Explain the impact of socio-political, religious and economic conditions of the respective periods in Indian writing in English.

Explain the impact of socio-political, religious and economic conditions of the respective periods in Indian writing in English.

1 Answer

  1. Literature of any age holds a mirror to the society of that period. In doing so, it seeks to reflect the social fabric and expose the many social evils that plague nearly every modern-day society. This is true for Modern Indian literature as well. The social conditions of India not only determine the subjects and themes in literary works but also impact the manner in which literature is received and interpreted.

    Ever since its Independence in 1947, literature in India has taken a new turn. No longer are the British colonisers and India’s struggle for independence central to Indian literature. They undoubtedly still form a background and thus continue to hold historical significance, but the changing social setup has altered the ways of writers and consequently their writing. The increased tolerance and acceptability of unconventional themes in literature points to a certain broadening of the mental horizons of Indian society.

    Owing to cultural diversity, the fabric of Indian society is complex. The modern Indian novel and poetry seek to capture the essence of Indian life with all its complexities. For a society that is constantly in flux, literature has also been dynamic. The social stratification in India is essentially done on lines of religion and caste. Untouchability still remains a bitter truth in many parts of India. Due to this, there has been a surge in writers from the Minority or Oppressed sections. The emergence of Dalit literature as a new discipline is in itself proof of how conditions of the marginalised groups have become a subject of literary interest.

    The social reality of modern India is also expressed in the treatment of the subjects of alienation, identity and rootlessness in works of Indian diasporic writers like Jhumpa Lahiri. Arvind Adiga’s novel “The White Tiger” is an exemplary representation of the ugliest social realities of corruption and restricted social mobility in India.

    Gender Inequality, too, remains a major concern. Mahesh Dattani’s play “Tara” gives a heart-searing portrayal of gender discrimination. This play voices the contemporary issue of preference for a male child over a female child in most Indian communities. From this struggle to even out the gender differences has emerged the genre of Feminist literature in India. Modern-day writers like Arundhati Roy have voiced issues of women in their works. Kamala Das remains a pioneer in the field of Feminist literature. The ideas of women’s sexuality, liberation from gender stereotypes and freedom from the cult of the domestic woman are recurrent in today’s works. In Girish Karnad’s play “Naga-Mandala”, the unhappy married life of Rani not only highlights the modern-day problem of marriages but also the male chauvinism and the oppression of women.

    The East versus West conflict is central to modern Indian society. Due to an educated young population that constitutes more than half of the Indians, society has spiralled into further conflicts. There is an ever-widening gulf between the traditional Indian value system and the newer, more progressive and apparently Westernised worldview of the younger population. As Indian society attempts to free itself from the clutches of orthodox thought, literature strives to capture the essence of this conflict. The subject of degeneration of values and the conflict between change and preservation, therefore, impact a writer’s work in a choice of themes and settings.

    The family unit in Indian society was traditionally bigger. The joint family system is crumbling and the family is disintegrating into a smaller unit. An emphasis on the individual rather than the community is a hallmark of the modern world and India is no exception. Much of Modern Indian Poetry addresses this present-day condition in which the joint-family system is disappearing.

    The failure of institutions like marriage and the fragility of other familial relations is explored in Arundhati Roy’s novel “The God of Small Things”. Vikram Seth’s novel “A Suitable Boy” also aptly highlights the conflict a modern-day Indian feels when going through the process of choosing a life partner. It brings forth the pressure of social obligations and the need to conform to norms that determine such choices.

    Modern Indian literature also reflects modern thought, which is unconventional and often radical. Such unconventional modern themes like homosexuality, are explored in Mahesh Dattani’s plays “Bravely Fought the Queen” and “Dance Like a Man”. Hence, Modern Indian English Literature has made treatment of such formerly unacceptable topics possible. This is how the social conditions, the changing mindsets and the broadening perspectives impact literature.

    Thus, Modern Indian Literature does not limit itself to a mere glorification of the multiculturalism and diversity of Indian society but also presents a harsh critique of the social conditions of contemporary India.

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