Unit 6


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Unit 6

  1. 1. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 74 Unit 6 Short Stories in Indian English Literature Structure: 6.1 Introduction Objectives 6.2 Major Influences on the Indian Short Story Writers: Fables 6.3 Folktales or Popular tales 6.4 Ancient Works 6.5 Western Influence 6.6 Indo-Anglican Literature 6.7 Summary 6.8 Terminal Questions 6.9 Answers 6.1 Introduction In the previous units we have studies the short stories, in general; in this unit we will study the growth and development of the short stories in India. Indian short story writing in English is a product of the Twentieth Century. Though stories existed since the ancient times in India, the written form of the story in India is very recent. What are the factors that influenced the short story writers of India? This unit will be an attempt to answer that question. You will realize by the end of this unit that the hoary past of India, its classical literature and the growth of story writing in the west are the three major factors that influenced the short story writers in India. We will examine how the early story writers of India were alive to the social, economic and political factors of their times while writing short stories. Objectives After studying this unit, you should be able to:  discuss the social and political factors that influenced Indian story writers  discuss the major influences on the Indian short story writers namely; - Fables - Folktales - Ancient works - Indo-Anglican literature
  2. 2. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 75 6.2 Major influences on the Indian Short Story Writers: Fables India has produced numerous short story writers who wrote short stories in English. Let us read the quotes of some of India‟s best story writers on what influenced them in their story writing. That will give us a first hand idea of the major influences on the short story writers of India. Raja Rao in an essay Ambivalence and Individuality remarked thus: „I go back to the Sanskrit classics for inspiration, whether it is the Mahabharata, the Ramayana or Shankara – these are the things that have inspired me the most.‟ Another major short story writer R.K. Narayan in his Views of an Indian Novelist remarked that “for any short story writer, the prototype still inevitably remains to be our own epics and mythological stories.” Manjeri Isvaran, one of the earliest short story writers, in his By Way of Preface has observed that “India was the nursery of story and fable and the Indian story-teller was fertile in tales inculcating practical wisdom as in illuminating epic and religious myth.” From these comments we can understand that the major influences on Indian short story writers are the fables, the folktales or popular tales, the epics, myths and legends. We have to add to this, the influence of the Western writers on the Indian short story writers. We will briefly examine these major influences in the next few sections starting with Fables. In Unit 3 entitled Genres and Sub-genres we have discussed in detail about the meaning and characteristics of fables. The Indian fable adhered to the universally known traditions of the fable. The best examples of the fable in India are The Panchatantra and The Jataka Tales. The Panchatantra was supposed to have been a work devised by Vishnu Sharman who took upon himself the task of enlightening the children of a particular king in the art of living. The Panchatantra consists of five books – The Loss of Friends, The Winning of Friends, Crows and Owls, Loss and Gains and Ill-considered Actions. Each of the five books is independent and has a framing story into which numerous stories are inserted. Therefore, the Panchatantra can be regarded as our first collection of short stories. The Panchatantra stories were beast fables, in which the characters are animals symbolizing human beings. The Panchatantra stories had the basic requirements of a good story – an effective beginning, an interesting middle and a perfectly logical conclusion.
  3. 3. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 76 Two of the most significant features of the Panchatantra are its epigrammatical structure, frequently ending with a significant utterance by one of the characters and its racy narration. Consider the following examples from the Panchatantra story, „Self-Defeating Forethought‟ for its epigrammatical structure: What‟s duly his man receives; This law not even a God can break My heart is not surprised, nor grieves; For what is mine, no strangers take. The main purpose of the writers of these stories was mainly moral edification. This practice does not in any way seem to have affected the popularity of the tales. On the contrary, they added to the charm of the fables and were always welcome. Consider this epigram that drives home a universal human predicament: When man is crushed by poverty And stricken down by fate, The best of friends become his foes, And tried affection, hate. Another feature of the fables is its racy narration. It had a concentration of approach, compactness of structure and the ability to whet the curiosity of the narrator and preserve it till the end. Take the example of this fast paced narration from a Panchatantra story: “Then with a sharp arrow he shot the boar, which in turn tore the hill man‟s stomach with a pointed fang that shone like the crescent moon, so that the man fell dead. The boar also, after killing the hunter, died in torment from the arrow-wound.” Similar to the Panchatantra are The Jataka Tales. The Jataka Tales are of Buddhist origin. They have most of the virtues of the Panchatantra, especially the straight-forward and simple narration. They too present the human weaknesses as well as virtues but almost always with a moral ending: that only the good and the virtuous are rewarded in this world and the evil have no chance of escaping from the penalty for their evil deeds. The difference between the Panchatantra and the Jataka Tales lies in the latter‟s over-emphasis on didacticism and the presence of a character called Bodhisattva, who is instrumental in enlightening the one who has gone
  4. 4. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 77 astray or who passes judgment on the wrong-doer. The Indian short story writer took most of the qualities from the fable but avoided the explicit didacticism or epigrammatic structure at its end. Self Assessment Questions 1. The Jataka Tales is an example for Indian Fables. (True/False) 2. The main purpose of the Panchatantra and the Jataka Tales was to teach morals. (True/False) 6.3 Folktales or Popular Tales The ancient Indian popular tale or the folktale is a mixed narrative of adventure and romance, in which the action is normally set against the background of the fantastic and the supernatural. The Kathasaritsagara based on the Brihatkatha of Gunadhya and the Dasakumaracharita of Dandin are the best examples of the popular tale or the folktale. The Kathasaritsagara has been universally popular and has inspired many a story-teller. Almost purely written for entertainment, the stories are full of racy action – romantic love leading to exciting adventures is a common theme. The stories are not always realistic in their subject matter – they make ample use of dreams, unbodied voices, ghosts and gods, magicians, black magic, flying carpets, reincarnations and even cases of resurrection. Yet when the stories portrayed human dreams and ambition they were firmly grounded in reality. What is mainly of interest to the readers, in these stories, is the grip the author has on the curiosity of the reader. Curiosity is the essence of any successful narration, and from this point of view the Kathasaritsagara never lets the reader down. Incidents are cleverly organized to take the protagonist into deeper and deadlier complications. But the final outcome is never in doubt. Either the gods intervene or the hero is endowed with superhuman qualities so that his success is assured. Another virtue of the Kathasaritsagara is that its characters are not confined to any particular section of humanity. They range from the gods and goddesses to the lowliest of human beings as also from the most virtuous to the most lewd. The modern short story writer retained the element of curiosity and portrayal of human dreams and ambitions. But they substituted the supernatural with real human achievement and failures. Shorn of the romantic and
  5. 5. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 78 supernatural, the popular tales became the models of the well-told modern short story. 6.4 Ancient Works Apart for the fables and the folktales, the Indian writers were largely influenced by the ancient works. Some of the major ancient works that influenced the Indian short story writer are the various Upanishads, the Puranas, like the Bhagawata and the Brahmanda and the epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Jainism had its tales too, like the Padmapurana by Ravisena and the Mahapurana by Jinasena and Gunabhadra. Other examples are the eleventh century poets Pampa and Ranna who recreated the epics in Kannada. In the thirteenth century Raghavanka retold the story of King Harishchandra in verse. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Kumaravyasa and Lakshmisha retold the story of the Mahabharata in Kannada. Poets like Eknath and Mukteshwar retold the Puranas in Marathi and Tulasidas brought out his now highly popular and revered rendering of the Ramayana in Hindi, the Ramacharitamanas. All these works were in verse, but the ancient Indian tale was preserved in them. The ancient works had in them plenty of myths and legends, which the modern short story writer made ample use of in his stories. Self Assessment Questions 3. Give one example for the Popular Tale or the Folktale. 4. Who re-told the Ramayana in Hindi? 6.5 The Western Influence The first collection of short stories in English written by an Indian was Stories from Indian Christian Life by Kamala Sathianadan published in 1898. It was introduced by a Madras publisher to a comparative small reading public. Subsequently, Indian writing in English saw many more writers of real merit and artistic gift. If the Indian short story writer was inspired by the oral tradition and ancient classics, his immediate influence was the short story writers of the West. Critics have normally seen two traditions operating in the English short story. H.E. Bates comments in The Modern Short Story: “During the recent years it has become a fashion to divide both exponents and devotees of the short story into two camps, Maupassant fans on the one side and Chekhovites on the other. On the one side we are asked to
  6. 6. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 79 contemplate the decisive virtues of the clear, acid, realistic straightforwardness of the French mind, which tells a story with masterly simplicity and naturalism, and producing such masterpieces as Boule de Suif. On the other hand, we are asked to marvel at the workings of a mind which saw life as it were obliquely, touching it almost by remote control, telling its stories by an apparently aimless arrangement of casual incidents and producing such masterpieces as The Darling.” If the Indian writer associated himself with any of these two camps it is almost invariably in that of Maupassant. If the Indian short story writer accepted the Maupassant tradition it is but natural, for the Maupassant short story shares with the ancient Indian tale certain basic qualities – uninterrupted narration, preservation of curiosity and the resulting clear picture of life. Indian writers were also influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe. Muhammad Habib‟s Desecrated Bones is a remarkable experiment with the horror story. 6.6 Indo-Anglian Literature Dr. K.R. Srinivas Iyengar divides the history of Indo- Anglian literature (literature written in English by Indian authors) roughly into five periods: 1820-1870: The Beginnings – The Age of the Great Pioneers 1870-1900: The Renaissance in the Spirit – The Age of Literary Awakening 1900-1920: The Era of Political Awakening – The Age of Bande Mataram and Home Rule 1920-1947: The Era of Gandhian Revolution 1947- : The Era of Independence The Indian short story in English has been written against the socio-political background referred to in the last three periods above. Many stories were inspired by the Gandhian revolution and a strong feeling of patriotism. But there are very few stories that can be termed pure propaganda or anti- British. Neither do we see an over-attachment to the motherland. While sharing the average Indian‟s pride for his country and his urgent need for freedom, he was not blind to the shortcomings within himself as well as his surroundings. The Era of Independence may also be termed as the era of acute social awareness and an era of disillusionment. The dreams and objectives of the
  7. 7. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 80 pre-independence days remain yet to be fulfilled. The establishment of a welfare state does not seem to be a near possibility even after decades of Independence. Ignorance, hypocrisy, unemployment, poverty, corruption, red tape and opportunism seem to gnaw India. Achievements have been there in the fields of science and technology, in the industrial sphere as well as in the overall health of the nation. But there is a general grouse against the administrative machinery. Social injustice was one of the major grouses of the common man. It is generally the picture of India that we see in the short story in English. Naturally, the Indian short story writer in English exposes his country in its admirable as well as unhappy aspects, with a tolerant sympathy rather than disillusioned chagrin. He does hope that his writings may help usher in a happier and better scene. Self Assessment Questions 5. Which Western writer influenced the Indian short story the most? 6. Name the first collection of short stories written by an Indian in English. 6.7 Summary In this short unit you have studied about the major influences on the Indian short story writer in English. The major influences on the Indian writer were the fables like The Panchatantra and the Jataka Tales. The writier was also immensely indebted to the popular tale or the folktales, of which Kathasaritsagara and Dasakumaracharita are the best examples. He was also strongly influenced by the ancient works like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Upanishads and the Puranas. He re-told the epics and classics in regional languages. Finally, the Indian story writer took a lot of ideas from the Western writers. Maupassant was the writer who had the biggest sway over the Indian short story writer. In the last part of this unit we see how the social political and economic conditions of the times formed the major themes of the story writers of India. 6.8 Terminal Questions 1. Write a note on Fables of India. 2. Write a short note on the Popular Tales or the Folktales.
  8. 8. English Literature – I Unit 6 Sikkim Manipal University Page No. 81 6.9 Answers Self Assessment Questions 1. True 2. True 3. The Kathasaritsagara 4. Tulsidas 5. Maupassant 6. Stories from Indian Christian Life by Kamala Sathianadan Terminal Questions 1. Indian fables adhered to the characteristics of the fables in general. Panchatantra and Jataka Tales are the best examples of Indian fables. Section 6.2. will give you more details on the fables of India. 2. Folk tales comprise narrative of adventure and romance. Here the action is set against the backdrop of fantastic and supernatural. For more explanation on folktales refer section 6.3.