The other day I was watching the Satyajit Ray’s sensitive, lyrical and soulful classic Charulata, on YouTube on an impulse, immersing myself in the world of deep black-and-white images, the marital and human conflicts played out in subtle undertones, and the upliftment and perceptiveness that the tragic inevitably brings to human life. That Nashta Need, the Tagore classic on which it is based, has been such a vital part of literary and cinematic culture, brought back to mind ordinary films like Ghoonghat (based on Nauka Doobi), which I had nevertheless, enjoyed (in spite of its sentimentality), and the rich experience of entering the world of Gora. Of Course, Rabindranath is a part of our daily lives – every time we stand up for the National Anthem, we are paying tribute to this multifaceted genius and artist. His heritage endures. Coincidentally, next day, the impressionistic tribute to Gurudev by Ananya Gupta arrived in my Inbox. The lingering mood of the previous day continued to resonate as I read her nostalgic piece and Phatik Chakravarty and the Post Master became real, once again, for me. As did the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional presence of Shanti Niketan, the literature, the films, paintings, Rabindra Sangeet…
It is true that great literature and great cinema call for the development of a refined sensibility and that the ‘good’ reader and ‘audience’ recreate the experience of these texts in the light of their own levels of sensitivity and aesthetics. Yes, some may be blessed enough to be sensitive intrinsically. But the preservation of literature and art requires that such works get institutionalised in the canon. It is here that research, literary criticism and theoretical analysis of literary texts becomes necessary. A body of criticism for a text or an author contextualises the work in its times, in theoretical concerns, in aesthetic principles, in its tradition and in its contemporary relevance. The nine essays presented in this issue of Muse India, explore the complexities and the relevance of the works of Amitav Ghosh, Hansda Shekhar, Amrita Pritam, Mamang Dai, Afsar Ahmed and Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya; they delve into the representation of the trauma of the cataclysmic Partition of India and the intricacies of Kashmiri Proverbs. Add to it, the erudition of Aditya Kumar Panda in his philosophic musings on the meaning of Meaning and limits that language places on Meaning.
The two Conversations in this issue: Sami Ahmed/U Atreya Sarma and Nicholas Grene/ Pawan Kumar bring readers closer to the minds and mental processes of the writers and also locate their work in their own experiences, consciousness and attitudes. Nicholas Grene is a significant critic for us in India, particularly, since he has been responsible for introducing Indian Writing to Ireland and institutionalising it in its Colleges and Universities and making it a part of their academic world; in the process, giving a boost to Comparative Literary Studies. Sami Ahmed Khan, who has been the Guest Editor of the Feature on Indian Science Fiction in the May-June 2015 issue, has consolidated his role as one of the pioneers of Science fiction and its criticism in India, and his insights will be helpful in taking this discourse to the next level. Both the Conversations reverberate with the concerns of the two writers and raise issues which will give scope for scholars to explore aspects which they outline and suggest.
We invite our contributors to reach beyond themselves and their immediate interests to explore more emerging areas, newer writers, contemporary genres with a seriousness and commitment that places their analysis on a much more innovative level. Yes, innovative. Because this new work will form the bedrock of literary criticism and theory in India. And creativity and originality cannot remain limited only to the writing of literary texts.
Without Comment, Editor’s Choice:
Father Returning Home - Dilip Chitre
My father travels on the late evening train
Standing among silent commuters in the yellow light
Suburbs slide past his unseeing eyes
His shirt and pants are soggy and his black raincoat
Stained with mud and his bag stuffed with books
Is falling apart. His eyes dimmed by age
fade homeward through the humid monsoon night.
Now I can see him getting off the train
Like a word dropped from a long sentence.
He hurries across the length of the grey platform,
Crosses the railway line, enters the lane,
His chappals are sticky with mud, but he hurries onward.
Home again, I see him drinking weak tea,
Eating a stale chapati, reading a book.
He goes into the toilet to contemplate
Man's estrangement from a man-made world.
Coming out he trembles at the sink,
The cold water running over his brown hands,
A few droplets cling to the greying hairs on his wrists.
His sullen children have often refused to share
Jokes and secrets with him. He will now go to sleep
Listening to the static on the radio, dreaming
Of his ancestors and grandchildren, thinking
Of nomads entering a subcontinent through a narrow pass.