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Agyeya As a Cultural Critic


Ramesh Chandra Shah


I received much; all without base. I received education, but without its foundation in language. Got an independence-not grounded in dignity of person. Got nationhood, without firm roots in a cultural-historical identity. Thus I, born and brought up in Independence, freedoms first generation as given a face, but not a personality. And what is a face without personality? Obviously just a mask. Put it on, take it off, tar it, whitewash it ... And this is what we are doing-all of us. (Agyeya, Antara) This is how Agneya feels about the predicament of a whole generation subsequent to his own, what he calls freedoms first generation. No man of letters of comparable statureto my mindhas evinced such anguish at the post-Independence cultural scenario coupled with such a substained creative and critical endeavour to come to terms with it. None else has had a sweet group of the actual existential situation and yet no one appears to have taken greater pains to earn an insight into and avail of precisely those cultural resources which can help us to cope with that situation. When we get tied up with history, there arises the need for mystery and myth. We too, since we became prisoners of progress have begun to feel the need. Earlier, we had no need for myth, because the bondage of history was not thereTime had not died and through Lila we could renew both time and ourselves. Lila, Kalpa, Tirtha, Sanparaya, Samvatsava. All these have not equivalents in the civilizations of the West. This world does not recognize them. It can only get a first glimpse of them by opening the window of myth. [Ibid, p. 56] Agyeya, the pioneer of the modernist movement in Hindi poetry and a major innovator in fiction too, was also in his own paradoxical way a subtle defender and interpreter of tradition. The rebels, the outsiders stance enabled him to look at traditional values and insights in a fresh and original way, without the self-compliance and self-righteousness which the so called traditionalists are often prone to. In fact, he had started his career with a strong attack on this self-compliance, this security complex and lack of the spirit of adventure, which he had to confront in his immediate milieu. This critical spirit frustrated to the very end, as we still see; but what most impresses the reader is the slow and steady manner in which ...


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