Tuesday, December 12, 2006

changes and innovation in the indian short story

These are excerpts which forms the second bit on the introduction to the Indian short story.

In the post-Independence period, the short story has emerged as the most popular literary form only next to the novel, in Indian writing. The short story has been able to document as well as interpret the wide variety of experiences the Indian society has passed through these decades. The modern Indian short story has helped make sense of the content of thoughts and speech in a changing world. With increase in literacy, there also has been an unprecedented growth in the number of periodicals, magazines and journals in all languages of India. The complexity of the modern mind, the need of the creative mind to innovate and the proliferation of periodicals in the print media have together contributed to the making of the modern Indian short story. What the story gains in this period is a greater inwardness of form and deeper understanding of the human life.

At the center of these stories, one often meets a tormented young man/woman
who is unable to reconcile himself/herself to his/her new environment. This
alienation comes from a deep-rooted sense of displacement which is qualitatively
different from the one occasioned by colonialism.

The elitist bias of the short story was brought into relief by another
generation of radical writers who redefined the direction of the short story.
The dalit writers and the woman writers have highlighted issues of caste,
gender, religion and ethnicity in their writing. The significance of the Dalit writing or Bandaya movement or feminist writing is that it has redefined our conceptual categories such as literary tradition, literary imagination and the nature of the literary text.

In Baburao Bagul's stort Mother, the young boy is unable to reconcile the violence of deprivation of his everyday life with the idealized view of mother as 'a river of love and benediction'. It portrays life in an urban slum with rare sympathy.

Writers like Mahasweta Devi look beyond the literary to incorporate issues
like social justice into the thematic range of their writing. This is also true
of several dalit writers who have tried to describe what they went through
without any self-pity.

Writers like, U.R. Anantha Murthy, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Anita Desai, Mahasweta Devi, Ashokmitran have written on varied topics. Mahasweta Devi has concentrated on dalit and their imposed lifestyle that is wretched.

Rajinder Singh Bedi's Lajwanti written in the mid-sixties is one of ther most poignant stories to come out of the Partition experience. Lajwanti, an abducted woman who is returned finds that she remains an outsider, inspite of being formally accepted by her husband. Sunder Lal now, considers her a 'devi'. In his introduction to Partition stories, Alok Balla writes: Lajwanti longs to cease lamenting for the past, to be accepted as a victim of historical circumstances, to be treated a s human being with flesh and blood, who has endured a lot but not withered when touched, and the above all to be embraced as a woman who is physically alive and longs for the generosity of love.

Works of fiction have the power to exorcise the ghosts fo history. It
is by narrating and recounting events that we overcome the traumas of our lives.
Bedi's Lajwanti helps us to come to terms with one of the darkest
moments in our recent history.


December Stud said...

Good read...I cannot understand the concept of 'dalita sAhitya" though. Really, can I start a Brahmin, or Lingayat , or Vokkaliga genre ?

I always thought it was downright foolish to come up with something like that. At least 'baMDAya sAhitya' is a 'little' more meaningful.

BTW, the article says short stories are less popular than novels, really ? I always thought short stories attracted more crowd coz you could finish it fast. At least, that's my reasoning for preferring short stories over novels.

muskaan said...

hmmm short stories r more popular! ...... in today's instant world; ppl r crazy on instant food, instant money, instant coffee, instant anything ..... when such is the case ...... how can short stories fall behind novels ... i believe short stories to b more popular ..... infact i took an opinion poll among my collegues ...they tooo prefer short stories to novels ..... time being the reason :-)

December Stud said...

Time is definitely 'one' of the reasosn. I am not sure that's the ONLY reason though....

Anonymous said...

I donno why most of the short stories end tragically, leaving behind a very pessimistic essence in life. I do agree that short stories really compasses the cultural and emotional backgrounds very well, but with that tragic ending is something hard to digest with. Some of them end abruptly too.. I dont know if some one likes completing the story themselves, I don't want to do that myself. I firmly believe that stories must have definitive ending, giving the author's views.


mouna said...

dalit sahitya is another name for banDAya sahitya in kannada literature. We should keep in mind, that this article talks about indian literature as a whole than limiting itself to kannada literature.

Dalit Sahitya? yes, because, it would require utmost courage to write about a dalit's lifestyle. One simply cannot fathom the lifestyle they lead. as i meantioned their's is a wrteched one. It sounds cruel, nasty, but it is the actual truth. The following give's one an idea.

I would like to cite two examples:

'Bharathipura' by U.R.Ananathamurthy. The protagonist is the head of a very orthodox temple, in south karnataka if i'm right. This guy is uk educated, and tries to bring fresh changes into the system. He tries to teach the dalits' the alphabet, encourages them to enter the temple, use the temple pond, to protsest against their miserable lifestyle, amidst the other chiefs of the village. No matter how much he tries, the dalits' still carry faeces, as per the demands of their work. His pleadings, revolutionary mind does not bear fruit at all. Who is to blame? is it the centuries-long imposition of such work upon them, or their mind, the dumb people that they are.

Another, which i admire a lot: a man and wife, dalit once again. The man is severely ill, and basically requires clean water to drink. Unfortunatley, the only well in the village which does contain clean water lies in the compound of the village chief. The woman sneaks into the chief's compound to get water. Having noticed this, the village chief offers her two options. Either the secret be revealed, due to which they'd have to be whipped, or ostracized. Or she'll have to submit herself to his sexual pleasures. the wife opts for the latter, and succeeds in providing potable water to her husband. The husband is aware of this, but what could he have done? If he dies, the family is doomed for sure.

Works by Brahmins, lingayats, even vokkaligas for that matter does not require this bravery, as they were not subjected to these conditions. Brahmins, and lingayats were learned. Vokkaligas, though illiterate, had money and power in their hands, hence they dominated over the rest.

mouna said...

ds and muskaan,
Muskaan, thanks a lot for the opinion poll. :)

About novels being more popular than short stories, well, i justify, giving this reason.
Novels are more publicised than short stories. One does remember Mahasweta Devi for her 'Rudaali' but not for her 'Arjun'. Bhisham Sahni's 'Tamas' is well known, but his 'the boss came to dinner' is not. I guess, we need to give short stories more publicity than what it's recieving right now. Ther's absolutely no dearth of wriers in this regard, in fact, Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Githa Hariharan, Premchand... etc. specialize in short stories.

Them being more popular, due to the time factor, and as they encompass a lot within a few pages.

yes, short stories end in a very sublime fashion, some end tragically too. Probably, it is a point made by the author, to sensitize us to life's various nuances, and in the process makes us tough. Everything cannot be put under a happy-go'lucky category. If, all of them ended thus, i, personally would not have liked it.

Stories which end in a definative manner, gives us the writer's perpective, But, i think optherwise. If it is not so, we all would have to give some thought to it. Doesn't that help us grow intellectually?

December Stud said...


Yeah, I think I do understand that dalita and baMDAya are one and the same :) I was just making a point saying that at least the latetr name suited better.

And, no I do not want to classify a section of literature based on 'the way of life'. In my book, that's not a classification for literature. You could still be brave and courageous and write about the plight of dalits. You can write stories and novels and poems and what not.

Strictly my opinion...this not only creates a bigger divide in the already segregated Indian society, but also harms the healing process. Sure, write about dalit stuff, but do not segregate it. That is totally worng, to create a new section based solely on caste.

On the short stories vs novels. I am not sure I agree completely there either. You see, novels are so big and have so much more influence on the mind. It stays with you for a looooong time. There are tons of short stories and it's ahrd to relate to. See, a novel has so much more depth and such varied colors that you can talk about it your entire life. But, short stories depict just one (or a handful) of pages from a novel.

It could still mean that more people read short stories...and forget about it. You just cannot afford to 'forget' a novel.

I am playing a devil's advocate ehre. Novels 'maybe' more popular...it's just hard to imagine that, that's all.

@ Srik :
I am not sure I agree that bulk of the short stories end tragically. There are tons that don'e.

I do agree that there are quite a few which end abruptly and I ahte that. As I keep telling everyone "Prose is for the eader and Poetry is for the writer". So, if you write a short stroy, it better have a good ending :)

mouna said...

# 1, classifying literature based on the background(read dalits)?

# 2, novels or short stories?

i hope i've understood the first correctly.

# 1, i too would not favour such a situation, because as u said, it might create differences between people.

'the way of life', we are brought up in this world keeping this factor in mind, aren't we? each of us is so different, as our ways of life varies respectively. it may not matter much in todays' world but it did, about four-five decades ago. one's family is so different from the other, even within specific communities. so stories based on this idea is expected. 'the way of life' is so ingrained in us, that our daily acts, spell out our way of life easily, eg. my name :mouna, anybody would call me a hindu, a south-indian, in particular. that does tell another person about my way of life. and if the society was differentiated based on this aspect, it's natural that short stories too exhibit this, and get segregated in this fashion.

# 2, yes, i agree, novels are too huge to be forgotten. and they create a bigger impact on us. people forgetting about material, be it a novel or a short story depends on how much they are impressed by it, and how easily they forget it!!

PS: sorry, if i've got U annoyed!

yes, srik, if a short story does come from your side, it better be a happy one!!

December Stud said...

Nope, there is nothing to get annoyed. I really enjoy the healthy discussions and note exchanges with you.

Just to summarize my points....

#1. I do understand your views. My point is simple. It's not very appropriate to have your name as "Mouna Brahmin" or "Mouna Lingayat" or "Mouna Vokkaliga" or "Mouna Dalit". Your name can be just "Mouna" and you can practice whatever your practices are. [Yes, I do know that it's quite easy to recognize if a person is a Brahmin, Lingayat, Vokkaliga, Dalit etc...by their last names..but that's not the point].

Again, my point is that it is sad to segregate based on caste, even in literature.

On that note, I ahve to be honest and tell you that I was so bored to read 'kusumabAle' after the first one or two pages. I closed the book. On the same note, inspite of how 'maMdra' starts, I was thouroughly drawn by the book. Really, no caste factor there. It's just my likings and the competence of the writers (again, strictly my perspective).

#2. Yes, I completely agree with you on this. When I was in India, I sued to read several short stories written by Smt. Vasumathi Udupa. She would regularly write in all Kannada magazines. ever read her ? Brilliant !!!

Thank you for a very engaging conversation.

Shiv said...


I don't want to pass judgement on Short stories v/s Novels.All I wanted to say is writing short stories seems more difficult than writing novels.In short stories, you have to bring the entire emotions,all characters and finally you should be able to touch the chords.

I too feel , 'Bandaya sahitya' looks more better than 'Dalita Sahiyta'.With due regards to Dalits, isn't calling it as 'Dalit Sahitya',the literature form created by/for/about Dalits is again a way of segregating them in literary world also?

mouna said...

short stories are indeed, difficult to write. probably that's the reason why i prefer them at times.

banDaya sahitya, a better name?
maybe yes, 'maybe' 'dalita sahitya' can create a rift, i'm not too sure of this..