Saturday, 31 August 2019

Gender Discrimination in India--An Exploration

Gender Discrimination in India—An Exploration
K. V. Dominic
(Originally presented at Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, T.N., India on 21 August 2019)

The term ‘gender’ is defined as ‘either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.’ The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female. Sex and gender are different. The term ‘sex’ is defined as ‘either of the two divisions, male or female, into which persons, animals, or plants are divided, with reference to their reproductive functions.’ Gender inequality is the discrimination shown to women by men. It is a product of the patriarchy and women are assumed and treated as inferior and weaker to men in mental and physical power.  It is a global phenomenon, but compared to the West and other developed countries, gender discrimination is very high in India.
India as everyone knows is the largest democracy in the world and we Indians are proud of it. Equality, fraternity and liberty are the basic principles of democracy. Though our governments, both Central and States, are elected by the people, can we call the country a democratic in the strict sense of the word? No. There is gender discrimination as well as class segregation at a very high rate. Discrimination to women was found in all the ages of our country though it was very less in the pre-Vedic era. This paper aims at finding out the causes and effects of gender discrimination.
Let me begin the paper by sharing the views of Swami Vevekananda and Mahatma Gandhi on women and gender discrimination. Swami Vivekananda preached: “The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women. . . . There is no hope of rise for that family or country where there is no estimation of women, where they live in sadness.” (The Complete Works, vol. 7, pp. 214-15) Swamiji spoke on another occasion: “When people are discussing as to what man and woman can do, always the same mistake is made. They think they show man at his best because he can fight, for instance, and undergo tremendous physical exertion; and this is pitted against the physical weakness and non-combating quality of woman. This is unjust. Woman is as courageous as man. Each is equally good in his or her way. What man can bring up a child with such patience, endurance, and love as the woman can? The one has developed the power of doing; the other, the power of suffering. If woman cannot act, neither can man suffer. The whole universe is one of perfect balance.” (The Complete Works, vol. 2, pp. 25-26) Being a spiritual man, Vivekananda emphatically exposed the vice of sex discrimination: “Soul has no sex, it is neither male nor female. It is only in the body that sex exists, and the man who desires to reach the spirit cannot at the same time hold sex distinctions.” (The Complete Works, vol. 4, p. 176)
Quotes of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation is dearer to us than any others. Gandhi shared his views on gender discrimination through his weekly journal Young India: “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel (false statement); it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?"
(“To the Women of India,Young India, Oct. 4, 1930)
See how vehemently he condemned gender discrimination through Young India in 1921: “Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity to me, the female sex, not the weaker sex. It is the nobler of the two, for it is even today the embodiment of sacrifice, silent suffering, humility, faith and knowledge.” (YI, 15-9-1921, p. 292) Gandhi was bold enough to blame Shastras and Smritis for discriminating women. He wrote: “Legislation has been mostly the handiwork of men; and man has not always been fair and discriminate in performing that self–appointed task. The largest part of our effort in promoting the regeneration of women should be directed towards removing those blemishes which are represented in our Shastras as the necessary and ingrained characteristics of women. . . . We will feel ashamed of the stray reflections on them in our Smritis, and will soon forget them. Such revolutions have occurred in Hinduism in the past, and will still take place in the future, leading to the stability of our faith.” (Gandhi, Speeches and Writings 424)
Gandhi was totally opposed to gender discrimination. He did not like Indian society's preference for a boy and a general neglect of a girl child. In fact, in most cases she is not allowed to be born. If born her survival is not ensured. If somehow she survives she is subjected to neglect. She does not get respect and the status she deserves equal to that of a boy. Gandhi described discrimination against women as an anachronism (outdated). He said: "I fail to see any reason for jubilation over the birth of a son and for mourning over the birth of a daughter. Both are God's gifts. They have an equal right to live and are equally necessary to keep the world going.”
Gandhiji called women as the noble sex. He said that if she is weak in striking, she is strong in suffering. Gandhi described; "Woman as the embodiment of sacrifice and ahimsa." He further states: "A daughter's share must be equal to that of a son. The husband's earnings are a joint property of husband and wife as he makes money by her assistance.”
Gandhi prepared a primer (beginner’s book) for the children for a primary school. This primer or Balpothi is the form of a mother teaching the child. In a chapter on housework the mother asks her son: Dear Son, you should also help in the housework as your sister does.
Son answers: But she is a girl. I am a boy. A boy plays and studies.
Sister says: How come I also like to play and study?
Brother: I do not deny that but, dear sister, you have to do housework as well.
The mother: Why should a boy not do house work?
Son: Because the boy has to earn money when he grows up, therefore, he must study well.
The Mother: You are wrong my son. Woman also makes an earning for the family. And, there is a lot to learn in housework--house cleaning, cooking, laundry. By doing house work you will develop various skills of the body and will feel self-reliant. In good housework, you need to use your eyes, hands and brain. Therefore these activities are educative and they build your character. Men and women, both need to be educated equally in housework because the home belongs to both. (Quoted in Patel)
Having expressed the views of two greatest souls of our country let me now hunt out the basic causes of gender discrimination. How has this evil attitude got into the Indian minds? Though our country is a secular state our secularism is unlike the Western one and it promotes religions and religious feelings among the people. It has now come to such a worst stage that our people’s primary concern and feelings are religious. Communal and religious feelings give way to national and patriotic feelings. The purposes of the practice of a religion are to achieve the goals of salvation for oneself and others, and (if there is a God) to render due worship and obedience to God. Religious leaders, priests, sanyasis and pujaris are esteemed high in our country and their words are more accepted than even one’s parents. Patriarchy reigns supreme in all religions and rituals and ceremonies are conducted by men. Thus clergy assume themselves as superior to laity. Instead of promoting world peace and happiness each religion professes itself as the best in the world and propagates the message that salvation is possible only through it. Scriptures and holy books were inscribed by men, and women had no role in it. Principles, commandments, rules and regulations were formulated by men and the male superiority complex led them to consider women as inferior and it deteriorated to such a level as considering women as consumer products. It is an irony that even women accept themselves as inferior. It is the religions and the religious leaders who injected this venom of inferiority feelings among women. If they will, the priests of all religions can very well remove gender discrimination from all societies because their words are precious and acceptable to the laity. But they won’t, because they will have to share their power and positions with women and refrain from exploiting them.
Since religions are vote banks, the political parties in our country feed them and support with money and legal concessions. Even leftist parties are no exception to it. Candidates for local bodies, assemblies and parliaments are decided by the political parties on the basis of religion and community.
Some societies regarded women as the root cause of all evil and responsible for downfall of men. Women had a decidedly inferior status and were totally dependent on men. Women were confined to the family and remained under legal and customary subjection of their husbands or other male family members. Customs and practices like female infanticide, child marriage, purdah (veil), dowry, polygamy, sati, repeated pregnancies, permanent and pathetic widowhood, illiteracy, wife beating and verbal abuse made life of common women very hard. (Kaushik)
Based on the most recent UN data India’s population is 1.37 billion. Sex Ratio of India is 107.48, i.e., 107.48 males per 100 females in 2019. It means that India has 930 females per 1000 males. In absolute terms, India has 48.20% female population compared to 51.80% male population. India is at 191st position out of 201 countries in terms of female to male ratio. Among Asian countries, India is at 43rd position out of 51. Isn’t this a shameful and shocking reality of our country which is supposed to be a developing nation and one of the emerging super powers?  This unpleasant sex ratio is a result of sex-selective abortion, childhood neglect of girls and infanticide. Preference of son over daughter is the main reason for female infanticide. Another major reason is dowry system which makes daughters an unaffordable economic burden.
Here are some statistics regarding gender discrimination and atrocities. Millions of girls go missing each year and as per UN Population Fund for Asia, over 170 million girls are missing in Asia alone. The proportion of women who completed five years of primary schooling in India and were literate was 48%, much less than 92% in Nepal, 74% in Pakistan, 54% in Bangladesh.
India ranks low in global indices of female literacy as well. African countries Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania all rank higher than India.   Daughters are not educated because parents think that it is a wastage of money and they have to be married off paying good dowry at an early age. The concept of the Indian societies formulated by the patriarchal system is that women are created for household work and for serving men. Thus women are destined to lead a prison life of house, rearing children and serving men through food and sex. Gandhi believed that lack of education and information was the root cause of all the evils against women. He believed that education is therefore necessary for women as it is for men. He believed that education is essential for enabling women to assert their natural right, to exercise them wisely and to work for their expansion. He thought that low level of literacy among women had deprived them of socio-politico power and also the power of knowledge. He stood for proper education for women as he believed that after receiving education they become sensitive to the glaring inequalities to which they are subjected. (Kaushik)

Dowry system is another curse of the Indian society. Dowry deaths are deaths of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by their husbands and in-laws over a dispute about their dowry, making women's homes the most dangerous place for them to be. Dowry deaths are found predominantly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran. Twenty-one dowry deaths are reported across the country every day. The conviction rate, however, is less than 35 per cent.

I composed a poem on the curse of dowry system which was published in my first collection of poems Winged Reason in 2010. The poem is entitled “Laxmi’s Plea”. Let me read it:

Laxmi’s Plea

Rekha’s wedding today;
my youngest colleague
junior by ten years.
To be or not to be;
present or absent;
a terrible trance!
Auspicious occasion;
jocund jolly hall;
a fish out of water;
I can’t slither there.
“Laxmi, when is your wedding?”
“Laxmi, you alone remain.”
Can’t bear these arrows;
heart full of such arrows;
bleeding day after day.
It’s none my fault
single at thirty three.
“Laxmi looks very handsome.”
“She is a lamp to any house.”
A lamp destined to burn out
under a hot pot.
Plenty of proposals;
appeared with tea
before many young men.
None complained my looks.
“What’s the dowry?”
A stumbling block to all proposals.
Father died when I was ten;
mother bed-ridden with cancer;
a thatched house in five cents;
an elder sister married off.
My meagre salary two thousand
hardly meets our food and medicine.
I have pricked my bubble of dreams;
let none dream for me.
Leave me alone;
leave me single.
Gandhi believed that the custom of dowry turned young girls into mere chattels (commodities) to be bought and sold. He called this custom pernicious as it lowered the status of women; destroyed their sense of equality with men and defiled the institution of marriage. (Bakshi 175) To curb the venomous dowry system he advised every parent to educate their daughters so that they refuse to marry a young man who wanted a price for marrying and would remain spinster than to be party to the degrading terms. He suggested that a strong public opinion needs to be formulated against dowry and such young men who soil their fingers with such ill gotten gold should be excommunicated from society. He advocated change in education and also stressed the need of taking recourse to radical measure like organizing youth movements and offering satyagraha against those perpetuating the custom. (Gandhi, Woman’s Role in Society 32)
 The destiny of widows in our country is very pathetic. India is home to an estimated 40 million widows - approximately 10% of all women. Ageing women are more vulnerable than men. Without any financial security or welfare infrastructure, many of them are abandoned in Vrindavan--where they live off charity while they wait to die. Farmer suicides, communal riots, terrorist attacks, road accidents etc. increase the number of widows in our country. I wrote and published a poem entitled “I am an Indian Young Widow” in my fifth poetry book Cataracts of Compassion in 2018. Let me quote from it:
I am an Indian Young Widow

I am an Indian widow
Cruel destiny made me so
at my prime age of twenty nine
With neither notice
nor any prior hint
he left me and our little ones
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alas I have to row all alone now
And sea has become more violent
No glimpse of any terminus now
With none to help from both our families
how will I survive with my little ones?
I who opposed practice of suttee
can now find sense behind its concept
Hellish is the life of an Indian widow
Tragic and nightmarish if she is young
Patriarchy doesn’t allow her to survive
Eagles fly over her wherever she goes
When she craves for love and sympathy
society rends her bleeding heart
shooting arrows of repulsive words
Curses hurl on her from in-law’s house
Burden for her parents and brothers
Looking at her husband’s photo
whines often for deserting them
Pleads him to take with him
In fact she rows not for saving her life
but to save her children from being drowned.
Another major chain of Indian women is that they have no freedom in choosing their dress. Their dress code is decided by the patriarchy, particularly religion. Men have the freedom to wear any dress they like but they dictate the attire of women. Gandhi regarded purdah as inhuman and immoral, for it impeded the march towards swaraj (self rule) by restricting women. (Bakshi 174-175) It denied women freedom as well as free gift of God like light and fresh air. It also crippled the free movement of women; interfered with their advancement and their capacity for doing useful work for the society. It weakened instead of strengthening morality for it did not help in preserving chastity as chastity is not a hot-house growth and cannot be superimposed. (Gandhi, Woman’s Role in Society 22) It cannot be protected by the surrounding wall of purdah. It must grow from within and must be capable of withstanding every temptation. Men must be able to trust womenfolk as the latter are compelled to trust them. He believed that the veil generates the feeling of insecurity in women and results in deterioration of their health. He appealed to public in general and women in particular to tear down purdah. (Gandhi, Women and Social Injustice 96) He was sure that abolition of purdah would lead to mass education for both men and women and would help women in gaining strength and becoming an active participant in the struggle for swaraj.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, reported incidents of crime against women increased 6.4% during 2012, and a crime against a woman is committed every three minutes. In 2011, there were greater than 228,650 reported incidents of crime against women, while in 2015, there were over 300,000 reported incidents, a 44% increase.
Extreme poverty and lack of education are also some of the reasons for women’s low status in society. Poverty and lack of education derives countless women to work in low paying domestic service, organized prostitution or as migrant laborers. Women are not only getting unequal pay for equal or more work but also they are being offered only low skill jobs for which lower wages are paid. This has become a major form of inequality on the basis of gender. (“Gender Inequality in India”)
 According to the Deloitte report titled “Empowering Women & Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, 95 per cent or 195 million women are employed in the unorganised sector or are in unpaid work. Women are discriminated in the labour sector with regard to the wages. They are paid lesser than the wages of men even if both are doing the same quantity of work. Among the majority of the poor people in India women are the bread earners of their families. They have to do all the domestic activities and then go for work in factories, estates, and other work places. Men, husbands and sons, either live idle or squander the money they earn through labour. Many are addicted to liquor and drugs and they beat and torture the women and children in the houses out of intoxication. Some even steal the hard-earned money of the women for their drink.
Discrimination to women in sports and games is more visible in our country than the West. Spectators are very less for women’s games. Cricket, as you are aware, is the most popular game in our country. Players of our Indian Women Cricket team get very less remuneration compared to the men. They have no sponsors at all while the leading men players of our country earn millions and millions of rupees every month. I have composed a poem on this discrimination and published it in my third collection of poems entitled Multicultural Symphony in 2014.  The name of the poem is “Women’s Cricket World Cup 2013”. Let me read it.
Women’s Cricket World Cup 2013
I.C.C. Women’s Cricket World Cup 2013
Played in cricket crazy land of India
Opening match at Brabourne ground, Mumbai
Indian lasses meeting West Indian lasses
Live telecast from Star Cricket
What a shame! Empty galleries!
Had it been men’s world cup
galleries full and thousands ticketless outside
Why such discrimination to women’s sports?
Why such double standards to women’s feats?
Had it been women’s beauty contest
or fashion show with minimum dress
the stadium would be full
even if tickets are very high
Dear my brothers in India and abroad
let’s appreciate and promote
our sisters’ talents and skills
rather than looking at them
with vicious hungry eyes.

We have so far examined the impact of gender discrimination in our country. As I have stated earlier this unhealthy attitude and practice have been there throughout all the ages of India. We naturally expect a change or reformation in the society after our independence. Being a democratic country the constitution was formulated in such a manner ensuring equality for women. But even after 73 years of independence what is the position of women in our country? In the 17th Lok Sabha 2019 there are only 78 women representatives out of the total number of 542, with a low percentage of 14.6%. Out of the 236 Rajya Sabha members only 26 are women, just 11%. The Women's Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008, which proposes to amend the Constitution of India to reserve 33% of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all State legislative assemblies for women is still a pending bill in the Parliament of India. No doubt, the male parliament members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are opposing the bill’s implementation. Women representation in the State legislative assemblies is also very low and nominal.
Thus it is very clear that as long as patriarchy rules supreme in our country women will never get justice. Unless women fight against this male supremacy by boycotting elections and resorting to Gandhian ways of satyagraha this gender discrimination will never disappear from India. I am winding up my paper with an extract from my poem “International Women’s Day” published in my first collection of poems Winged Reason in 2010.           .

 “International Women’s Day”

Woman is the game!
Birth to death,
an instrument of lust
and hot-selling sex.
Her very birth ill omen:
an unwelcome event.
No guilt in foeticide;
foeticide is matricide;
no life without mother.
Sexism in childhood;
priority to her brother;
her food, his leftover.
Chained in kitchen,
she rarely goes out.
No toys, no plays;
always envies him.
Mum and dad love him;
she gets only reproaches;
beat her very often.
Seldom educated;
hence no employment,
and always dependant.
No choice of her partner;
her individuality
scantily respected.
Born to be dictated;
tyranny everywhere:
slave to her husband,
servant to her in-laws.
Bears the burden of birth;
lives for her children.
Dawn to dusk,
blood turns sweat.
Her love never returned.
Has no place in politics:
councils, assemblies, parliaments,
she has little or unheard voice.
Religions also dishonour her:
she has no right
to enter her Father’s abode;
no place in clergy.
She is always the Other.
Patriarchy is his product;
he dictates the world;
dictates even God,
and corrupts religion.
He writes scriptures,
makes sexism predestinate.
Venerable is woman,
for she is your mother;
she is you sister;
she is your wife;
she is your guide;
she is your teacher;
she is your nurse;
and above all,
she is your angel.

Works Cited

Bakshi, S. R, Gandhi and His Social Thought. Criterion Publications, 1986.
Dominic, K. V. “I am an Indian Young Widow,” Cataracts of Compassion. Authorspress, 2018.
---. “International Women’s Day,” Winged Reason. Authorspress, 2010.
---. “Laxmi’s Plea,” Winged Reason. Authorspress, 2010.
---. “Women’s Cricket World Cup 2013,” Multicultural Symphony. GNOSIS, 2014.
Gandhi, M. K. Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi. 4th Edition, G. A. Nateshan and Company, 1933. Accessed 15 May 2019.
---. Woman’s Role in Society. Navjivan Publishing House, 1959.
---. Women and Social Injustice. Navjivan Publishing House, 1942.
“Gender Inequality in India.” Accessed 15 May 2019.
Kaushik, Dr. (Ms) Anupama. Gandhi on Gender Violence and Gender Equality: An Overview.” Accessed 15 May 2019.
Patel, Dr. Vibhuti, “Gandhiji and Empowerment of Women.” Accessed 15 May 2019.
Vivekananda, Swami. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Advaita Ashrama, 2013.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

P.C.K. Prem’s History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal, 2 Volumes--Review Article by K. V. Dominic

P.C.K. Prem’s History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal, Volume I. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2019. Pp. 740. Price: Rs. 2900 | $ 150. HB. ISBN 978-93-89110-11-0031
P.C.K. Prem’s History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal, Volume II. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2019. Pp. 679. Price: Rs. 2500 | $ 125. HB. ISBN 978-93-89110-11-1

P.C.K. Prem, a former academician, civil servant and member of the Public Service Commission, Himachal Pradesh, India, is a renowned author of more than fifty-five books—poetry, novels, short stories, criticism–in English and Hindi. He has now come out with his second amazing critical book on Indian English Poetry in two volumes after his monumental monograph, English Poetry in India: A Comprehensive Survey of Trends and Thought Patterns published by Authorspress, New Delhi in 2011. I have been fortunate to be part of both these books as my poetry is discussed in detail in both, along with several others. I also contributed a long introduction to the first book.
The present book under review has two volumes, the first one carrying 740 pages and the second 679. Both volumes are superb in appearance—capturing cover pages, superior quality papers used, excellent layout and very good binding with hard covers. Many congratulations to the reputed publisher Shri Sudarshan Kcherry of Authorspress, New Delhi. What distinguishes P.C.K. Prem from other critics is that he uses a narrative style entirely different and appealing. His is an exploration of poetic ages and poets both chronologically and thematically, with sub chapters and telling captions for each poet detailed. Just by looking at the contents pages one can learn a lot about the book and the poets. Prem has taken utmost care and pains in collecting the material and moulding it into these magnificent volumes. The groundwork he has done on nearly 200 poets in these volumes is marvelous. He has meticulously gone through almost all the poetic collections of these poets before writing on them. He has given sufficient quotes from their poems and even without reading any poem of any poet one can get a good idea of the poet’s style, contents and themes.
Let me begin the review with the first volume. There are fourteen chapters in this book followed by an epilogue which introduces a few critics and editors of Indian English poetry and their works. As a prologue to the chapters there is a long introduction by Prem in which he makes a survey of Indian English poetry from the nineteenth century till the present. He has pictured both chronologically and thematically almost all the Indian English poets analysing their work over several decades.
Chapter 1 of the book is entitled “Beginning and Growth: Early Poetry I”. Starting with the depiction of the early literary scenario, the author then writes about the religious movements and goes on to the aspect of nationalism. Prem shares the anxieties, drifts in poetic thoughts, and then writes on the distinctive spirit of universal love and secular attitude. The author then speaks about the poets’ influence on society and changes that took place in literature, especially in early poetry.
Chapter 2 is titled “Socio-Political Awakening, Spiritual and Mystical Quests and Sufferings of Man: Early Poetry II”. In this chapter, Prem writes about the scenario of the beginning of the twentieth century. It was an age of transformation. Even though the British Government had assured that independence would be given to India, it was not fulfilled and it caused anger and resentment among the freedom fighters and writers. Gandhi arrives in India and under his leadership India gains freedom. Independence gives momentum to the life of the nation and it creates unity among the people. The author then writes about the early poetry based on religious beliefs and their traditions. The poetry then depicted saints and holy men as well as anecdotes from epics and scriptures. Life after death was a chief concern in the early poetry.
In Chapter 3 with title “Poetic Scenario: A Little Before 1920 and After” Prem examines the poetry that existed just before 1920 and moves forward with poetry after 1980. Urbanisation started and the poets living in urban areas wrote about urban life and sensibilities. There was amalgamation of rural and urban themes in their poetry. At the same time there were poets settled in metropolitan cities concentrating on the life of urban people. The background of the poets is reflected in their poetry. National consciousness and feelings as well as happenings in other parts of the world were also a subject for their poetry. Eras of Renaissance, Romanticism and Reformation are discernible in Indian English Poetry. Industrial growth and various movements found material for the poetry of that period.
Having written in general about the poetic eras, themes and movements, Prem now starts analysing poets one after another in Chapter 4 entitled “Continuity in Thought Patterns Strengthens Consciousness”. Poets born in the third decade ‘1921-24’ of the twentieth century and their poetry are discussed in this chapter. There is a brief introduction to the scenario after Independence, and its influence on man, society and creativity. Poets Shiv K. Kumar, Nissim Ezekiel, Hazara Singh, Maha Nand Sharma, Rachakonda Narasimha Sarma and Srinivasa Rangaswami are studied in this chapter in detail in forty-eight pages of the book. Before analysing each poet, Prem starts with a descriptive caption about the main feature and area of the poet in bold letters, which gives an overall awareness of the poet’s trends. This is something unique that I have not come across in any such critical book. For example, one can find the following caption at the beginning of the analysis on Shiv K. Kumar’s poetry: “Age creates affirmative possibilities amidst bewildering situations as unreciprocated questions stare at the intellect for want of response while realities challenge and one confronts life with some doubts, cynicism and hope and that gives meaning.” Since space does not permit me to touch upon Prem’s critique of these poets and other poets coming under various chapters, I am not going to discuss on each poet or any one in particular.
Chapter 5 with the title “Steady Thought Patterns and Perception” deals with the poets born in the third decade ‘1926-29’ of the twentieth century. Poetry of Keshav Malik, Mahendra Bhatnagar, P. Lal, Jayanta Mahapatra, A. K. Ramanujan, R. Rabindranath Menon, Kailash P. Varma and K. V. Suryanarayana Murti is discussed in detail with sufficient quotes on sixty-one pages.
Chapter 6 is entitled “Religious-Secular Thought and Universality”.Poets born in the 4th decade ‘1932-34’ of the twentieth century are discussed on the forty-two pages of this volume. The poets studied are Arun Kolatkar, O. P. Bhatnagar, Baldev Mirza, I. K. Sharma, Som P. Ranchan and Swami Nem Pal.
Chapter 7 is named “Secular Ambiance and Anxiety”. It deals with the poets born in the fourth decade ‘1934-36’ of the twentieth century and their poetry. The poets analysed in fifty-three pages of the book are Kamala Das, R. Parthasarthy, Binayendra Chowdhuri, N. P. Singh, G. S. Sharat Chandra, K. B. Rai, Anant Kadam, K. D. Katrak and H. S. Bhatia.
Chapter 8 entitled “Towards Indian Consciousness” writes about the poets born in the fourth decade ‘1936’ of the twentieth century. The poets analysed in thirty pages are J. Bapu Reddy, Iftikhar Hussain Rizvi, Dwarakanath H. Kabadi, Lajpat Nagpal and Motilal Jotwani.
Chapter 9 is entitled “Steadiness in Thought Patterns” and the poets discussed are those born in the fourth decade – ‘1937-38’ of the twentieth century. The poetry of Keki N. Daruwalla, K. N. Sharma, Kailash Ahluwalia, Amerander Kumar, Dom Moraes, Ashok K. Khanna, Mahadeva R Iyer, V. V. B Rama Rao and A. Padmanaban is studied on pages 358-415.
Chapter 10 is titled “Continuity Strengthens Consciousness” and the poets analysed are those born in the fourth decade ‘1940’ of the twentieth century. Poetry of Dilip Chitre, Gieve Patel, Adil Jussawalla, Eunice de Souza, Yayati Madan G Gandhi, P. K, Joy, Aju Mukhopadhyay and R. A. Lakhanpal is discussed in detail from pages 416 to 461.
Chapter 11 titled “Realisation and Stability” speaks about the poets born in the fifth decade ‘1941-42’ of the twentieth century. On pages 462-506 Prem has analysed the poetic works of P. K. Majumder, Onkarnath Gupta, K. C. Prashar, Gopal Honnalgere, Syed Ameeruddin and Mohammed Fakhruddin.
Chapter 12 is titled “Regions of nearly Idealistic and Meaningful Existence” and the poets born in the fifth decade ‘1943’ of the twentieth century are discussed. The poets thus presented on pages 507-551 are T. V. Reddy, O. P. Arora, R. C. Shukla, A. N. Dwivedi, M. S. Venkata Ramaiah and Abdul Rashid Bijapure.
Chapter 13 with the title “Consciousness and Realisation” deals with poets born in the fifth decade – ‘1944-48’ of the twentieth century. The poets discussed here on pages 552-611 are SaleemPeeradina, Nar Deo Sharma, P. C. K. Prem, Bhagirathi Mahasuar, Pritish Nandy, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Hoshang Merchant, Jasvinder Singh, R. K. Bhushan, B. S. Nimavat and Vinod Khanna.
Chapter 14, the last chapter of this volume, is entitled “Possible Stability and Judgment.” Poets born in the fifth decade ‘1949-50’ of the twentieth century are studied in this chapter comprising pages 612-664. The poets studied are Vijay Vishal, D. C. Chambial, R. K. Singh, S. L. Peeran, V. S. Skanda Prasad, Krishan Gopal, Virender Parmar and H. C. Gupta.
Pages 665-726 constitute an Epilogue by the author. Prem provides a list of acclaimed critics of Indian English Poetry. They are: Bijay Kumar Das, M K Naik, Bruce King,Satish Kumar, Iftikhar Husain Rizvi and Nasreen Fatima Rizvi, P. C. K. Prem, Sudhir K. Arora, O. P. Arora, T V Reddy and K. V. Dominic. He has also listed names of reputed editors of books on Indian English Poetry. They are: Vinayak Krishna Gokak, PritishNandy, R Parthasarathy, H. S. Bhatia, Niranjan Mohanty, S. N. Joshi, Syed Ameeruddin, K. Ayyappa Paniker, P. C. K. Prem, C. R. B. Lalit and K. V. Dominic, etc. The author then shares with us titles of some reputed journals on Indian English Poetry, such as The Journal of Indian Writing in English, The Literary Criterion, The Journal of the Poetry Society India, Indian Literature, Asian Quarterly, The Journal of English Studies, Littcrit, Indian Literary Panorama, The Quest, Poetcrit, Creative Writing and Criticism, Cyber Literature, Writers Editors Critics, Contemporary Vibes, Taj Mahal Review, Harvests of New Millennium, Phenomenal Literature and Verbal Art, Poetry Chain, Biz Buzz, Platform, Kohinoor, Voice of Kolkata, Creative Writing and Criticism, Deshkaal, Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures, Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Language, International Journal on Multicultural Literature, Metverse Muse, MIT Journal of English Language and Literature, Replica, The Literati, etc.
P.C.K. Prem then proceeds with a brief review of each of the famous critical books on Indian English Poetry. The reviews thus made are on Bijay Kumar Das’s Modern Indian English Poetry, M. K. Naik’s A History of Indian English Literature, Bruce King’s Modern Indian Poetry in English, Satish Kumar’s A Survey of Indian English Poetry, Iftikhar Husain Rizvi and Nasreen Fatima Rizvi’s Origin, Development and History of Indian English Poetry, Sudhir K. Arora’s Cultural and Philosophical Reflections in Indian Poetry in English in Five Volumes and T V Reddy’s A Critical Survey of Indo-English Poetry. There are also review articles by D. C. Chambial and K. V. Dominic on P. C. K. Prem’s English Poetry in India: A Comprehensive Survey of Trends and Thought Patterns, and O. P. Arora on P. C. K. Prem’s Towards Indian Consciousness: A Study of Ten Poetic Minds in English Poetry in India.
Prem then gives brief appraisals on the edited poetry anthologies such as: Dr Vinayak Krishna Gokak’s The Golden Treasury of Indo-Anglian Poetry, Pritish Nandy’s Indian Poetry in English Today, R. Parthasarathy’s Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets, H. S. Bhatia’s Modern Trends in Indo-Anglian Poetry, Niranjan Mohanty and D. C. Chambial’s Poetry of Himachal Pradesh, H. S. Bhatia’s Prevalent Aspects of Indian English Poetry, S. N. Joshi’s Nascent Warmth, Syed Ameeruddin’s International Poets, K. Ayyappa Paniker’s Modern Indian Poetry in English, and P.C.K. Prem’s Contemporary Indian English Poetry from Himachal.
History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal, Volume II deals with the poets born in the 1950s and after. P.C.K. Prem divides the book into several chapters as he has done in the first volume. Again as in Volume I, the author makes an analysis of the poets and their poetry taking each decade after decade till the present. In the long Introduction of seventeen pages, Prem makes a survey of Indian English poetry from the nineteenth century. He analyses poets and their themes in the chronological order of their birth. Also he focuses on trends and aspects of each decade, both rural and urban poetry. The second volume has two major divisions—Part I and Part II. Part I has Chapters one to six and seven to eleven constitute Part II.
Chapter 1 is entitled “The Strengthening of Consciousness” and the poets born in the sixth decade ‘1951-52’ of the twentieth century are discussed from pages 31-77. The names of the poets are: Bibhu Padhi, Bipin Patsani, Rajender Krishan, Vikram Seth, Ravi Nandan Sinha, D. Srikanthmurthy, Katta Rajamouly, R. A. Janakiraman and Alexandar Raju.
Chapter 2 with the title “Power of Realisation” deals with the poets born in the sixth decade – 1952 or so of the twentieth century. The poets are: Lalit M. Sharma, P. Raja, D. S. Varma, PashupatiJha, Dalip Khetarpal, Gopikrishnan Kottoor, M. T. Ahmad and Tenneti Venkateswara Rao. They cover pages 78-124.
Chapter 3 is called “Poets and Region of Perception” and the poets born in the sixth decade – 1953-55 of the twentieth century are studied in it on pages 125-164. The names of the poets are: Sankasan Parida, Anil K Sharma, Manas Bakshi, S. A. Hamid, Kamalaprasad Mahapatra, Suresh Chandra Pande and Deepak Thakur.
Chapter 4 is given the title “Continuity in Perspectives with SomeVariations is the Strength”. Poets born in the sixth decade – ‘56-60’ of the twentieth century are analysed in it on pages 165-228. The names of the poets are: K. V. Dominic, K V Raghupathi, Sailendra Narayan Tripathy, Parvat Kumar Padhy, Gopal Lahiri, Suresh C. Jaryal, Sunil Sharma, Rajiv Khandelwal, Ashok Chakravarthy Tholana and Rabindra K. Swain.
Chapter 5 entitled “Understanding Teaches Art of Life” deals with the poets born in the seventh decade – ‘1961-70’ of the twentieth century. It covers pages 229-294. The poets are: Aldous Mawlong, Suman Sachar, C. L. Khatri, Bijoy Kant Dubey, Arbind Kumar Choudhury, Shujaat Hussain, M. R. Venkatesh Prasannanshu, Biplab Majumdar, Sudhir Kumar Arora (Isheetiva), Harish Thakur, Vihang A. Naik and P. V. Laxmi Prasad.
Chapter 6 with title “A Change in Thought and Emotions Beautifies Lyrics” deals with the poets born in the eighth decade of the twentieth century. It covers pages 295-330. The names of the poets are: Mandal Bijoy Beg, Kanwar Dinesh Singh, Shankar Divyasingha Mishra, Jaydeep Sarangi, Kiriti Sengupta, Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar and Vivakanand Jha.
Part II of the book deals with Contemporary Indian English Poetry and Women Poets. Chapters 7 to 11 are set apart for women poets.
Chapter 7 is titled “Women Poets” and on pages 331 to 338Prem makes a survey of women poets from the nineteenth century till the present. He has established here comprehensively how the women poets have registered their presence through eloquence and articulation.
Chapter 8 entitled “Women’s Poetry of the Last Three Decades of the 20th Century” speaks about poetry of ethical strength and modern sensibility. From pages 339-397 the following twelve poets are studied: Sukrita Paul Kumar, Meena Alexander, AnjanaBasu, Etty George, Hetty Prim, C. D. Irene, Nirmal Thakur, Tulsi Naidu, MahashwetaChaturvedi, S. Modi, Asha Viswas and Rita Malhotra.
Chapter 9 with the title “Women’s Poetry of the First Decade of the 21st Century” focuses on the poetry of women poets up to the period of 2005. The poets discussed are: V. LalithaKumari, Chandramoni Narayanaswamy, Madhavi Lata Agrawal, Meenakshi Verma, Suparna Ghosh, Nandini Sahu, Maria Netto, Esther Syiem and Nalini Sharma. They are studied in detail on pages 398-450.
Chapter 10 entitled “Women’s Poetry of the First Decade of the 21st Century Up to 2010” writes about continuity in enigmas of life and realities. On pages 451-528 the following poets are analysed: K Pankajam, RenuUniyal, Srishti Sehgal, Purnima Ray, Rita NathKeshari, Indira Babbellapati, RizioYohannan Raj, Sreyashi Ghosh, Nita S Nagarsekar, Janet Wilson, Satabdi Saha, Suraksha Giri and UddipanaGoswami.
Chapter 11, the final chapter of the volume, is entitled “Women’s Poetry of the Second Decade of the 21st Century”. The chief characteristic of the poetry of the period is contemporary consciousness and cultural heritage. Sixteen poets are analysed here on pages 529-603. The poets are: Meenakshi Hooja, Sangita Mehta, S. Padmapriya, Jose Large, Shernaz Wadia, Sunitha Srinivas, Nita B. George, Smruthi Bala Kannan, Molly Joseph M., Vinita Agrawal, Poonam Dwivedi, Vinayana Khurana, Sangeeta Mahesh, Geetika Kohli, Aparna Chatterjee and Chitra Lele.
Pages 604-665 constitute the Epilogue of the second volume which is the same as the first volume on which I have commented above in three long paragraphs.
Before winding up my paper let me add a few sentences about the labour and pain behind the creation of these voluminous books. Prem is a close friend of mine; more than that, like an elder brother he has shared with me the background of his major works. He told me that he had worked six hours a day for four years to complete the composition of these volumes. He had to search for the primary sources and materials extensively and collected many books from his poet friends and book bazaars. The impetus behind his hard labour is not profit motive but sheer love of Indian English literature, particularly poetry, and he wants to see his compatriots and future generations read and study Indian cultures, ethos, philosophies, traditions, emotions, dreams and beauties. When we examine the syllabus of English literature in our schools, colleges and universities we will be shocked to see that importance is given primarily to British literature, then American literature, Canadian literature and finally Indian English literature. Why should we keep studying these foreign literatures giving least importance to our own? Isn’t our Indian English literature as rich and competent as the British, American, Canadian, etc.? Aren’t our legends Kalidasa, Vyasa, Valmiki, etc. greater than Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, etc.? Then why don’t we study their works in English first and then the foreigners? We should be proud of our country and its literature. Indian English is accepted as a separate English like British English, American English, Canadian English, Australian English, etc. We have our own syntax, pronunciation, intonation, etc. which have a connection to our own mother tongues. We should promote it at any cost. It is through this English that we speak to the world sharing our culture, history, philosophy, traditions, way of life, etc. One can’t understand why the curriculum committees and board of studies run after British and American literatures when they draw up syllabus for English literature papers. Of course an English literature pupil and student should be aware of foreign English literatures. But the primary importance should be given to our own Indian English literature. More papers should be on our literature and less on the foreign aspect. But most unfortunately the practice here in all our states is just the contrary. It is not because there are not sufficient materials for teaching in Indian English literature. The committees are either prejudiced against Indian English literature or they are ignorant of the literature here. They are ignorant in the sense that they don’t care to read Indian English literature created every year. The hangover of the British legacy of Indians’ inferiority complex is with them even now.
The importance of P.C.K. Prem’s History of Contemporary Indian English Poetry: An Appraisal is to be estimated based on the statements I have made above. These volumes are gems-like rich critical materials for Indian English poetry, particularly at the college/university level and for those doing research on Indian English poetry. An English teacher who loves Indian English poetry will surely recommend these books to the college/university libraries, and if financially affordable, would buy a copy personally. I congratulate P.C.K. Prem once again for composing such a unique book! I also extend my congratulations and gratitude to Shri Sudarshan Kcherry once again for taking such a financially burdensome project, because of his love of Indian English literature. He is undoubtedly the greatest publisher in India promoting Indian English literature and publishing the maximum number of critical and creative books in this literature. I wish all lovers of Indian English poetry an enlightening mental feast.