Reading the Chicana poetry of Lucha Corpi and understanding the nuances of Chicano literature and the cultural movement it is associated with (in the conversation Ketaki Datta has with her in this issue of Muse India), reiterates the idea that the most powerful poetry comes from a deep commitment to a cause. Chicanismo, the movement of the 1930s, which seeks to capture the Mexican, native American culture in literature, has at its centre four crucial beliefs: ‘the power of the creative earth and labour on it, political transformation through collective effort, strong familial ties extending back into Mesoamerican pre-history and spiritually-influenced creative artistic imagination as reflected in the visual ARTS’. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicano_poetry). But as Corpi emphasises, this movement and the writing it has generated goes far beyond immediate concerns and ‘In modern times, the Chicano and Chicana Movement of the 1960s, 70s and 80s [which] was meant to empower the Mexican American people politically, socially, and culturally, mostly, but not exclusively […] is also a literature of protest and a search for identity by Americans of Mexican descent throughout the southwest, and in other urban areas’.
This search for identity, which questions power equations and the domination of the privileged, also can lead to a process of assimilation with ‘mainstream’ cultures, over a period of time, and is a step forward, is what Mamang Dai (in her conversation with D Ramakrishna) advocates when she speaks of the development of Arunachal Pradesh: ‘I feel the dynamics of a society springs its own surprises and change happens when someone suddenly sets up a Nigella kitchen outlet, or introduces the idea of an exclusive club for the elderly men and women of the village. Someday someone is going to mobilise for a peace park in the tri-junction with Myanmar and Yunnan’. From protest to assimilation is a long journey; but, then, it is one of the very significant paths that a society may choose to take.
Juxtaposed with this is Easterine Kire’s novel Bitter Wormwood, ‘[a] novel [which] peeps into the intricacies of power politics and the changing power relations’ as Subhra Roy points out. Meticulous and focussed research is evident in the seven essays that we present in this issue. A seasoned scholar and writer like Sharad Chandra, writes about Absurdism with a flow that comes from a deep understanding and connect with the philosophy and literature of one of the most important literary movements of our times. A young scholar, Tuhin Mukhopadhyay, a first time contributor to MI, rubs shoulders with another first timer, Devika Karnad, to work on the feminist concerns in the work of Anita Desai and Lakshmi Kannan respectively. A reading of Acharya Kaushik and Kiriti Sengupta’s article on The Gita, the ‘Brahmavidya’ is significant because it ignites the desire to learn, teach and spread the rich inheritance of Sanskrit – which is not just a language but which contains a whole world of culture, religion, spirituality and literature within it. Shailja Chandra not only opens up a new way of looking at Gulzar’s enigmatic poetry but also presents a number of poems in illustration, bringing the reader into direct contact with the writer. Yogesh Kumar Negi, another young scholar who appears in MI for the first time, takes us into the dialectics of the Pahari folk traditions, particularly folk music, of Himachal Pradesh, with reference to representations of women and patriarchy.
From Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh to Mexican American writing – the articles in this issue span a long geographical and cultural belt across the globe!
Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone has made it to the hallowed Delhi University English Literature Syllabus. The debate continues; it will not die down fast: Popular fiction/ High Literature/ Postmodernity/ Kitsch/ Market forces/ Dilution of standards/ Hey, What? Standards?