed is, there is a note of common domestic symphony and the voice victim sector in the same in the third world literature. Therefore our words and hearts are common.

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