In A Critical Survey of Indo-English Poetry, an Authorspress Publication 2016), T V Reddy, a poet and a critic, makes genuine efforts to present an exhaustive assessment of Indian English Poetry. He is cautious and avoids judgmental trap with a few exceptions. He outlines the growth and development of Indian English poetry objectively. History assesses men and matters of a creative genre after a long time. To go into the roots of origin, thought and emotional connection makes one uncomfortable, for one not only reflects on the social and economic content but also the psychological, philosophic and religious regions of men and society.
He does the survey faithfully and avoids the temptation to divide it in different segments with regard to growth and literary trends. The huge book (of 757 pages) has five chapters namely: The Early Phase, Modern Poetry, and Recent Poetry in Indian English including an informative and critical Introduction and at the end, Conclusion, give quick glimpses of Indian English poetry without ornamentation. There is no specific prioritizing of poets but he keeps date of publication of a particular book in view and therefore, leaves the area open for critics to analyze and evaluate. He takes back to the year 1599 when East India Company formed to do business activities in India took birth. In 1757, after the victory in the battle of Plassey, it strengthens its hold in Bengal, diversifies activities with regard to religion, culture and language also, and fires imagination together with political ambitions.
Reddy underscores the contribution of Raja Mohan Roy, a Hindu Reformer, who understands the impact of white man’s progress and establishes Hindu College (later on, within forty years, it was Presidency College) in Calcutta in 1817. Love of Raja for English and not very encouraging attitude towards oriental education and unequivocal support to Macaulay’s thought on education is another point he highlights. It encourages William Bentinck in 1835 clearly to define the future lines of action and so, not only a foreign language but also science forms part of the education system. Roy is instrumental in bringing renaissance in modern Indian literature and thereafter, is devoted to social reforms. He acquires adequate control over English and acts as an integrating force between the culture of the East and the West.
He talks about the growth of poet in Sarojini Naidu and the counsel of Sir Edmund Gosse, who advises the young poet not to forget the roots. The thought finds ample justification and Reddy has suitably, emphasized that the Indians writing in English exercises an uncharacteristic discipline but it does not avoid the finesse of an alien language and culture. In depth of thought and command over the language, Indians are no way inferior to the English writers he maintains.
The happenings in the country and the influence of language, western lifestyle and culture and not very comfortable rule of law of the white man, who wants to perpetuate its sway over the continent for generations, influence Indians. Social, political and religious incidents in the world having economic repercussions affect the psychological and philosophical mindscape of people of India and greatly change the literary output. He recalls the sad episodes of the great World Wars, rise and fall of Nazis, collapse of Colonial power and then fragmentation of Socialist Union of Soviet Russia. He underlines the contribution of Swami Vivekanand, who reveals the greatness of Hinduism to the West. Sri Aurobindo, a revolutionary and nationalist, a visionary and a mystic develop Indian English in a new direction. He makes a mention of the earlier writers in English belonging to the influential Indian families, who manage to send wards abroad for higher education.
In Introduction, Dr Reddy emphasizes not only the origin and growth of Indian English Poetry in historical and sociological perspective but also traces the impact of various religious and social movements briefly. In the region of Indian English Poetry, he makes a mention of some poets, who appear to have contributed to the growth of poetry up to the present age.
In ‘The Early Phase’, he in brief talks of poets of nineteenth Century, who inspire many. If Cavally Venkata Boriah is the first Indian writer in English prose, Cavally Venkata Ramaswamy is the first poet. He highlights the contribution of Indo-Anglian poets, Henry Derozio, Kashiprosad Ghose and Michael Madhusudan Dutt and underscores the contribution of Toru Dutt who died very young but the contribution to poetry is tremendous. In this period of history, many young Indians are attracted towards Christianity so that poetry has its share of cultural interaction with obvious preference for Indian culture and history despite western influence of language, culture and lifestyle.
Reddy talks of Dutts’ poetry specially Toru’s poetry, which exhibits amazing imagination, refined sensibility and thought. Romesh Chunder Dutt is another important poet of the age. Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagarand Bankim Chandra Chatterjee pave the way for Renaissance first in Bengal from where it spreads elsewhere he opines. Reddy beautifully gives glimpses of the creative writings and poetry of Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and Sri Aurobindo.
Modern Indian Poetry in English begins establishing firm roots in India after the War he opines. He admits some variation in time and so, a post-independence advent registers the continuance of literary journey and it slowly allows merger of the existing trends and changes with the emerging new thoughts that have bearing on the traditional concepts. Many call it new poetry, which is just a shade different in protest but does not demonstrate any relation with the freedom struggle. Social, cultural, economic and political changes after freedom influence the mental attitude and thinking of people immensely one observes.
Modern poetry is free from the colonial hangover but the lyrics immediately after freedom exhibit some conflicts and confusions as clarity of thought and vision begins to take roots he affirms even as materialistic tendencies creep in because desires to go ahead, to rise in life in status and influence and earn more, disturb. After India attains independence, people work in entirely different conditions and enjoy the option to decide what they want to do, as Indians are the arbiters of people and country’s destiny. Reddy depicts the social, economic and political scenario as freedom struggle inspires poets and they talk of free expression, equality and justice where people see a bright future. Growth and progress in various wings of life in totality not only infuse a spirit of hard work but also give a huge fillip to improve life as a whole.
Majority of the learned academicians and poets do not approve of what urban poets say about the poetry of earlier phase. He observes, ‘As a matter of fact the early phase of post-independence poetry has come to be known as ‘Bombay poetry’ as most of the poets such as Nissim Ezekiel, Dom Moraes, Adil Jussawalla, Keki Daruwalla, Gieve Patel, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre, Goan poets and others belong to or are connected with Bombay in one way or other.’ He evaluates the poetry of modern poets, provides biographical data of the poets and connects poetry to it, offers analytical view on the poetry of individual poets, and throws light on the thought process with regard to emotional range of poets when he puts them under the scanner. Reddy is quite conscious of the limitations such an in-depth scrutiny and study involves and in the process, examines the thought and emotional content of the poetry of nearly thirty poets of urban sensibilities and a few others.
‘Recent Poetry in Indian English’ underlines the affect of crosscurrents- political, social, cultural, religious, economic and scientific progress. The effort appears quizzical as it requires intense intellectual exercise and at this stage, he surveys the entire social, economic and political scenario. He is quite aware of the rights and duties, the Constitution of India grants and what changes in life-styles the socialistic pattern of Society brings even as Western culture makes continuous entry into the life of Indians without prejudice and with full faith in Vedic Culture -the Indian consciousness.
He considers the last two decades quite impressive and relevant, for poetry registers its effective presence, and terms it as poetry of ‘Post-Emergency Poets.’ He briefly refers to earlier poets, who are educated abroad, are well connected and work as a group to promote a particular brand of poetry popularly known as urban school of poetry or Bombay school of poetry.
Later, he avers that the poetry of post Emergency is notable and underlines the importance of poetry of Pranab Bandhyopadhyay, Syed Ameeruddin, D. H. Kabadi, I. H. Rizvi, I. K. Sharma, L .N. Mahapatra, T.V. Reddy, D. C. Chambial, P. C. K. Prem and others, who testify the fact.
He observes, ‘They present the contemporary scene in its multiple aspects, social, political, economic, scientific, cultural etc. showing a continuous undercurrent of social consciousness. Moreover, these recent voices have both freshness and the characteristic flavour of the land of India and create Indian scenes and situations with sincerity, sympathy, authenticity and reverence unlike the first generation poets…’
Reddy concludes the poetic endeavor with a certain judgmental mode. Earlier, he rightly speaks of growth and progress of Indian English poetry up to present day and discusses more than one hundred and fifty major and minor poets engaged in organizing and developing appropriate idiom and phrase in Indian English poetry, which according to him has gained authority, credence and effective presence.
After an exhaustive survey, he recapitulates in a slightly different manner the origin, growth and maturity of poetry and takes into consideration, the social, economic, political, historical, religious and philosophical aspects of life and society. At last, he talks of the contribution of Pranab Bandyopadhyay, Rizvi, Syed Ameeruddin, I K Sharma, O P Bhatnagar, Dwaraknath H Kabadi, Makarand Paranjape, K. V. Venkataramana, D C Chambial, P C K Prem, T V Reddy, and K V Raghupathi, Arundhati Subramaniam, S. Padmapriya and Vinita Agarwal.
To put literary output in any genre in nearly right perspective is a difficult job and it necessarily invites critical comments but then, the history moves on in time and space without caring for what people say. Caravan of history if stops, is not good for the man and society, one ought to remember. To this extent, T V Reddy has achieved the objective.