Thursday 28 May 2015

Comparative Overview of the Forms of Storytelling with Reference to the Digital Age

Comparative Overview of the Forms of Storytelling with Reference to the Digital Age

 Prof. Dilip Barad,

Dept. of English, M.K. Bhavnagar University

How to cite this article:

MLA Style:
Barad, Dilip. "Comparative Overview of the Forms of Storytelling with Reference to the Digital Age." Spark International Online Journal III.3 (2011): 35-61.
APA Style:
Barad, D. (2011, Aug). Comparative Overview of the Forms of Storytelling with Reference to the Digital Age. (B. Parmar, Ed.) Spark International Online Journal, III(3), 35-61.


Over the ages the form of storytelling has undergone significant changes. The Sanskrit and Greek masters were happy in telling their stories in form of verse letters, plays and epics;  in the 18th century ‘Novel’ was seen as the most suitable form for storytelling. In the 20th century, the fragmented life found its expression in theatre of absurd, problem plays and the life full of hurry and flurry gave shorter forms like novella, one-act plays and short stories. At the fag-end of the first decade of the 21st century, some forms have emerged to cater the needs of techno-savvy netizens. The Epistolary form of telling story initiated by Richardson in ‘Pamela’ found its new manifestation in Matt Beaumont’s novel e’ in 2000. Matt has experimented with the epistolary form by replacing letters by emails among the characters. The advent of e-novels is seen as yet another step further in the evolution of new forms of telling story, and yet another form to mesmerize the world with its synergism of words and videos is in the buds. This new form of storytelling is ‘vook’ – a word coined for ‘video-book’.
This paper attempts to compare the changing forms of storytelling, and also aims to examine the connection between at the forms of literature, changing times and tastes of the reading audience.

Wordle of the Abstract

“Over all [the scholar’s work] should rule a searching intelligence, asking that fundamental question of the septic: just what do you mean by that? And if the question is asked with a real desire to know and understand . . . the work is done.”  - G.R. Elton, The Practice of History (New York, 1967) 141. (Altic 1993)

At the heart of literature is telling story, and its success depends on how well the story is told. How well it is told, however, depends largely on the pleasure it gives to readers. This pleasure, if it is conditioned by ‘the law of poetic truth and poetic beauty’ (Arnold 2001), elevates the story to the height of a classic. The pleasure quenched by the reader from the truth and beauty of literature is also governed by the race, milieu and the moment. I mean to say, the taste of the reader and the time in which it is written also has its own aesthetic influence on the art of telling story.
The poor peasants and brave warriors of Greece and Mahabharata found dramas and epics better forms of story telling to quench their thirst for aesthetic life. Reaching to this point in the history of narrating story for aesthetic pleasure and to teach moral lessons on niti-shastra, it has undergone important changes. Slowly and steadily, the oral tradition metamorphosed into written and from there into performing art. The Aesop’s fables (Long 2011) in the West and Panchatantra & Hitopadesha in East had its beginning in oral story telling (Wikipedia). Later on they were found in written form.
From here on wards, I would rather concentrate on the literary tradition in Literature in English than on world literature, because by speaking on changing art of story telling of world literature, I would display my ignorance than knowledge.
Coming to the 18th century, the century where in new forms of telling stories are experimented and invented, we find that the fire, fine feelings, enthusiasm, the glow of the Renaissance and the moral earnestness of Puritanism (Long 2004) is lost from their art of telling story. Renaissance was the time of fiery passion, hunger to grow, unlimited enthusiasm to achieve the unachievable and never ending passion for life. Thus the classical form of telling story i.e. Drama, found its new format in Christopher Marlow. Though, still it is drama and poetry only, yet the performance of drama is quite different than that of classical Greek & Latin masters. Use of Blank verse, breaking of unities and mixture of tragicomedies gave new style to the old art of telling story. Shakespeare polished all the gems that were invented by Marlowe in such a shining state that none can make it more polished there after. It was John Dryden (1668) Who said this to enumerate the phenomenon in ‘Of Dramatik Poesie, An Essay: “Those beauties of the French poesy are such ... it where it is not: they are indeed the beauties of a statue but not of a man”. The plays written by Shakespeare and University with all deformities of plot construction and characterization were still true representation of human soul and nature.

During renaissance and reformation, we had the tradition of telling story in prose form also. The University Wits and thereafter John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, Addison and Steele carried on this tradition and went on adding a component or two by the time Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) and Henry Fielding (1707-1754) turned it into the new form of telling story – well-known today as NOVEL. (Watt 1957)
The spread of education led to more readers. The way technique of making papers migrated from China to Europe and Gutenberg’s printing press encouraged more writing, similarly education helped in the spread of more magazines and prose writing. Thus 18th century has more number of magazines and novels to cater the needs of the reading public. The education to females in 18th century gave rise to more number of female readers. (Compton-Rickett) The coarseness of Fielding, Smollett and Stern did not satisfy the aesthetic urge of these female readers. Thus we have women novelist in abundance in the same years.
Thus we can perceive that the time, the moment, the philosophies and thoughts of the era has tremendous impact on the art of telling story. Compton- Ricket has rightly noted in The History of English Literature (1946) that the masculine qualities comprehend a broad grasp of general principles, a logical constructive power of a faulty for dealing largely and sanely with the big issues of life. The feminine qualities on the other hand, lie in subtlety rather than vigor of perception, an intuitive insight into the delicate complexities of character and an intensity and tenacity of passion.  As illustrations of the masculine and feminine methods of approaching the social life to the late 18th century we have Fielding and Jane Austen, each of them essentially a painter of manners, concerned in the difference between town and country, satirical in treatment, eschewing sentiment as far as possible. Between the, we have a wonderful picture of the time, and the one complements the other, for the difference are rather sexual than purely literal – the one, bold, dashing, painting strong, vivid colours; the other, delicate, subtle, avoiding violent contrasts, and dealing rather in nuances.
This proves the point how art of story telling differed from man to woman. The education and experience of Fielding, the man on the roads, and Austen, the woman of the house, reflects the moments lived by the society in their predefined horizons.
The increasing number of readers gave rise to NOVEL as the most sought after form of telling story. The Victorians found in Novel what Elizabethans sought in plays.
The rise of magazines contributed to the rise of short story also. (Watson 1994). Short stories were a staple of early-19th-century magazines and often led to fame and novel-length projects for their authors, similar to one-act plays.
In the modern times, industrialization & growth of factories influenced the reading habits of people which in turn influenced creative writing also. (Ward 1978). The life became so fast that people were not able to spare more time to read long novels or see long plays. The short story and one-act plays were more suitable form of telling story for such an audience. Thus we find more numbers of such arts of telling stories in 19th and 20th century.
But still we find that the art of telling story is not that experimentative. The path and faith breaking philosophies of 19th and 20th century has its own toll on the art of telling stories. Darwin’s proving that the world in not created by God (1860), Freud’s libidal interpretation of human relationship (1896c) and Nietzsche’s final declaration – God is death (1882), shattered the faith of creative genius. It is well said by Mahesh Bhatt (film maker) that artist as a creative person is abnormally and inhumanly sensitive – for him a touch is a blow, a sound is noise and ay misfortune a tragedy. (qt from The Times of India article – “Is M.F. Hussain a Victim?”)
The influence of art of telling story does not require detailed mention here. The shattered faith fragmented the lives of people. The remaining work was done by two world wars. The witness of First World War and life under the thread of second was terrible for the sensitive creative mind. What we find in fragmented art of telling story. In fact, there is no story at all. It is all rambling of thoughts, trying to say something, utterance fail to express their anguished anxiety. Thus, the stream of consciousness in novel, collage in poem of TS Eliot, Auden and Yeats, absurdity in plays took place of sanity in telling stories. Martin Esslin (1967) makes a working hypothesis of the traits of story-telling art of these decades in his famous book. ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’.
The modernist art of telling story is the best example of how philosophical discourse can interpose its influence on it. The time it self was shattered and fragmented. Nothingness was the meaning and nihilism was their only optimism. The story tellers of the time faithfully reflected this in their art of telling stories.
The post modernist era was the time of deconstructionist ideology. In the modernist art of telling story, thought the stories were fragmented and nothingness was the only thing, yet the centre hold the ground strongly. In post modernism, the centre is de-centered. There was an attempt to identify meaning in meaninglessness of modernist art of telling story; here the meaning is nothing but free play of difference and deffarance (Derrida 1966). The centre is at the periphery and the periphery is at the centre. Thus Coetzee’s (1986) art of telling story has the centre in Friday ( in novel , 1986) and not in Robinson (Defoe). Mahabharat is retold from Draupadi’s view point. (Vaidya Spivak) Julian Branes’s The History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters has a narration form woodworms angel and not from Noah’s. Derridian influence gave free play of experiment in telling stories. Derrida’s philosophical discourse impacted the art of story telling. Dattani’s plays have entre in eunuchs and HIV patients (Kumar T). Sarojini Sahoo’s feminist discourse undermines the western feminist discourse of Simon De Bouevier and gave rise to Indian feminism. Similarly, Dalit aestheticism is also on the high rise.
Whatever may be the influencing force, the last decades of 20th century betrayed several experiments in the art of story telling. Thus, Author John Fowles’s novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) has three endings. This novel is a period novel inspired by the 1823 novel Ourika, by Claire de Duras, which Fowles translated to English during 1977 (and revised in 1994).
Other interesting experiments in art of telling story were done by B S Johnson. The Unfortunates (1969) was published in a box with no binding (readers could assemble the book any way they liked) and House Mother Normal (1971) was written in purely chronological order such that the various characters' thoughts and experiences would cross each other and become intertwined, not just page by page, but sentence by sentence. B. S. Johnson's infamous book-in-a-box is, if remembered at all, notorious for its presentation rather than its content. The "book" consists of a first and last section plus 25 other chapters, each one coming as a self-contained "pamphlet", that can be read in any order the reader likes. The subject matter concerns a journalist's day covering a football match in Nottingham, remembering previous times spent in the city with a lover now gone and a friend now dead. The innovative format permits Johnson to echo the random thought processes of his protagonist--the associations and reminiscences bubbling up in no fixed order as he walks through the city, watches and reports on the match and returns home afterwards. 
We have curios experiment in novel ‘A Void’ by Georges Perec (1995). A Void (translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance") is a 300-page French lipogrammatic novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name), following Oulipo constraints.
The website has curious collection of such experimental novels written and published in later decades of 20th century.
If all these ages were marked by some peculiar social, political, economical, philosophical, anthropological etc contemporary issues, the 21st century is marked by the IT revolution. The time in which we live is known as the time of e-renaissance. Information and communication technology has brought in sweeping change in all walks of life. The technological tsunami began in wild waves in 80s and 90s. Today, as we enter second decade of 21st century, the world in deluged under the splurge of techno-tsunami waves. Now the question is has this revolution brought any change in art of telling story?
Well, forget about the literary value of his novels for time being. Just see what is the moving fore in the plot in his novels: the mobiles, internet and call centers. Yes, Chetan Bhagat’s One Night @ Call Centre (2005) has technology at its centre. Now, the God does not say in thunder, but He rings and talks on your mobile phones. Now, too much of thinking or rash actions are not fatal flaws or hamartia. The fatal flaw is leaving your email account open without logging out/signing out before leaving PC/laptop. In Three Mistakes of My Life (2008), the mobile call from best friend’s sister during climax brings havoc in the life of protagonist. Today, it is unimaginable to think of the story where in mobile or internet is not an important part of the play and vital part to play.
It is not only movers and shakers of plot, but the form of telling story is also affected. At the fag-end of the first decade of the 21st century, some forms have emerged to cater the needs of techno-savvy netizens. The Epistolary form of telling story initiated by Richardson in ‘Pamela’ found its new manifestation in Matt Beaumont’s novel ‘e’ in 2007. Matt has experimented with the epistolary form by replacing letters by emails among the characters. Thus, the novel is a multiple-perspective narrative where events are seen through the eyes of various people working for the agency, from temporary workers to CEO. e (novel) centers around corporate business structures, leadership, creativity, headhunting for and firing people to keep up appearances, work efficiency, business ethics, and all kinds of human weaknesses which stall progress by having employees waste their time and energy on unimportant things and which eventually prevent success. The advent of e-novels is seen as yet another step further in the evolution of new forms of telling story.
The characterization, situations, plots, etc are changing and finding new alterations. Even Sidney Sheldon type pulp fiction or J.K. Rowling type child fiction or Poe type detective fiction are affected by the digital wave. We have not Cyberpunk to replace traditional classical pulp fictions. Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life." The name was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983 It features advanced science, such as information technologyand cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order. Cyberpunk works are well situated within postmodern literature.(Wikipedia Cyberpunk).

Collaboration as against isolation is the key word in the digital age. Social media is nothing but collaborating. It seems that suddenly everybody want to ‘speak/write’. Listeners or readers are fast becoming rare species. Well, this trend of life is mirrored in Penguin project of WikiNovel.
A Million Penguins, the wiki-novel experiment currently underway at Penguin Books is trying to find out if a self-organizing collective of writers can produce a credible novel on a live website. A dubious idea if you believe a novel is almost by definition the product of a singular inspiration, but praiseworthy nonetheless for its experimental bravado. Though the project has not succeed yet, nearly 1500 individuals have contributed to the writing and editing of A Million Penguins, contributing over 11,000 edits making this, in the words of Penguin’s Chief Executive, ‘not the most read, but possibly the most written novel in history‘. 75000 people have visited the site and there have been more than 280,000 page views.( Ettinghausen 2007)

Such experiments in writing literature along lead one to think of the demise of literature. Kernan Alvin (1992) takes a critical look at the changing paradigm in society because of the influence of digital ways of life and tries to connect with with the literature. Let me quote at length from the review of his book ‘The Death of Literature:
“Kernan Alvin probes deeper, relating the death of literature to potent forces in our postindustrial world—most obviously, the technological revolution that is rapidly transforming a print to an electronic culture, replacing the authority of the written word with the authority of television, film, and computer screens. The turn taken by literary criticism itself, in deconstructing traditional literature and declaring it void of meaning in itself, and in focusing on what are described as its ideological biases against women and nonwhites, has speeded the disintegration. Recent legal debates about copyright, plagiarism, and political patronage of the arts have exposed the greed and self-interest at work under the old romantic images of the imaginative creative artist and the work of art as a perfect, unchanging icon. Kernan describes a number of the crossroads where literature and society have met and literature has failed to stand up. He discusses the high comedy of the obscenity trial in England against Lady Chatterley's Lover, in which the British literary establishment vainly tried to define literature. He takes alarmed looks at such agents of literary disintegration as schools where children who watch television eight hours a day can't read, decisions about who chooses and defines the words included in dictionaries, faculty fights about the establishment of new departments and categories of study, and courtrooms where criminals try to profit from bestselling books about their crimes. According to Kernan, traditional literature is ceasing to be legitimate or useful in these changed social surroundings. What is needed, he says, if it is any longer possible in electronic culture, is a conception of literature that fits in some positive way with the new ethos of post-industrialism, plausibly claiming a place of importance both to individual lives and to society as a whole for the best kind of writing.” (Kernan
It is difficult to disagree with Kernan. The Gutenberg has tolled the death of printed poem or novels. As an alternative to this Apocalypse of print, some theorists, critics or artists have already found solutions of „escape”. New forms of literary practice access digital resources and force the boundaries of „literature” to expand to visual, cybernetic, hyper-textual territories. (Echinox Journal 2011). This experience of visual, cybernetic & hyper-textual is experimented in form of Vook. (

A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story.
You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.
Vooks are available in two formats: As a web-based application you can read on your computer and a mobile application for reading on the go. With the web-based application you don't have to download programs or install software. Just open your favorite browser and start reading and watching in an exciting new way. You can also download and install the mobile applications through the Apple iTunes store and sync them with your Apple mobile device.
Vook has a simple idea: put great filmmakers together with great authors and let them create a new kind of media. But for this to succeed, we need a talented filmmaker who can be imaginative, work with another creative vision and shoot and edit for an entirely new form.
For more than 500 years the book has been a remarkably stable entity: a coherent string of connected words, printed on paper and bound between covers. (Vook)
But in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment. The readers are invited to log on to a Web site to watch brief videos that flesh out the plot.
Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading. (Rich 2009)
I would like to quote at length form what Moroko Rich reported in The New York Times (Oct 1, 2009 Pg A1)
“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging and interesting the reader,” said Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University and author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.” But, she added, “Can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”
The most obvious way technology has changed the literary world is with electronic books. Over the past year devices like Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader have gained in popularity. But the digital editions displayed on these devices remain largely faithful to the traditional idea of a book by using words — and occasional pictures — to tell a story or explain a subject
Simon & Schuster is also releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds long that supplement — and in some cases advance — the story line.
“Everybody is trying to think about how books and information will best be put together in the 21st century,” said Judith Curr, publisher of Atria Books, the Simon & Schuster imprint that is releasing the electronic editions in partnership with Vook, a multimedia company. She added, “You can’t just be linear anymore with your text.” (Rich 2009)

Well, the question may arise at the end of this paper reading that ‘what is the meaning of this comparative survey of art of telling story? I would end this paper with following stolen words – quoted randomly from ‘The Search is All?: The Pursuit of Meaning in Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot, Staring at the Sun and A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters’ written by Wojciech Drag.

“For Oliver, who found the whole idea deeply embarrassing?” Originally used by
Terry Eagleton to opens his recent book entitled The Meaning of Life (2007). What is more, in the preface he notes that writing about such a suspect concept as “the meaning of life” seems “fit for the crazed and the comic”. Why is the notion of “meaning” embarrassing to explore? Why are we so wary of it? Possible answers are many. One of them is that we have come to live in an age that distrusts “big words” and concepts which purport to account for the totality of human existence, which disregard variety and difference. The postmodern thought, which highlights the contingency of human life and announces the lack of any solid foundation to it calls into question the notion of absolute meaning and regards it as redolent of “an old-fashioned metaphysics”. The search for absolute meaning, I will argue, can also find its expression in a desire to establish a stable context of interpretation (such as religion or art) – a framework through which one can understand one’s own experience and make sense of it. It may also take the form of a longing for truth and authenticity, which would stand firm and intact in confrontation with the relativity, skepticism and moral chaos that appear implicit in the postmodern age marked by the demise of grand narratives. In the times when no new ideas are to be expressed, what we find is experiments with forms of expression. The end of cognitive receptivity deadens the creative grey cells of human mind. Is it the absence of creativity that more importance is given to form of expression rather than the idea of expression? May be it is the urge for instant gratification or to satisfy sensual pleasure that these sort of mingling of words and videos are experimented. May be it is the habit of techno-savvy mind to go for multi-tasking – doing several things at a time – reading, viewing, listening, discussing on social network, interacting with author and other readers – that these forms are emerging. During Modernist era, Eliots, Pounds James Joyces and Beketts were in search of form of expression which can express the fragmented existed of world war worn generation. They found in stream of consciousness, absurd theatre and mythical technique. May be today’s writer wants synergism of words and videos for better expression of their ideas and to give what reader wants.

Yes, the traditional ways of writing literature and reading literature is on death bed. In all ages past, we have experienced at each and every fin de siècle there is conflict between the new and the old. For the time being while the transition is happening, we find literature with the traits of the old and the new. It’s a different matter that such literature is hated by both, the old readers and the new readers. Shakespeare’s plays were compared with bedlam asylum. Wordsworth’s poems were considered childish, D.H. Lawrence was porno-writer, T.S. Eliot was not understood to the Moderns. Today, they are all ‘classics’. In a new era of globalization and terrorism, Eagleton (2003) warns, the bundle of ideas known as post-modernism is essentially toothless. In this eloquent synthesis of a lifetime of learning, Eagleton challenges contemporary intellectuals to engage with a range of vital topics-love, evil, death, morality, religion, and revolution-that they've ignored over the past thirty years. In his cry for more holistic and humane way of "reading" the world, it becomes essential to see how art of storytelling is undergoing sweeping change under the influence of digital age. It would be interesting to watch how will comparative literature and literary theory respond to these new practices? Will the theorists and critics consider “old” theories fulfilled by the „empowerment of the reader”? Will they feel the need to forge new concepts and new methods? Or will they seek entirely new perspectives to which traditional methods can be adjusted? Alternative conceptual and methodological discourses emerge in present-day discourses on literature, springing from totally different points of view. The expansion of literature beyond the paper-written support and the expansion of digital media to the realms of literature engage writers and researchers of the literary field in a rethinking of their own creative identity and of their disciplinary approach. (Echinox Journal)


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Arrogance of the Educated Political Leaders

(This was posted by Dilip Barad on 17 August 2011 on Facebook during the high time of Anna Hazare Movement for Lokpal Bill against UPA-2 Government.)

Faith in education feels tremors! Educated ministers (Manmohan Singh, Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram etc) are bent on snatching basic human and civil rights of the citizens of the largest democracy of the world. I believed 'democracy without education' is ‘dictatorship under the cloak of democracy'. I will have to rethink - does education lead to better democratic state??? Are educated people/ministers better to govern/administer than uneducated? These political leader are not only educated in India so we criticize Indian Education System, but they are educated and got experience from world renowned Universities of the World. 

It is to be noted that Anna Hazare has taken education till 7th standard - primary school only. As the family was not financiable to educate children, he worked and got recruited in Indian Army as Truck Driver. So, the fight to free India from corruption by bringing in strong Jan Lokpal Bill was between highly educated ministers of UPA-2 under PM Manmohan Singh and lowly educated Anna Hazare who became unanimous and undisputed leader of educated young India.

Well, it is fact universally acknowledged that education systems, worldwide, have some fault that it fails to identify talents or lack futuristic vision. Say for instance, the young ones who revolutionized world in last 2-3 decades were all drop outs or their talents went unheeded by American Universities. I am talking about Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Mark Zukerberg (Facebook) to make a few popular personalities.

Well, the point here is not about University drop outs making 'big' in the real life. Here it is about democracy, elected representatives and their education qualifications. If we believe that education is necessary for better democracy and elect educated candidates to make state of affairs good for the people, then the way some political leaders behave in India, makes us disappointed. It is disheartening to see that education breeds 'arrogance' rather than 'sense of understanding'. Education seems to take us away from common-sense.

During Anna Hazare Movement for a strong Lokpal Bill in Parliament, the elected representatives sitting inside the Parliament failed to understand the mood of the Nation. Anna Hazare got tremendous support from the people of India. Though the Anna Hazare Movement failed, yet the people remembered it and in 2014 elections voted Congress led UPA-2 government our of Parliament. 

Prime Minister: Dr. Manmohan Singh: Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, since 2004, is one of the most honored Statesman in the globe. He is the highest qualified Prime Minister in the world. He is known for his integrity, honesty, knowledge and intelligence in economic and financial matters. 

  • Wright's Prize for distinguished performance at St John's College, Cambridge, 1955 and 1957
  • Wrenbury scholar, University of Cambridge, 1957;
  • DPhil (Oxford), DLitt (Honoris Causa); PhD thesis on India's export competitiveness.
Read his profile:

Kapil Sibal obtained his M.A. in History from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, Delhi and LL.M. from Harvard Law School, USA. Hel obtained a Master's in Law from Harvard Law School in 1977. In his time at Harvard Law School, he demonstrated himself to be a good scholar, the ultimate \"reasonable man\" in discussions. (surprise???!!!)

Chidambaram did his schooling from the Madras Christian College Hr.Sec.School, Chennai. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Statistics from The Presidency College, Chennai, he completed his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from the Madras Law College, Chennai, and his Masters in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters from Loyola College, Chennai.

Shoe hurled at Chidambaram during press conference

Abhishek Manu Shinghvi: B.A.(Hons.), M.A., Ph.D., PIL Educated at St. Columba's School, Delhi, St. Stephen's College, Delhi University, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, U.K. and Havard University, U.S.A.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Senior Cambridge, B.A. (Hons.) in Economics, (standing first in the University), M.A. (Economics) Educated at Doon School, Dehradun, St. Stephens' College, University of Delhi, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, U.K. D.Sc. (Honoris Causa) by Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, Honorary Fellow, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, U.K., 2010

Aiyer's remark epitomized arrogance of educated Congress ministers

Pranab Mukherjee: M.A. (History), M.A. (Political Science), LL.B., D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) Educated at Vidyasagar College, Suri, Calcutta University, West Bengal.

Ahmed Patel: B.Sc. Educated at Shree Jayendra Puri Arts and Science College, Bharuch (South Gujarat University) and M.S. University, Baroda.

Sonia Gandhi: Three years course in foreign languages (English & French) completed in 1964 at Istituto Santa Teresa, Turin, Italy. Certificate in English from Lennox Cook School, Cambridge, U.K. completed in 1965.

These are the comments received under this post on FB:

Jignesh Gohill and the irony is that the person (anna hazare) who fights for these democratic rights has studied only up to 7th.
17 August 2011 at 10:20 · Unlike · 5

Jagdish Anerao not exactly so, dear, they are very kind to their dear vote catchers kasab and afzal guru, while Anna loves India, the terrorists hate India and so they live peacefully
17 August 2011 at 14:54 · Unlike · 2

Hiren Bhatt Duties of a teacher: to finish the syllabi
Goal/objectives of students: to pass exams with good grades.

It's the biggest stupidity to expect this kind of education to bring about desirable changes.
17 August 2011 at 17:49 · Unlike · 2

Jignesh Gohill Example of anna hazare and all above ministers clearify the difference between 'education' and 'cultivation'.
17 August 2011 at 17:56 · Unlike · 2

Vijay Mangukiya Manmohan Singh is alike Macbeth who is forced to rule and sit on the throne by Soniya Gandhi (Lady Macbeth) who is dominating upon him. In Shakespearean play, Lady Macbeth instils or rather forces Macbeth to go forward at any cost, and thus following her all istructions, he commits murder after murder. Similar is th case of M. Singh. He also follows what MADAM instructs him to do. And Banquo ( L.K.Advani) is waiting for his fall. He wants Fleance (Rajnath) to go on the throne. In short, all these political leaders whether they are educated or uneducated are playing drama and we are the spectators.
17 August 2011 at 20:28 · Unlike · 4

Simone Cotic Fake problem, skills don't mean character, another education.
18 August 2011 at 04:11 · Unlike · 1

Hiren Bhatt Character is not just a collection of certificates
18 August 2011 at 09:50 · Unlike · 2

Jay Mehta @Dilip Barad: This is eye-opening.
19 August 2011 at 19:03 · Like

Sunday 17 May 2015

Issues in South Asian Literature and Films

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This presentation was made for and presented in Plenary of International Seminar on South Asian Literature & Culture organised by Higher Education & Research Society, Navi Mumbai - Pune (Maharashtra-India). 6-7 September, 2013.

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Issues in South Asian Literature and Films from Dilip Barad


  • 1. South Asian Literature and Films: An Endeavor to Create Bridges of the Friendship across the Borders amidst the World Broken up into Fragments by Narrow Domestic Walls
  • 2. In memory of Sushmita Banerjee’s Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife
  • 3. The Scaffold of Presentation • The Nomenclature • SAARC Moto • E V Ramakrishnan – Relocating … • Nation & Narration: Homi K. Bhabha • Farrukh Dhondy – nation and novel • Terry Eagleton: Political Criticism • Narrative structure - Memory Novels • Thematic Overview of select SA Fiction & Poems • Films as Lingua Franca
  • 4. Nomenclature • South Asia vs Indian Subcontinent • Non acceptance of ‘India’ – inferiority complex and India’s superiority complex - Fertile ground for Subaltern discourse • Countries in South Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan et all.
  • 5. SAARC: motto • We are mad dreamers of the SAARC region. Let government do their political and diplomatic work. Let us, the writers and the creative fraternity of the region endeavor to create bridges of the friendship across the borders. • Role of literature in creating the cultural coalescence among the said countries.
  • 6. E. V. Ramakrishnan – relocate Indian literature • relocate literature in the context of caste, religion, region, gender etc… issues of everyday struggles… Literature is shaped by the material condition of society.”
  • 7. Homi K. Bhabha: ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ (Nation and Narration) • Nation – the modern Janus: the uneven development of capitalism inscribes both progression and regression, political rationality and irrationality in the very genetic code of the nation – it is by nature, ambivalent. • Nation is narrated in ‘terror of the space or race of the Other; the comfort of social belonging, the hidden injuries of class, the customs of caste, the powers of political affiliation; the sense of social order, the sensibility of sexuality; the blindness of bureaucracy, the strait insight of institutions; the quality of justice, the commonsense of injustice; the langue of the law and the parole of the people’.
  • 8. Homi K. Bhabha: ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ (Nation and Narration) • It is to explore the Janus-faced ambivalence of language itself in the construction of the Janus-faced discourse of the nation. • Nation is an agency of ambivalent narration that holds ‘culture’ at its most productive position, as a force for ‘subordination, fracturing, diffusing, reproducing as much as producing, creating, forcing and guiding’.
  • 9. Homi K. Bhabha: ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ (Nation and Narration) • The ambivalent, antagonistic perspective of nation as narration will establish the cultural boundaries of the nation so that they may be acknowledged as ‘containing’ thresholds of meaning that must be crossed, erased and translated in the process of cultural production. • What kind of cultural space is the nation with its transgressive boundaries and its interruptive’ interiority?
  • 10. Farrukh Dhondy: The Nation and the Novel (3 Nov, 2012 – ToI) • How is South Asian writing in a universal human context to be evaluated? Perhaps as all literature has ever been? The European short story was born of the parable and the fable. • The novel in England, France, Russia and Germany was, in an important way, born of a crisis of religious faith.
  • 11. F.D.: Nation & Novel • when a culture ceases to live and assess itself by the laws of Moses or Jesus, when Dorothea of Middlemarch or Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary feel what they feel and do what they do, they can call upon no strictly biblical justification. • It takes George Eliot, Tolstoy and Gustave Flaubert to construct a form which captures those nuances of feeling and brings an inclusive sympathy to the possibilities of human and social behaviour.
  • 12. F.D.: Nation & Novel • The novel in the European context was called upon to supply in narrative the definition of 'love', 'faith', 'loyalty', 'generosity', 'compassion', 'priggishness', 'snobbery', 'war', 'peace' and every other abstract noun in the dictionary. • It took up where faith left off and did the opposite of what heroic myths used to do. Some European writing, the novels of Dostoevsky and the philosophical works of Nietzsche took this crisis of faith and the death of myth head on, asking and explicitly answering questions.
  • 13. F.D.: Nation & Novel • And South Asia? • Of which necessity was South Asian writing in English born? • The obvious answer is nationalism and the struggle for Independence. • The influence of the writing, though widely translated, suffered from the limitation of being in English.
  • 14. F.D. : Film as lingua franca • At the same time as this contribution to nationalism was formulated, a far more influential media was coming into its own. • Film became the lingua franca of India and it exclusively dedicated itself to the various purposes and themes of nationalism, asserting India's great past (Raja Harishchandra), and following a Gandhian agenda in attacking untouchability (Achhut Kanya) and elevating the status of women (Razia Begum).
  • 15. F.D. • The cinematic definitions created and were bound by myth. • Modernity, the urbanisation of India, new institutions, industrialisation, global imports, rampant capitalism and corruption were changing India (read Indian subcontinent) and though the myths persisted, were modified and increasingly seen to be fantasy or escapism.
  • 16. F.D. • The task then of the new cinema and of South Asian writing was to distance oneself from the myth and describe and dissect the personalities and possibilities of existence that emerge.
  • 17. Terry Eagleton: Political Criticism • “There is no need to drag politics into literary theory(text), it has been there from the beginning.” • This should not surprise – for any body of theory (text) concerned with human meaning, value, language, feeling and experience will inevitably engage with broader, deeper beliefs about the nature of human individuals and societies, problems of power and sexuality, interpretations of past history, versions of the present and hopes for the future. • Literary Theory: An Introduction
  • 18. Narrative – Memory Novel: Dipesh Chakrabarty • One needs to understand the relation between memory and identity”, the “shared structure of a sentiment”, “the sense of trauma and its contradictory relation to the question of the past”. • Trauma is memory. • One of principal arguments seems to be that “the narrative structure of the memory of trauma works on a principle opposite to that of any historical narrative”. • According to him, “a historical narrative leads up to the event in question, explaining why it happened, and why it happened when it did, and this is possible only when the event is open to explanation. What cannot be explained belongs to the marginalia of history.” • ‘Memories of Displacement: The Poetry and Prejudice of Dwelling’ in Habitation of Modernity, pp 116-17.
  • 19. Issues: Thematic overview of Contemporary Literatures of major countries of South Asia • Bhutan • Nepal • Bangladesh • Sri Lanka • Pakistan • India
  • 20. Bhutan • Headwind: Laxmi’s Story: By Alice Anna Verheij – the struggle of a refugee child growing within the constrained walls of a socially and culturally conservative society – Nepal-Bhutan insurgency. • Exiled agonies: A Poem by Devi Subedi – Agony of Nepali living as refugee in Nepal, Bhutan and India – and then escaped to the West. India did not help or support their cause.
  • 21. Nepal • Bhanubhakta Acharya & Lekhanath Paudyal: Sanskrit and spiritual tradition Siddhicharan Shrestha & Laxmi Prasad Devkota – revolutionary poets - nihilism replaced spiritual tradition - There are many modern nepali authors who has written groundbreaking innovative new Nepali literature e.g. Indra Bahadur Rai, Parijat, Bhupi Sherchan, Shailendra Sakar, Kavitaram Shrestha, Yuyutsu Sharma, Bimal Nibha, Narayan Wagle, Mahananda Poudyal etc. - Diaspora writer on rise.
  • 22. Nepal • Govinda Raj Bhattarai’s masterpiece Sukaratka Paila – translated - Socrates’ Footsteps – set against the time when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak • Contribution of Michael Hutt • ‘Yogmaya’s life’ -in a text called Sarvartha Yogabani and then analysed the attempts that have been made by various activists and scholars to portray her as, variously, a feminist rebel, a social reformer and a progressive poet. • Source: K. Pradhan: A History of Nepali Literature, New Delhi: Sahitya Akad., 1984 – Nepalese literature, ed. by Madhav Lal Karmacharya, Kathmandu : Royal Nepal Academy 2005
  • 23. Bangladesh • East Pakistan Era: Language, communal, rural & urban problems • Syed Waliullah's Lalshalu(1948) • Mahbub-ul Alam’s Mofijon(1948) • Jibon Khuda (1955) by Abul Monsoor Ahmed Ranga Probhat (1957) by Abul Fazal, • Khuda O Asha (1964) by Alauddin Al-Azad, • Neer Sandhani(1968) and Nishuti Rater Gatha (1968) by Anwar Pasha
  • 24. Bangladesh • Bangladesh era: Liberation war, its consequences, hopeless human existence and analysis of human mind and society • Anwar Pasha's Rifle Roti Aurat (1973) • Shaukat Osman'sJahannam Hoite Bidai (1971), Nekre Aranyo (1973) Dui Soinik (1973), • Rashid Haider's Khanchai (1975), and Andha Kathamala (1982), • Shawkat Ali'sJatraa (1976), Selina Hossain's Hangor Nodi Granade (1976), • Mahmudul Huq's Jiban Aamar Bone (1976), Syed Shamsul Haq's Nil Dangshon (1981) and Nishiddho Loban (1981), Harun Habib's Priyo Joddha Priyotoma (1982) • Amar Jato Glani (1973) byRashid Karim, • Ferari Surya(1974) by Rabeya Khatun, • Abelay Ashamoy (1975) by Amjad Hossain
  • 25. Bangladesh • The Good Muslim: Tahmima Anam – The family crises mirror the state of the nation; criminals are on the loose. The stories of women raped and abused during the war for an independent Bangladesh have been erased or marginalised in the search for a clean, linear history. Frantic forms of religiosity proliferate. – is an exceptional and searching look at the hidden horrors of war and the appeal of religion in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh war of liberation – The division is a result of Sohail's fanatical devotion to and Maya's alienation from religion – Trilogy – The Golden Age
  • 26. Sri Lanka • Chinaman : The Legend of Pradeep Mathew: Shehan Karunatilaka • Pradeep S. Mathew, a spin bowler who has mysteriously disappeared • On his quest to find this unsung genius, WG uncovers a coach with six fingers, a secret bunker below a famous stadium, a Tamil Tiger warlord, and startling truths about Sri Lanka, cricket and himself. • That world has long needed a suitable metaphor and he has discovered it: Cricket
  • 27. Sri Lanka • Island of a Thousand Mirrors: Nayomi Munaveera • explores how women in Sri Lanka, on opposite sides of the civil war, negotiate the realities of life • attempts to transcend a little more than 60 years of history—the violent and strife-torn decades of post-colonial Sri Lanka—through three generations of two families.
  • 28. Pakistan • Home Boy: H.M. Naqvi • 9/11 • City where origins matter less than the talent - three Metrostanis have the guts to claim the place as their own. But after 9/11, things go horribly wrong. Suddenly, they find themselves in a changed, charged America. • Making the logical leap from dualities to multiplicities, ponders New York’s reputation as that proverbial melting pot of peoples and cultures • a bloated sense of self-importance, it should be pointed out that, for the most part, it sidesteps the pitfalls of over-earnestness and sentimentality that are the hallmarks of a lot of new South Asian literature (Mira Hashmi) • 2011 SAL DSC Award winner
  • 29. Pakistan • How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: Mohsin Hamid • ‘Self-help book’ as literary device • shows what it means to get rich in a rising Asia in a new novel at a time when the developing economies in the region are straining to push up their GDP figures. • a nameless city in South Asia that sizzles with energy, opportunity and inequality. • touches upon new South Asian realities - broken hearts, failed marriages, culture of corruption, politics, lifestyle pressures on fast street and the perennial near-war edge thatPakistan balances on.
  • 30. Pakistan • The Wandering Falcon: Jamil Ahmad • Pak-Afghan Border – tribes • a blistering critique of the ruthless ways of nation states, as they seek to impose artificially constructed borders on older, more fluid worlds. • The Death of Camels – Gul Jana – koran • A Point of Honour – Tor Baz’s parents murdered – Baluch rebel dismayed to death
  • 31. Pakistan • Our Lady of Alice Bhatti: Mohammed Hanif • Alice, criminal and savior, the victim and heroine of a deft, evil little novel of comic genius. • And will this story — and grisly Sacred Heart — be taken as a parable for Pakistan? • every turn of the novel reader is confronted with the corruption and perversion that is indicative of Pakistani life today.
  • 32. India • The Lowland: Jhumpa Lahiri • Two Brothers: Udayan and Subhash Mitra • Ud drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes • Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.
  • 33. India • The Immigrant: Manju Kapoor • Nina & Anand: Arranged Marriage: Canada • a chronicler of middle-class Indian manners • Husband suffers from sexual problem • Her meat eating was the result of fragmentation and distress, not a desire for convenience • Her body was her own - and that included her digestive system and her vagina. • Mother’s death- What will she make of her western, feminist independence? • scope is narrower and its mode more comic
  • 34. India • From the Ruins of Empire: Pankaj Mishra • Mishra tells this story through the biographies of three public intellectuals: the itinerant Persian-born agitator Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-97); the Chinese reformer Liang Qichao (1873-1929); and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). • Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • 35. India • The Monkey-Man: Usha K.R. • What was it that they saw? A bat? A malevolent avatar? A sign of the displeasure of the gods? The grotesque mascot of a city that is growing too fast and crumbling too soon? Or merely a monkey that has lost its way? • Using evocative prose that reflects her profound understanding of human nature, Usha K.R. delves into the lives of her characters and their unexpectedly linked destinies in a city that has grown from a ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ to the frenetic hub of the country’s IT industry. • Fictional device - a metaphor for the dramatic, overwhelming and grotesque transformation of the city. • Is Bangalore, India? South Asia?
  • 36. India • The Walls of Delhi: Uday Prakash. Tr. Jason Grunebaum • Three stinging, darkly comic tales capture in telling detail life and survival in todays India. In the title story a sweeper discovers a cache of black money and escapes to see the Taj Mahal with his underage mistress; in Mohandas a Dalit races to reclaim his life stolen by an upper-caste identity thief-gun- maoist; and in Mangosil a babys head gets bigger and bigger as he gets smarter and smarter, while his family tries to find a cure.
  • 37. India • A Life Apart: Neel Mukherjee • Ritwik – a gay protagonist * familiar territory in the postcolonial novel of displacement, more original idea - writes wonderfully and wryly about the young man's exploration of everyday gay life Ritwik is writing his own novel, a novel within the novel. This parallel narrative, which reimagines a female character from a Rabindranath Tagore text, reflects suggestively on history, literary, timr and culture. It blends the poignancy of a coming-of-age story with the rawer excitements of an urban thriller laced with sex and violence
  • 38. India • Narcopolis: Jeet Thayil • Dimple – Eunuch protagonist • Poverty, sex, violence, opium • Chinese revolution – digression • Myth of stone-man • India has been reincarnating behind the blue smoke of the last pipes
  • 39. Narcopolis • Bombay: I found Bombay and opium, the drug and the city, the city of opium and the drug Bombay.” • Drug literature – Opium: symbolically represented as the idea of religion, films, sex, freedom, memory and dreams. • The narrative is true to its subject matter – opiated, hazy, viewed through foggy smoke, dream like sequences, stream of consciousness at another level. • . . .Soporo’s book, within Lee’s father’s book (Zheng He), within the story of Lee’s life, as told to Dimple, within the pipe’s narration, as told to narrator Dom, within the book Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil. (Interview_2)
  • 40. Dimple/Zeenat • The story of eunuch Dimple / Zeenat: Pg. 11 & 289 • Like Bombay’s, Dimple’s name does not remain fixed. She was originally (re)named after the beautiful Dimple Kapadia, of the film Bobby (the plot of which rings with familiar themes). She is (re)renamed, again after a film star— this time Zeenat Aman—by Rashid, who takes her to a movie (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), in which “Zeenie” plays a character who has renamed herself Janice and run away from home. • Again, we have this undercurrent of exile and separation. In fact, the word hijra is etymologically related to the Arabic hjr, which refers to leaving one’s tribe. • Sarah Van Bonn: SouthAsianJournal:Literary Review
  • 41. India • The White Tiger: Arvind Adiga • You see, I am in light now, but I was born and raised in Darkness . . . Please understand, Your Excellency, that India is two countries in one: an India of Light, and an India of Darkness. The Ocean brings light to my country. .. But the river brings darkness to India – the black river. • Inside, you will find an image of a saffron-coloured creature, half man half monkey…
  • 42. India • “But this is your fate if you do your job well – with honesty, dedication, and sincerity, the way Gandhi would have done it…. I did my job with near total dishonesty, lack of dedication, and insincerity…: • about caste • ‘The villages are so religious in the Darkness” • Democracy! “I am India’s most faithful voter, and I still have not seen the inside of a voting booth’. • Pg. 318:all the skin-whitening creams sold in the markets of India won’t clean my hands again. • Conclusion: pg. 319-320 – I will never say I made a mistake that night in Delhi when I slit my master’s throat.
  • 43. India • River of Smoke: Amitav Ghosh • 2nd of Ibis Triology • Bahram Modi, a Parsi opium trader fromBombay • Canton – China • story of the opium trade is an ugly one, but the spirit of the novel is enthusiastic tragicomedy, not moralising. . . Symbolically, of our times • Bahram – Barrack • ‘O’ – Other, Opium, Oil
  • 44. India • Indian Myth is ****: Meena Kandasamy
  • 45. India Meena Kandasamy • The truth about Dharma, the man, illigimate son, bastard, Justice is . . . • Eklavya: you don’t need left thumb to pull a trigger or hurl a bomb • They killed you, the naked you, sadist fool, Bapu, you big fraud, we hate you • indra indra narindra, perfected science of slaughter, the genocidal god of gods.
  • 46. Popular Films & South Asian Relations • Zeitgeist – is well captured in popular culture • Films - one of the best mirrors to see representation of new myths, sweetly coated bitter truths, perspectivism • Popular Indian sentiments: – Presence of Pakistan in collective consciousness – Absence of all other south Asian countries . . . – West – still the best panacea of Eastern woes, worries, anguish and anxiety – forgetting the fact that the wounder cannot heal!
  • 47. Popular Films and South Asian Relations • Veer-Zaara • Fanaa • Ek Tha Tiger • Kurbaan • Vishvaroopam • Gaddar • Madras Café • Khuda Ke Liye • Ramchand Pakistani • Escape from Taliban
  • 48. Conclusion: • The present seems to be dark so far as polito-socio- cultural relations are concerned, but the hope shines out . . . • Literature is yet not representing – what ‘ought’ to be? • Well, but the question is: Will literature do what we want it to be done – or rather it will be faithful to the truth / reality of human condition in South Asia? • Or perhaps is it not performing its role in rather metaphorical way – the journey across the borders that of Bahram in River of Smoke or a boy in Ramchand Pakistani or that of Veer in search of Zaara or Agents of Indian RAW – Vinod, Vikram or Tiger – symbolically expressed a desire to bridge the borders – ???
  • 49. Let us end with a hope. . . • Both Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi were against the nation-state – Swaraj vs Suraj • For Tagore, the concept of India was not territorial but ideational i.e. India for him was not a geographical expression but an idea. • His view of nationalism was more about spreading a homogenised universalism than seeking political freedom for India. • Gandhi – ‘our struggle for freedom is to bring peace in the world’. • What gives us reason to be hopeful is ‘freshness in narratice, newness of metaphor & confidence, boldness & fearlessness of new breed of writers’
  • 50. Thank You Dilip Barad Dept. of English, M.K. Bhavnagar University Gujarat (India)

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