Expression of Violence in Indian English Poetry

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Expression of Violence in the Poetry of Ranjeet Hoskote, Tabish Khair, Imtiaz Dharker, and Aga Shahid Ali


 In the 20th-century literary world, violence, shifting from the destruction of extensive communal violence to individual crimes of murder, rape and abuse. Unable to accept a fallen world, many poets often employ violence as the central motif in their works. They attempts to separate the sources and effects of violence ending in anger, frustration, despair and even suicide. For some poets, however, violence has provided a source of creativity and change. The violence in post-modern literature has used to make sensational appeal. It has potential to shock the readers and leading them to question their beliefs. It has emphasized the historical significance of violence in the period of war, when poets complained a world mired in conflict, and in which aggression threatened to destroy all human qualities.

 The Indian English poetry has flourished after independence and it has more than thousand collections of poems. There are many poets, who touched various themes related to social problems. ‘Violence’ is a dominant theme in the Indian English Poetry. Even if we turn the pages of History, we will find a long list of poets with dominant theme of violence. This theme is not there for any destructive purpose but to make corrections in customs, rituals, politics and social life. After the independence of civilization human being suppressed the instinct of violence but it was returned with various forms of violence. Contemporary Indian English poets structured the aspect of violence in their poetry. They expressed their anger through the lines of poetry. Their restlessness compelled them to echo the violence.

 Violence has been part of the human experience throughout the world. It killed millions of people in every year, and many more suffer different types of injury. It results in suicide attempts, interpersonal violence and collective violence. The violence is the primary cause of human and animal death. Though violence has always been existing in human being, the world does not have to support it as an inevitable part of human condition. As long as there has been violence, there is no healthy progress of human being. Violence leads to the destruction of society and disturbs hormonal lives of the people. It is staunch enemy of democracy. The peaceful coexistence of civilization is rejected by violence.

 Violence becomes a part of our lives, so poet expressed violence through their poetry. Every poet has his personal point of view and particular way of looking at this concerning problematic issue. To create fear among the people is one of the basic characteristic of violence. Basically, violence is unlawful use of verbal and non-verbal actions and especially against civilians. Violence is means to be create fear among the people to achieve a political, economic, religious aim.

 India is a democratic country. The notion of equality is celebrated in our parliament. In a developing society it is essential that every citizen play equal and important role, we all are equal and we all have our human rights. Then, why many people have to face various difficulties. In our society, many people become the victim of social assault. Now a day, this has become a hot-cake in the newspapers. The violence becomes burning problem in contemporary era. The focus of this research will be on the issue of violence which has been occurred due to various violence modes. In this research I want to interpret through the critical study of selected poems of contemporary Indian English Poets.

Background of Indian English Poetry:

 The decade of nineteen ninety was very popular for modern Indian English Poetry. There were emergence of new poets with new enthusiasm and new issues in poetry. They are freeform colonial influence but they are under the presser and tensions in the country. There were large historical, social and economic incidents changed their perspective to look at the world with new lens. The most striking feature of the phase, poetry is its range of anxiety, themes and the use of languages. These new generation poets are unafraid, motivated and clear-sighted. They use English with a sense of ease. Their language, rhythms, style and forms are inventive, original and contemporary. They are open, friendly and supportive. These poets are also concerned with the concept of home. Many of them are diasporic so they write about Indian problems and personal anguish for displacement. They divide their time between India and abroad. They are at home in the world anywhere. One more aspect of these poets is that they are free from colonial hang-ups, so they use English language with great felicity, facility and strength. They abandoned agonizing about language. There range makes the different aspect of their writing. The poets of this new generation are Meena Alexander, Bibhu Padhi, Vikram Seth, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Prabhanjan Mishra, Manohar Shetty, Imtiaz Dharkar, Vinay Dharwadkar, Aga Shahid Ali, Vijay Sheshadri, Sujata Bhatt, C. P. Surendran, Jeet Thayil, Vijay Nambisan, Ranjit Hoskote and Tabish Khair.

 Post-Independence Poetry in English is certainly remarkable but the poetry written in the nineteen ninety has been the victim of the politics of rejection. Inspite of the fast upsurge of poetic talent, it was neglected, not cared for genius. It remains less evaluated and less appreciated. This is, of course, due to academic coldness and also the neglect of the publishing houses. The academics, the critics and even the department’s students in the universities and colleges worship the old masters of the Post-Independence era and conspire at the huge crop, the verse of nineteen ninety. That was growing all the time, like wild grass in the narrow field of Indian English Literature. They dismiss and lament the weed like growth of it as the pursuit of insignificant poetry. Such a view about the poetic output of the last two decades makes the young poets vehemently react. Has Indian English Poet echoing violence through their poetry?’ what are the reasons behind it? Is it harmful to peaceful living of human being? Whether this Indignation is righteous matter of investigation? Of course, investigation of such a sort has no harm in it. If investigated carefully, there is very possibility that something valuable may meet us to take note of it and spread around the world so that the poetry lovers get benefited soundly. There is no harm in receiving the best poet with open and welcoming arms.

 Contemporary poetry criticism has been a week spot in Indian English Literature. Poetry reviewers manage within the ever increasing context of popular journalism. In teaching this poetry craft and prosody has always been left out. The number of poets writing in journals, magazines is well admirable. The new poets coming up and intending to be publish their poetry need to be well guided and instructed in the art of writing poetry.

 The main purpose of research in this direction is not to tell about ‘Violence’ and to introduce so many poets. But a trend which came into existence after world wars, and spread all over the world is really constructive so the researcher want to evaluate this. The researcher took four different poets for his reading and they are writing on nearly same movement. Although they did not belong to same place, yet they hit the common issues in their poetry. Researcher demonstrates various aspects of ‘Violence’ in this study with the help of these four poets. The researcher wants to explain that ‘Violence’ not only gives terrible impression on the individual but when they come to the poems it give really concrete lessons. They express ‘‘Violence’ and tells its good and bad consequences.

Research Questions

 The Indian English poet has written ample poems on the subject of violence. There are number of articles published on these aspects. Some other aspects of the poems have also been explored by the researcher. However, the subject of violence written by Indian English poets has not studied by researcher seriously. There is no comprehensive, critical statement on this domain. So in the present study, an attempt will be made to study violence in the selected poems. This study of poetry tries to reveal two collections of each poet. It can be read as violence poetry in terms of their problematization of the boundaries between pluralism and peacefulness as well as their questioning of monology and objectivity of violence representation. This research into violence needs to address the issue of Ranjeet Hoskote, Tabish khair, Imtiaz Dharker, and Aga Shahid Ali’s poetry.

 Violence is a post-modern phenomenon challenged the traditional approaches to poetry considering it as an object to be deciphered and decoded, but also disrupted the notions of a conventional meaning residing in the poetry and the probability of an objective interpretation. Focusing on the violence in the poetry, postmodern disciplines claim that nature has created multicultural society and it was expected that the bonds between communities will strengthen and a complete ideal society will evolve out of it. But this dream of nature has totally shattered. The violence broke out and suffering inflicted on innocent common people. In this respect, the scenes of violence, exploitation, fear, disharmony makes the poet restless. The main causes behind the expression of their violence. To develop plural society with harmony, it is necessary to inculcate and make aware the value of peacefulness. The study of violence in the postmodern Indian English poetry will provide some concrete solutions and this establishes the postmodern vein of violence.

 This research sets to investigate this issue of violence, its nature and how it functions in the works of selected Indian English Poets and how it can be affiliate to the ethno, ethical and communal values. Finally, the research seeks to prove that the concept of violence, in contemporary Indian English Poetry, is a multi-dimensional one. It takes different shapes and serves a variety of dissimilar purposes.

The Aim and Objectives of the Proposed Research Study:

1)                 The primary objective of the present study is to analyse and evaluate the violence in the poems of Ranjeet Hoskote, Tabish khair, Imtiaz Dharker, and Aga Shahid Ali.

2)                 This study will provide a critical argument on human life as perceived by the poets by exploring the world of violence.

3)                 The present research critically analyses the violence in the poems under study and provides a comprehensive critical statement on them.

4)                 This study will provide a critical argument on value in pluralism and the ostensible superiority of peacefulness in relation to human life as perceived by the poets by exploring the world of violence.

5)                 For the sake of study, only two collections of these poets in which the violence represent are selected for the study.

6)                 As it is a critical study, the researcher will analyse the images and the symbols as well as the style and tone in the poems of these poets.

Proposed Research Methodology

 The roots of violent behavior in humans are often a topic of research in literature and psychology. Violence is intentional physically aggressive behavior against another person. It is inherent in human nature from prehistoric era to postmodern period. It is natural mechanisms for aggression and to overcome conflict. These are just as natural to us as the aggressive tendencies as well as other cooperation modes of human behavior. The most violent behavior represents an effort to eliminate feelings of shame and humiliation. The use of violence is a source of pride and a defense of honor, especially among males who believe violence defines manhood. Violence is a matter of perception as well as a measurable phenomenon and understandings of violence are linked to a perceived aggressor-victim relationship. Today the amount and cruelty of violence to humans and animals has increased over the last few centuries.

The concept of violence is a topic of increasing interest to researchers trying to understand violent behavior. It has been discussed at length by researchers in sociology, medical anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and bio-archaeology. There is possibility of several explanations for human violence in various contexts. Humans are similar to most mammal species and use violence in specific situations. The problems our ancestors recurrently faced that might have been solved by aggression. There are many violent civil wars in the human civilization, which had fought due to economic, social and political inequalities in the world.

Violence cannot be attributed to a single factor. Its causes are complex and occur at different levels. The first aspect of biological and personal factors influences how individuals behave in the society. The individual’s education, age and income define his behavior. There are some biological factors like genetics, personality disorders, and a history of experiencing in violent behavior also molds behavior. The second aspect of violence depends on type of relationships with family, friends and society. The third aspect of community context like schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods also controls and contribute to the violence. Finally, the fourth aspect of violence expression is molded by wide societal factors that help to make an atmosphere in which violence is encouraged: the responsiveness of the criminal justice system, social and cultural norms regarding gender roles or parent-child relationships, income inequality, the quality of the social welfare system, the social acceptability of violence, the accessibility of weapons, the exposure to violence in mass media, and political instability. All these factors are very important in several expressions of violence.

  The present research typically focuses on the various expression of violence. The concept of violence leads rediscovery and revaluation of recent literary figures in Indian poetry. The question of forms leads to the important question of the relation between violence and society. Certain forms thrive in particular religious violence, domestic violence, liberating violence, terrorism that leads to express violence through poetry. Violence study takes note of all such aspects because social, political and economic movements undoubtedly influence literature. In a developing society it is essential that individuals play equal and important role, we all are equal and we all have our human rights. Then, why many people have to face various difficulties in civilized society, social causes need to be examined. In present research, an attempt is made to find a kind of solution against these violent behaviors. The research will try to understand the roots of violence expression and preventing its occurrence. The scientific study try to demonstrate that violence can be prevented and its impact can be reduced. In this regard, widening of horizons, hopefulness and nobility of thought are useful for the revolution and reforms of the society.

 In the light of above conceptual framework, here an attempt is made to study the ‘Violence’ in the poems of Ranjit Hoskote, Tabish Khair, Imtiaz Dharker and Aga Shahid Ali in critical perspective.

The Scope of the Study:

 These four poets, Ranjeet Hoskote, Tabish Khair, Imtiaz Dharker and Aga Shahid Ali – have written ample poems on the relationship between Man and Violence. There are number of articles published on this aspect. Some other aspects of their poetry have also explored by the researcher. However, the Violence poems written by these poets are not studied by the researcher seriously. There is no comprehensive, critical statement on this aspect. So, in the present study, an attempt will be made to study the Violence poems of these poets.

For the sake of study, only three collections in which the Violence poems figure are selected for the study. The selected collections of Ranjit Hoskote (born 1969) are: Zones of assault (1991), The Cartographer’s Apprentice (2000), The Sleepwalker’s Archive (2001). The selected collections of Tabish Khair (born 1996) are My World (1991), Reporter’s Dairy (1993), The Book of Heroes: A Collection of Light Verse and Much Worse (1995), Where Parallel Lines Meet (2000), Man of Glass (2010). 

  The selected collections of Imtiaz Dharker (born 1954) are: Postcards from God (1997) and The Terrorist at my Table (2006). The selected collections of Aga Shahid Ali (1949 – 2001) are: The Half-Inch Himalayas (1981), and The Country Without a Post Office: Poems 1991-1995).

The Research Approach:

 A brief survey of the lives and works of selected poets is necessary at the beginning. Then the significance, objectives and the scope and limitations of the study should also be defined. Then the selected violence poems should be analysed and interpreted. In the light of this approach, the Chapter Scheme of the proposed study is as follows:

Chapter Scheme

Chapter – I: Introduction

 Brief survey of the life & works of Ranjeet Hoskote, Tabish Khair, Imtiaz Dharker and Aga Shahid Ali

Chapter – II: Violence and postmodernism

Chapter – III: A Critical analysis of the Violence in Ranjeet Hoskote’s Poetry

Chapter – IV: A Critical analysis of the Violence in Tabish Khair’s Poetry

Chapter – V: A Critical analysis of the Violence in Imtiaz Dharker’s Poetry

Chapter – VI: A Critical analysis of the Violence in Aga Shahid Ali’s Poetry

Chapter – VII: Critical overview and conclusion.

Selected Bibliography

I)                  Primary Sources:

  • Hoskote, Ranjeet. Zones of assault. Rupa and Co., 1994.

    • —. The Cartographer’s Apprentice. Pundole Art Gallery, 2000.
    • —. The Sleepwalker’s Archive. Mumbai: Dadiba Pundole, 2001.
    • —. Despair & Modernity: Reflections from Modern Indian Painting (Buddhist Tradition S.). Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000.
    • —. Vanishing Acts. Penguin books, 2006.
  • Khair, Tabish. My World. Rupa and Co., 1994.

    • —. Reporter’s Dairy. Rupa and Co., 1993.
    • —. The Book of Heroes: A Collection of Light Verse and Much Worse. Delhi, India. Rupa, 1995.
    • —. Where Parallel Lines Meet. Viking, 2000.
    • —. Man of Glass. Harpercollins, 2010.
    • —. The New Xenophobia. Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Dharker, Imtiaz. Postcards from God. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1997.

    • —. The Terrorist at my Table. India: Penguin Books, 2007. Print.
    • —. Purdah. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1989.
    • —. Leaving Fingerprints. Bloodaxe Books Ltd., 2009.
    • —. Over the Moon.Bloodaxe Books Ltd., 2014.
    • —. I speak for the Devil. Bloodaxe Books Ltd., 2001.
  • Ali, Aga Shahid. The Half-Inch Himalayas. Wesleyan University Press, 1981.

    • —. The Country Without a Post Office. W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
    • —. Rooms Are Never Finished. W. W. Norton & Company; Revised ed. Edition, 2003
    • —. The Veiled Suite. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.
  • Bhatt, Sujata. Monkey Shadows, Carcanet Press Ltd, 1994.

    • —. The Stinking Rose. Carcanet Press Ltd, 1995.
    • —. Point No Point. Carcanet Press Ltd, 1997.
    • —. Augatora. Carcanet Press Ltd, 2000.
  • Chattarji, Sampurna. Sight May Strike You Blind. Sahitya Akademi, 2007.

    • —. Absent Muses. Poetrywala in 2010

II)               Secondary Sources:

  • Jain, Jasbir. ed.,Women’s writing: Text and Context. Jaipur and New Delhi: Rawat Publication, 1999.
  • King, Bruce. Modern Indian Poetry in English. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Kumar, Satish. A Survey of Indian English Poetry. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2001.
  • Mehrotra, Arvind Krishna. ed., A History of Indian Literature in English. London: Hurst and Company, 2003.
  • Paniker, K. Ayyappa. ed., Indian English Literature Since Independence. New Delhi: IAES, 1991.
  • Prasad, G. J. V., Continuities in Indian English Poetry: Nation, Language, Form. New Delhi: Pencraft International, 1999.
  • Shah, Nila and Nayar, Pramod K., eds., Modern Indian Poetry in English: Critical studies. New Delhi: Creative Books, 2000.
  • Heitmeyer, Wilhelm and Hagan, John. International Handbook of Violence Research. Springer Science & Business Media, 2003.
  • Dwivedi, Om Prakash. TABISH KHAIR: A Critical Companion. Roman Books; UK ed. Edition, 2013.
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