Wednesday, September 3, 2008


“To the unique phenomena of the unprecedented growth of indo-English literature during the post independence era, Indian male poets have contributed fairly a good deal of verse, which is worthy of critics’ attention”(SCIEV), is aptly remarked by A.N. Diwedi, a notable Indian English critic in his collection of Critical Essays on male poets. In the contemporary situation, Indian male poets have enriched all the genres of literature as well as voiced their notions on almost each and every theme from political situation to social disorganization, from love, fantasy, and sex to human foils and foibles, from rapid development of Science and Technology to rapid decline of ethical, moral and human values and gross realities that are being faced by modern man and woman also. As recent Indian poetry in English is no longer the shadow, it has become the substance, nor is it an echo but a potent voice worth listening to. It has acquired its own identity on the global scene and has become the synonym of success. A large number of male poets like Nissim Ezekiel, Keki N. Daruwala, V.K. Gokak, R. Parthsarthy, Krishna Srinivas, Dom Mores, A. K. Ramanujan, Shiv K. Kumar, O.P. Bhatnagar, D.H. Kabadi, Pritish Nandy, Keshav Malik, V.S. Skanda Prasad, Syed Ammeruddin, Baldev Mirza, I.K. Sharma, H.S. BhatiaI.H. Rizvi, Pronab Bandhopadhyay, Prakash Joshi, R.N. Sinha, Suresh Chandra Diwedi, Niranjan Mohanty, P. Raja, Narendra Pal Singh, Mahanand Sharma, Aju Mukhopadhyaya, G.K. Kottor, Tabish Khair and a numberless more have penned on the Indian women with their own viewpoints and angles. Owing to this reason, there is a need of comprehensive discussion over the title. The purpose of this paper is to make an in-depth study in the poetry of Indian English male poets who have represented Indian women
We can commence with comment of O.P. Bhatnagar who remarks:

“The milieu, ever since Indian poetry in English came to be written has been one of change, due to the influence of the western notions of love, individuality, freedom and equality of woman on one hand, and industrialization, social reforms, education and economic independence of woman on the other.”

Talking about the poetry on the Indian woman, the factors of development in the field of education an outlook cannot be under-rated if we take contemporary poetry into account. Modern poets have witnessed the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of the present time and their poems bear the testimony and tale of such bare realities of life of man and woman.
Nissim Ezekeil, the first Post-independence Indian English poet who gave Indian English poetry ‘A local habitation’ and a name, though he is of Bene Israel origin, he possesses a strong sense belonging to India, the country of his birth and living. His poetry covers a wide range of subject and variety of expression and vivid pictures. In the poem ‘On Bellasis Road’, he makes a graphic picture of Indian woman:

“I see her first
As colours only
Poised against the faded
Red of a post-box
Purple sari, yellow blouse
Green bugles, orange
Flow on her hair
A moment later
A sense her as a woman
Bare as her feet
Beneath the shimmer.” (IVE 3)

In the earlier poems of Ezekeil, we find the themes of love and woman both similar to the themes of Kamla Das. B.K. Das observes:

“He (Ezekeil) looks at love and woman from a man’s point of view as Kamla Das views love from a woman’s point of view. Flattery and bold advance are necessary for ‘survival and success’ in love and married life.” (CEP 24)

According to Ezekeil Sex and Sensuality are a part and parcel of life and in order to accept art one has to affirm sensuality for Ezekeil believes in art for art’s sake. In his passion poems and Nudes Sex moves centripetally and physical satisfaction of love holds the key in the poems. Some other poems like ‘Two Nights of Love’, ‘Recluse’, ‘Jewish Wedding in Bombay’; the consummation of love remains predominant. As Ezekeil examines a situation clearly and express it in his own words in on outspoken manner while observing a situation on which a woman was wood by a man in an unmistakable term, he says:
“You are a wonderful woman, he said
And she laughed happily
Having heard it before from many men
To see her naked
And to know how she surrendered
Who was so hard and vain
In that moment of mutual deception
And almost lovable.” (CEP 24-25)

In his ninth collection ‘Hymns in Darkness’, he makes the woman appear in the role of sex objects where he describes this intimate scene between man and woman in a calm and cool way:

“Don’t she says, don’t
Conniving all the same
Short of tearing her clothes
His using all his force
Soon his had what he wanted
Soft, warm and round.” (CEP 26)

In another poems lime ‘Motives’, ‘At the Party’ and ‘At the Hotel’, the persona of his poems looks at the woman from the point of view of male protagonist and his poetry in mostly satirizing doting on the man-woman, their manners and behaviourial norms, relationship between the spouses, their sexual preoccupations and the environments through which all the persone in his poetry have to pass the biological point of view and takes it as a normal instinct in man and woman. Sex should not be a myth but a reality like other realities of life; this has got to be described through in an artistic way:

“Ethereal beauties may you always be
Dedicated to love and reckless shopping
Your midriffs moist and your thighs unruly
Breast beneath the fabric slyly plopping.”(ibid)

B.K. Das observes:
“Ezekeil uses unconventional words like ‘unruly thighs’, ‘plopping breasts’, ‘midriffs moist’ and describes female anatomy as well as garments in his poetry.”
Ezekeil like Kamla Das and Shiv K. Kumar uses erotic vocabulary in his poetry and makes an objective look at the realities of life. Here the comment of Prakash Joshi can summarize his poetry when he says:

“Mr. Ezekeil is a poet of body who loves the nakedness of woman as the work of God though she may manifest his in the form of a bitch.” (49)

“A.K. Ramanujan”, who according to C.N. Shrinath:

“is a fine craftsman with a super control over his medium in a fair response to his poetry.” (CEP 29)
Some critics of A.K. Ramanujan find in his poetry the syndrome of expatriation, alienation and obsession, yet quite a few speak of Ramanujan’s rootedness in his Hindu experience and his ‘Indian sensibility sharpened and conditioned by a western education’. Family is the nerve centre of Ramanujan’s poetry. Most of his poems have their origin in poet’s recollected personal emotions and have a touch of nostalgia and pathos. His description of woman is catalogued in many forms of woman as mother, wife, daughter (widowed daughter). His poetic outputs namely ‘The Strides’, ‘Relations’(1971) carry distinguishing features of autochthonousness, Indian myths, symbols, people, customs, rich cultural and spiritual heritage constitute corpus of his poetry. The image of Indian woman by Ramanujan is drawn with his portray of family in some of his remarkable poems like ‘Of Mother’, ‘Among Other Things’, ‘Love Poem for a Wife’ and ‘Small Scale Reflections on a Great House’, where ‘Family, the theme haunts the poet and there are some other poems which owe their origin to recollected personal emotions and deal with his memory of relations. In the light of this view ‘Of Mothers, Among Other Things’ is a soft soothing poem which encompasses the mother’s youth, her unerring care for the ‘Crime Cradles’, her devotion to her worth unmindful of the rains and the fluttering loose Saris and her painstaking responsibilities. He says:

“My cold parchment tongue licks bark
In the mouth when I see her forth
Still sensible fingers slowly flex
To pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor.”(TS,26)

Another poem ‘Love Poem for a Wife’ highlights the poet’s sense of estrangement from his wife but there is no such writing of the heart and the tone has softened considerably in portraying the lean and thin but lovely and charming face of poet’s wife:
“My wife’s face still fast
As sleep as blessed by
Butterfly, snake, ship rope,
And grandmother’s other
By my only love’s only
Insatiable envy.”(Rel.,5)

The poetry of A.K. Ramanujan is a projection of his feelings through the invention and structuring of images particularly Indian Hindu life where woman is circumscribed into his own boundaries of thoughts, imagination and Indian ethos.
Dom Mores is much similar to A.K. Ramanujan when he reopens the book of his memories related with his mother when he says:

“These relics of my mother, which
Came brown paper, caused me griefs
The rich brecades the ornaments
Napthalena balls dead photographs
And a white bra, lapsed in the cups
Since she last slipped it off to sleep.”( NBIPE, 123)

‘Letter to my Mother’ which is in the section New Poems revealsMoraes as a mature poet who has renounced the childhood of fairies, angles and demons and tries to enquire the pathos of mother and through her the country of his origin and finally reach at a mood of humbleness:

“You pray, you do not notice
The corpses around you
Sorrow has stopped your eye
Your dream is desolate
It calls me everyday
But I cannot enter it
You know I will not return
Forgive me my trespasses.”( SCIEV, 80)

Most of the Indian English poets have tried to draw a sketch of contemporary Indian society which is characterized by economic, physical, cultural and personal laughable and pitiable and man and woman both are dehumanized or insensitive to the pains and throes of their beings. Contemporary Indian English delineate a transparent picture of Indian women like we may glance the poem of Pronab Babdhopadhyaya who depicts the degradation of woman when he says:

“Ila ray must run
Another hundred or two
Selling off
Her evening ardour youth.”( CIEP, 136)

And at another place he writes:

“On the dark silken chest
Of the woman night
The dead mother
Sucking the sleeping child
The bare naked rails
The hardened python
Of a weary civilization
The pavements as seasons of the year
Shift mood. Colour, stance.” (139)

In the poem ‘Indian Woman’, Shiv K. Kumar Describes the Indian women who while making a queue near a well for water wait for their men’s return who have gone ‘beyond the hills’. Here he wishes to draw the image of rural and tribal India come alive in the poem:

“In this triple baked continent
Women don’t etch angry eyebrows
On mud walls
Patiently they sit
Like empty pictures
On the mouth of the village well
With Zodiac doodling on the sands
They guard their tattooed thighs
Waiting for their men’s return.”( IVE,53)

There are scores of poets who describes the physical beauty of women in their poems. For them women is considered be merely a commodity to be exploited and where all scribbling of these poets are to meander to and fro alike pendulum of confusion like Keshav Malik when feels sad at the loss of beauty of woman, says:

“Lady I see how time dates your beauty
Your Sylph like figure wrapped each revolving year
With layer on layer of rich fat,
Till to my recognition you are all but lost-”( MIEP,105)

Some poets like Syed Ameeruddin and Tabish Khair mingle their feelings of love when they draw the picture of woman infuse the element of nature in it also. Tabish Khair says:
“Into the winter of my maidenhood
You came as the spring
With the promise of budding flowers
And past a summer of warm womanhood
You left me as the autumn
With the empty rustle of manhood.”( COIEP, 79)

Similarly Syed Ameeruddin appears to be celebrating in the feeling of love and longing when he is in the communion of woman or her beloved:
“Let us celebrate
The night of White shadows
Shed by liquid moon
Sunk in the debris of rivers
Come beloved!” (COIEP, 20)

But unlike many of his presceder-poets O. P. Bhatnagar takes woman not for sex or baby food. Though in his mocking tone he tries to tell us:

“That sex is not a baby food
To stick to only one brand
Least it may cause indigestion
To one’s delicate system in growth.”

Rather he makes us to see sex in a refreshing manner when he says:

“Sex should come as challenge
Not as shame or consolation
Or something to shy from
It’s a pleasure on which body grows
And soul feeds like honey
Made rich by the extracts of different flowers;
Serving ideas with a different hue
Causing wide stomach upsets
Agreeable but only to a few.” (COIEP, 55)

Bhatnagar seems nowhere apologizing of permissiveness in sex rather he appears to be criticizing the conventional morality which is imposed on woman only which is a clear affirmation of Bhatnagar’s faith in human values as that which is biologically and socially advantageous to the species. There are several Indian English poets who respect and honour the dignity of woman for they believe ‘Yatra naryastu poojyante; ramante tatra devta’(where woman are worshipped; God resides there) Dr. C.L. Khatri, editor cyber literature respects the woman as woman who asks the mythical Draupadi, the classical heroin of the Mahabharata to come down from heaven to redeem the dignity of her sisters:

“Come down from heaven Draupadi
Regain your dignity, awake the Pandavas
Re-enact your historical swear
Redeem the dignity of your sister.” (44)

In the contemporary Indian English poetry the suppressed voice of woman is not only uttered forcefully by these poets but also they have tried their best to uproot those fanatic, chauvinistic and traditional bound superstitious and myth ridden ancient approach from our minds. As Indian woman for long has been under the grinding wheel, enchained, muffled and voiceless and made to surrender to the whims, fancies and eccentricities of ‘savage’ man, his over lordship and to treat woman as a chattel. The life of woman remains a saga from birth to death, beret with agencies, pains, depravation and untold sufferings and though much has been done by Indian English male-poets to ameliorate the plight of Indian woman from time to time by their constant efforts of voicing the predicament of woman and their crucial needs as well as arising as a host of questions and demand to be discussed in public it is yet to gain ground in our male dominated society. Here it is important to know that a poet is free from cliques of poetic form, metre and rhythm as well as the literariness and morality, yet he has to keep up the tradition of poetry and remain fully conscious to the societies’ lackadaisical approach and apathy towards the one set of society whose whole history has been a sorrowful tale of prostitution, beggary, rape, slavery, child labour and discrimination. If we glance at the whole spectrum of Indian English poetry, we will find that the issues and her present situation has been portrayed more forcefully by the Indian English poets who are male and who are also considered to be belonging to the category of man called synonymous with the adjectives of ‘Savage’, ‘Brute’ or ‘Seducers’ of woman.

· A.N. Diwedi (Ed), (Studies in Contemporary Indo English Verse- A Collection on Male Poets, (abbreviated as SCIEV in the text), Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1989.
· O.P. Bhatnagar, ‘Love:Male and Female Responses’, Love and Death in Indian Poetry in English. Ed. S.N.A. Rizvi, Delhi: Doaba House, 1989.
· Syed Ameruddin (Ed.), Indian Verse in English, (abbreviated as IVE in the text), Madras: Poet Press, (1977).
· B.K. Das, ‘Nissim Ezekeil and the Making of Indian English Idiom’, Critical Essays on Poetry, (abbreviated as CEP. in the text), New Delhi: Doaba House.
· Prakash Joshi ‘Attitudal Dichotomy in Nissim Ezekeil Poetry’, Literary Horizons, Amravati:January, 1987,
· A.K. Ramanujan, The Strides, London: Oxford University Press, (abbreviated as T.S. in the text) 1966.
· A.K. Ramanujan, Relations, London: Oxford University Press, (abbreviated as Rel. in the text) 1971.
· G.K. Kottor (Ed.), A New Book of Indian Poems in English, (abbreviated as NBIPE in the text), Kolkata: Writers’ Workshop, 2000.
· B.K. Das (Ed.), Contemporary Indo English Poetry (abbreviated as CIEP in the text), Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1986.
· B.K. Das (Ed.), Modern Indo English Poetry (abbreviated as MIEP in the text), Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1982.
· I.H. Rizvi (Ed.), Contemporary Indo English Poetry (abbreviated as COIEP in the text).Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1988.
· I.H. Rizvi (Ed.), Contemporary Indo English Love Poetry. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1990.
· C.L. Khatri,Kargil. Patna: Cyber Publicaton House, 2000.
· O.P. Bhatnagar, Angles of Retreat. (Abbreviated as AR in the text), New Delhi: Samkaleen Prakashan, 1979.