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Uneasy Medium

J.P. Guha

Edited by Meenakshi Mukerjee
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 152, Rs. 30.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

English has an uneasy existence in India, for we in India are not at home with it in spite of the Times Literary Supplement’s consistent advocacy of the recognition of Indian English. In India it is nobody's language unless you would like to consider it the language of Anglo-­Indians (Eurasians), but their number is small. In contradistinction to them are those who learn English the hard way, the ‘educated Indians’—their number is also small—who when they use English for creative purposes are called Indo-Anglian (before Independence the nomenclature was Anglo Indian) writers. A few among such writers have been considered in the volume under review. Those who learn a foreign language which belongs to a culturally alien group­—as English is—when they use the language as the vehicle of creative communication (others would say ‘expression’) suffer from an initial disadvantage which, I believe, is the disadvantage that the one-eyed deer of the fable suffered from though God had gifted it with two eyes. The Indo-Anglian writers use only one eye which is always fixed on the soil from where the language has sprung, so that views from their own land do not strike them at all: Britannia the sage With her own history wise; The stars were her allies To write that ample page.                                                   (Manmohan Ghose)   You may say that now times have      changed and the Indo-Anglian writers look homeward for their sustenence and you might quote the following which has been quoted in Considerations on page 32: Always in the sun’s eye, Here among the beggars, Hawkers, pavement sleepers, Hunted dwellers, slums, Dead souls of men and gods, Burnt-out mothers, frightened Virgins, wasted child And tortured animal, All in noisy silence   Suffering the place and time       I ride my· elephant of thought A Cezanne slung around my neck.   The ‘here’ in the second line is Bombay which in the poet’s consciousness has found a prominent place, But the manner in which the identification has been sought, the allusion employed to do so (A Cezanne slung around my neck) have a ring of falsetto. So has the borrowed technique of enumeration employed. And so also the line ‘I ride my elephant of thought,’ which is un-English. No Englishman would use such an expression except in the London Zoo and if Indian sensibility responds to it, the sensibility is dissociated on account of the un-English ...

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