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BEGC 132

Selections from Indian Writing: Cultural Diversity

IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment July 2023 & January 2024

section A

Explain the following with reference to the context:

Q. 1. O good soldier,
Know when you’re beaten.
And now, that question
Which we just referred to in connection with the so-called language battle,
Let’s put it this way:
Were we and those on behalf of whom we fought
The same folk?

Ans. Context: These lines are taken from ‘Hindi’ by Raghuvir Sahay’.
Explanation: The Khari Boli, which came to be known later as Hindi, The title and the original language of the poem. Raghuvir Sahay included the metaphor of the battle in his poem ‘Hindi’ to highlight the language debates.

After Independence, there were several internal feuds and fights over the issue. The poem carried the burden of the government policies related to language, culture and literature.

Sahay talks about the battle for language supremacy in which Hindi was supposed to get the status of an official language but did not.

Sahay criticizes the exercise of fighting over language that in a way betrayed the idea of a unified India visualized by writers and thinkers.

He seems to direct our attention to the larger cause of this phenomenon urging us to look beyond provincial linguistic identities.

He says “The question of Hindi is no longer simply a question of Hindi” suggesting that the issue is more complex than it looks.

Q. 2. You need no book, Rasha Sundari no paper or pen either
you have the black, smudgy kitchen wall for your magical scribbles
lines, ellipses, curves
all of them your secret codes for
a whole new world.

Ans. Context: These lines are taken from ‘Don’t Wash’ by Rasha Sundari Debi.

Explanation: In the last four lines, the poet refers that the written script is mysterious, full of “magical scribbles” like a complex maze of geometrical shapes – “lines, ellipses, curves” – to the illiterate.

Only by not washing off this writing can women gain entry into the world of knowledge- “A whole new world.” IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

The poem intends to encourage women to take social criticism headlong by not being afraid of what society would say.

Only by taking risk, women can live on equal terms where they too have access to reading and writing and that “secret codes” would lead to their empowerment.

The poem highlights the social taboos and assesses their worth – something is forbidden to women not because that is unclean or evil but because that gives muscle to the men who do not allow and do not want womento gain power that challenges their monopoly.

Q. 3. No, I don’t work for a Shah
I said, but for a Shahni, very kind, very well off
And I am not the only one
Working for her
She has many servants
Ever ready to do her bidding

Ans. Context: These lines are taken from a poem ‘Mother Tongue’ by Padma Sachdev.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Explanation: She says she does not work for a Shah since that would be restrictive if not downright demeaning. The poet says she is working for Shahni, a female and one who inspires and enables creativity.

Then she describes “Shahni [is] very kind,/ Very well off/And I am not the only one/Working for her/She has many servants/ Ever ready to do her bidding/And then comes to the point that Shahni is her mother tongue Dogri.

Then again she asks for a quill and the urgency. The poet makes the idea of the mother tongue look so vast and energy-giving that the stem itself joins the poet in the search for fulfilment.

Q. 4. These are the colours of destiny
Of immutable also
and the colours also
with which warring pawns
Are daily decorating our towns.

Ans. Context: These lines are taken from ‘The Colours of Truth’ by Kynpham Singh No ngkynrih. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Explanation: These are the colours of destiny/of immutable truth/ and the colours also/with which warring pawns /are daily decorating our towns: The poet says these colours are the colours of destiny and immutable truth.

The red signifies life and black signifies death. Life and death are the colours of destiny as well as truth.

The poet also conveys that the insurgents are the pawns in the hands of the warring parties. The poet highlights how the common people have been affected by the violence.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment


Q. 5. The aesthetics of Dalit Writing.

Ans. The Dalit writing started in Maharashtra and was unique in terms of quality, variety, aesthetic considerations, its sense of being a movement, its ties to social action and in the serious attention it gets as a school within the Mararthi literary traditions.

Parallel movements in Dalit writing later appeared in Karnataka and Gujarat.
Dalit writers show life with reality, omitting nothing that is “Ugly or painful and idealizing nothing.”

To the realists, the writer’s most important function is to describe as truthfully as possible what is experienced through the senses.

The desire of authors to document every event and the means, by which they might do so, is an enduringly contentious subject.

At present, Dalits considered their literature as a weapon to leverage transformation in the social and political status.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Writings are essentially expressions of the reality of human life and great pieces of literature depict that reality with communicable lucid language facilitating narrative with readers’ aesthetic and literary sense.

As Indra, in her Introduction to The Legend of Nandan, stated, “Although today they are fighting for the restoration of their dignity as human beings, some people belonging to such unprivileged strata have historically believed that it is because of the karma in their previous births that they have been born so.

For centuries, they have been denied entry into the temple to have darshan of the deity.”

Every phenomenon of people’s behaviour occurs in the author’s social life. Dalit authors responsively convey the social trait or people’s behaviour which they experience in the literary work. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

In other words, a literary work reflectively brings and provides issue and cultural phenomena or social behavior which happens in the author’s real life.

Like African American slave narratives, Dalit narratives are the stories of Dalit victims who endured similar exploitation in their own soil.

This literature authentically portrays various forms of social and legal injustices. They use an array of incidents related to injustices to educate fellow Dalits, but not to celebrate. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

There is no fictional theme in Dalit literature, and they do not glorify anything about authors’ love and romance. Dalits narrate serious matters of basic human rights.

Q. 6. The Bhakti movement and Indian literature.

Ans. The Bhakti movement began in the 8th century in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in South India. From the 15th century, it spread to the North and East India and reached its peaks in the 17th century.

The word ‘bhakti’ was first used in the 1st millennium BCE in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. Embedded in the Yajur Veda, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad has the Vedanta philosophy, philosophy of Saivism and principles of Yoga.

The word ‘bhakti’ has been used in the last of three epilogue verses of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad as given below: He who has the highest ‘bhakti’ (love, devotion of Deva (God),
just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher),
To him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.23 (on Guru Bhakti)
Bhakti implies an emotional devotion to one’s personal God.

Bhakti marg, which means the path of devotion, is a spiritual way to achieve moksha or liberation, the ultimate goal of spiritual development, a state of eternal bliss, transcending the worldly state.

The word bhakti is also used in the Bhagavad Gita to imply a particular way to achieve mokshacen Most of the Bhakti poets were devotees of Rama and Krishna, the incarnations of Vishnu. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

They sang for the lord with all devotion. The Bhakti Movement produced great poetry and marked the starting of a rebellion against the superficial Brahminical customs and rituals, caste difference and discrimination pre-valent in society.

The songs of Kabir, Ravi Das, Meera Bai, Chaitanya and many other lesser known mysticslaid focus on Man’s actions as these alone would cause his salvation.

They were called the Bhakti poets as they sought to achieve spiritual union with the Lord through their devotion by means of their soulful poetry.

The Bhagavad Gita says bhakti as one of the possible paths of spirituality and towards moksha.

The path of bhakti is superior to the two other religious approaches, the path of knowledge (jnana) and the path of ritual and good works (karma).

For example, Kabir’s Dohas had a profound impact on the Bhakti movement. It had a great influence on the common man. His message of love and devotion had a mass appeal. A couplet from his writing is given below:

Pothi padh padh jag mua, bhaya na pundit koye
Dhai akshar prem ka padhe so pundit hoye

It means an individual does not become a learned person just by reading voluminous books, but one can be a learned person by understanding the two and a half letters which make up the word ‘love’.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Kabir (1440 and 1518), Ravidas (15th C) and Meera (1498 and 1557) were among the most influential poets of the Bhakti movement. They sent the following message:

(i) A loving relationship between a devotee and his/her personal God, and

(ii) Devotion and individual worship of a God or Goddess instead of performance of elaborate sacrifices.

The saintpoets had a liberal outlook and their message focused on the devotee’s choice of his/her and personal God and the freedom to worship in any way that was in consonance with their full devotion. The Bhakti movement sent a social message to the devotees.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

The Bhakti movement spread from the South to the North and then to the East. Chaitanya Dev (1486-1534) was the greatest spiritual leader of Eastern India (Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Assam).

In Punjab, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was influenced by Kabir, Ravi Das, Jaidev, Namdev and Farid. The Bhakti movement gradually spread all over India.

There were a number of factors which contributed to the rise and growth of the Bhakti Movement during the Medieval Period. First, the elaborate rituals and rigor in religion was not liked by common man.

The Bhakti saints preached the path of devotion and discarded all rituals hence it appealed to the common man.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Next, was the enthusiasm and the inspiration of the Bhakti saints. They tried to remove the evils of Hindu society and gave it a new vigour and vitality.

The second factor can be presumed as the persecution of Hindus by the Muslim rulers, who tried to convert them to Islam and imposed Jaziya if they were not prepared to become followers of Islam.

This led to the very strong reactions of Hindus leading to preservation of their religion through Bhakti Movement.

Third, the ill-treatment of the lower classes in Hindu society by the persons of upper castes, the people of the lower caste had to suffer injustice and cruelties.

So the teachings of the Bhakti saints who preached equality of castes as far as the devotion to God was concerned appealed to the people of lower castes.

Last, factor was the inner vitality of the Hindu religion that resulted in an intellectual and a moral revival of Hinduism. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

This Hinduism affected every aspect of thought and generated new moral forces, which helped to revitalize Hindu life and gave it the dynamism.

In the sphere of religion and normal thinking in law, in literature and even in political ideals, a new life came into being in India by the middle of the 16th century.


Q. 7. The impact of cultural negotiations on the literature of the Northeast.

Ans. The Northeast has eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. They are also called as the eight sisters.

Some famous writers from the North East are Temsula Ao, Mamang Dai, Nabakanta Barua, Robin S. Ngangom, Nilamani Phukan, Thangjam Ibopishak Singh, Kynpham Singh Nongkynri, Mona Zote, Chandrakanta Mura Singh, to name a few.

According to Birendranath Datta, people in the Northeast can be divided into three categories on the basis of cultural point of view:

(i) Tribal communities who are free from the impact of Sanskrit or other organised cultures. They live in the rather distant hills more or less isolated.

(ii) Tribal groups, both in the hills and the plains, who have retained their tribal group identity but have been acculturated in various degrees because of their close proximity or contact with the non-tribal sanskritized majority or through the impact of Buddhism or Christianity or Islam.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

(iii) Communities which are fully sanskritized. The population is entirely, as in the case of the Meiteis, or substantially as in the case of Assamese, made up of erstwhile Indo Mongoloid stocks.

Local Muslims, though not Sanskritized from the religious point of view, are culturally a part of this milieu.

A recurrent feature of the literatures of the seven north-eastern statesis an intense sense of awareness of the cultural loss and recovery that came with the negotiation with ‘other’ cultures.

In its own distinctive manner, each community or linguistic group has responded through its oral or written communication to the encounters with the majoritarian cultures from either mainland India or from outside the borders of the country.

The main waves of cultural invasion that caused significant changes in the literary world of the region started with the Bhakti movement, followed by the various reformist dispensations of the 19th century, colonialism and the Christian missionary activities and the new culture of development.

Each of these developments led to different forms of resistance and appropriations. The clash of cultures has often caused the loss of traditional forms and the adoption of new cultural icons that threatened the existing ones.

There have been efforts at reviewing and critiquing one’s own society and culture in view of the new ideas that have invaded the region, yet whenever the prejudiced fear of the ‘Outsider’ has seized a community, a tendency to retreat into the cocoon of cultural isolation has happened.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

In Assam, Manipur and Tripura, the cultural intermixing process started long before the colonialism began.

Different forms of Hinduism like Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava along with Buddhism and Islam spread their influences in the region, while the Tai-Ahoms who entered Assam from the east and ruled the country for almost 600 years till the advent of the British in 1826, made immense contribution towards the creation of a syncretic culture in the region.

In all these three kingdoms, the literature of the pre-colonial period was deeply rooted in the mixed cultural life of their respective societies.

A Eurocentric concept of modernity was superimposed by Colonialism. The concept of modernity was derived from the enlightenment on the literature of the region, thereby creating a rupture between the past and the present.

The Christian missio- naries led in ushering in a print culture by setting up printing presses and bringing out textbooks, grammar books and Christian literature and journals in the local languages. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

This led to the standardization of the Assamese language and marginalization of the other dialects of the language, thus creating a gap between the oral and written.

This also helped the colonial administrators to cope with the problem of managing the heterogeneity of speech which they faced in Assam.

Initially, the British tried to impose a standardized form of Bengali to serve as the vernacular of Assam but faced stiff resistance from the Assamese literati who received unexpected support from the American Baptist missionaries.

Thus, the creation of a standardized print language in Assam wasthe result of a joint effort by the missionaries and the Assamese intellectuals schooled in the metropolitan culture of Calcutta in the 19th century.

This language, which emerged as the medium for the new literary creations of the nineteenth century, had elements from many existing speech practices of the various indigenous communities of the region and from Persian, Hindi, Bengali and other languages of the neighbouring communities with which the pre-colonial rulers of Assam used to carry on political and commercial contact.

Thus, the modern Assamese language hasbeen called as a ‘philosopher’s paradise’ due to the heterogeneous elements mobilized within its structure.

The Assamese language in its various oral forms has also served as the lingua franca amongmany of the hill people in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

But these oral forms of the language have remained as pidgin languages and are, therefore, termed as ‘non-language’ even by the speakers who use these forms of the language for communicating with people from neighbouring tribes.

It may be noted that before the advent of identity politics amongthe various ethnic communities in the region whose mother tongue is not Assamese, the writers from the different communities used the Assamese language as the medium for creative writing. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

This led to the language acquiring distinctive characteristics because of the infusion of elements peculiar to the culture of the different indigenous communities Of the three generations of writers of the post-Independence period included here, a significantly large number of the younger writers are writing in English.

Many of them have had the privilege of being educated in English-medium schools and they are more capable of handling that language rather than their mother tongues.

This new band of writers writing in English is bound to grow in number because most of the hill-states of the region have adopted English as the official language, thus ensuring that it would be the first language of the new generation of literates and it would be used to the best advantage both in the professional and in the academic arena. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

While whether the English language would be able to replace the regional languages in creative writing may be a contested question, it is a factthat some of the best writings from the Northeast have been produced in acquired languages, including English.

Besides, given the small sizes of the linguistic groups to which many of the writers belong, it is understandable that the aspiring writers should choose to write in a language through which they can reach out to a wider reader base.

wide audience of Many of the writers writing in English have reaped the benefits of acquiring a worldwide audience through national and international forums.

On this phenomenon, Nigel Jenkins, a Welsh scholar who has edited a collection of Khasi poetry in English and Welsh, hoped that the Khasis would go back to their own language after the ‘Purging of the clutter’ that is under way at present.

He says: ‘It is a painful fact of literary life for certain young writers that although Khasi is their everyday medium, they are not sufficiently confident in the language to make poems in it. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

This real or imagined incapacity is largely the fault of an education system which obliges secondary school pupils to abandon their native tongue and matriculate in English.

In contrast, a completely different view has been expressed by Salman Rushdie who finds no reason to be apologetic about the choice of the English language by Indian and diasporic writers.

Commenting on the status of the Indian writers ‘Working in English’, he says: ‘English is the most powerful medium of communication in the world; should we not then rejoice at these artists’ mastery of it, and at their growing influence? To criticize writers for their success at “Breaking out” is no more parochialism.’

The lack of first-rate translations of Indian literature in vernacular languages has been mentioned by most editors who have compiled anthologies of Indian writings.

Though the efforts of Sahitya Akademi and some other institutions in collecting and publishing Indian writings in translation are laudable, yet many areas have still remained untouched. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Despite the claims of some scholar that ‘In India we keep translating every moment of our active life’ and that much of the pre-colonial literature in India was founded on translations of the epics and the puranas, it is sad that some of the best writings in the Indian languages can be read only by the readers who belong to the same linguistic community as that of the author.

Most of the communities from north-east India can pride themselves for possessing a vibrant storytelling tradition.

The culture of the ‘face-to-face communities’ which is distinguishable from the abstract nature of social relationships in the ‘modern’ world, is a distinguishing feature of the oral and it has continued as the dominant influence on the literary creations from the region.

After the introduction of print culture into the region during the colonial times, collecting, re-telling and printing the folklore of the different communities became an important part of the colonial ethnographic agenda of mapping the region for more effective administrative control over the bewildering variety of races than the British encountered here.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

The sense of being denied fair representation in the great Indian civilizational discourse or even in the nationalist discourse, has deeply affected the emerging literacy of many of the regions of north-east India in the most-Independence era.

The ‘seven sisters’ of the Northeast which had only marginal historical links with each other in the pre-colonial times, had their doors open towards Southeast Asia, eastern Bengal, Bhutan, and Tibet – regions with which they shared boundaries and lively commercial and cultural contacts.

It was only after the partition of the sub-continent that the region became totally landlocked with almost all the doors closed except for a narrow corridor that kept it linked with India.

This geographical isolation has led to erasures and marginalization on multiple levels, the effect of which is clearly discernible in the writings from the region.

Q. 8. Discuss M.K. Naik’s views with regard to English in India, balancing them with your own ideas on the issue.

Ans. M.K. Naik, a former Professor of English, has greatly contributed to the understanding of Indian English writing through his writings.

He has given credit where it is due and criticized where mistakes had happened in assessing the worth of certain literary trends and works. Naik’s contentions enrich our understanding the contemporary depictions.

Naik describes India’s languages as “A vast joint family, blessed with many brothers, some of whom are veritable Methuselahs.”

He refers to Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi and Bengali literatures that are 2000 years, 1500 years, 1000 years, 950 years, and 900 years old respectively.

After that he mentions English writing as “the youngest of these brothers… [being] Indian English literature-a baby not even two hundred years old; but to be the youngest of the lot… not [being] it’s only misfortune.”

He writes the “baby” has been “born with a hideous birth-mark” that “has given rise to the strange notion that the young fellow is a bastard, the untouchable product of an unholy alliance between a White father and an Indian mother.”

Further Naik states: “Several strategies-linguistic, literary, cultural and even political-have been employed in the attempt to prove the utter redundancy of Indian English literature.”IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Naik’s excerpt does not include Hindi literature which has additional weight for initially being the official language on which there existed consensus in the early fifties.

Hindi has been in the eye of the storm with many states rising in revolt against it. Hindi was perceived as an imposition by north India on all Indian languages.

A yet greater charge against Hindi was that it replaced English from its position of power.

The argument that ran in favour of English was that it connected Indian society like no other language would, making the country a strongly integrated unit.

English has kept India’s middle classes effectively informed about policies legislated by the Parliament and procedures of law and administration.

In this essay, Naik has avoided discussion of English as a language and solely spoken of English literature.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Relevance of Indian English Literature: First, Naik points out that a whole section of scholars and writers have carried out various “strategies” and tried “to prove the utter redundancy of Indian English literature.”

His contention is that it shows the prejudice against a whole body of literary writing. Naik points out that Indian English literature has much to offer in terms of an open attitude to the intricacies of relationships obtaining in India.

Also, it engages with problems of inequality, social pressures on communities and sections, poverty, persecutions and restrictions, to name a few.

Together with literatures in other Indian languages, English has served the purpose of an important means of communication between regions, cultural domains and ethnicities. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Naik notes the characteristics of depiction in English by Indian writers. The essay starts with a criticism against well-known Bengali writer Buddhadeva Bose.

In his note on ‘Indian Poetry in English’ in The Concise Encyclopaedia of English and American Poets and Poetry, Bose condemned Indian English poetry as ‘a blind alley lined with curio shops, leading nowhere’.

To this Naik “This venerable intellectual must be turning-rather badly-in his grave today, to find the ‘blind alley’ turning into a veritable fashion street, and the ‘curio shops’ giving way to literary Marks and Spencers and Harrods and Gimbells.”

Bose also argues that it is difficult to see how Indian English poet scan develop as poets in a language which they have learnt from books and seldom hear spoken in the streets or even in their own homes, and who’s two great sources lie beyond the seven seas. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

But the fact is that English today can no longer be regarded as a non-native language in India.

English is also an additional official language of the Indian Union; and it is also the first official language of at least one Indian state-Nagaland, while in three Indian states, viz. Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, it is an associate official language.

The transformation from “curio shops” to a “fashion street” is brought forward as an example of English’s assertive presence.

Naik notes the emergence of English as an impressive entity that attracts notice. The entity is tied up with the glamour of popular store-chains of the corporate world.

This at least partially reflects upon the view of English as an elitist agency. Besides, the point has proved false the prediction of Buddhadev Bose.

In the second paragraph, Naik says Indian English writer learns his language not from any foreign source but “from fellow Indians.”

This is a convincing point because the people around a writer are the best sources for anunderstanding of the social scene where conflicts of different types take shape.

Naik says English has also emerged victorious and shown one and all that it has arrived on the scene to play a decisive role and give voice to the travails of life in the Indian context.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Social Life and Language: Naik presents some examples to buttress his argument. He quotes R.C. Dutt, who produced abridged English versions of the Hindu classics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in standard Victorian verse, as saying ‘All attempts to court the muses in a foreign tongue must be fruitless…. True genius mistakes its vocation when it struggles in a foreign tongue’.

According to M. Chalapathi Rau, Indian writing in Englishis ‘At best composition and the best of it is translation.

Nothing more is possible except for someone who can live the language, think the language, and write, not compose in the language’.

In this regard, two Indian students studying in England sent a letter to The Time’s Literary Supplement writing: ‘English with most Indians is still a language of official public affairs, of intellectual and academic debate.

They do not use English for their most intimate purposes, to think and feel, bless and curse, quarrel and kiss’.IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

Naik questions whether educated Indians never sayspontaneously on various occasions, when the words and phrases are apt, ‘My God’, ‘O shit’, ‘You fool’, ‘You see, and a hundred other things of the kind.

Dutt meant to say that a language that is not one’s own in the sense that it is not integral to social life and culture of one’s time is deficient in scope for struggling to express.

The distinction made by Chalapathi Rau in writing and composing points goes towards the same idea. Writing is spontaneous, whereas composition is self-conscious.

The person who composes always looks over his shoulder to get approval from the invisible onlooker whether he has observed rules of grammar and expression properly. IGNOU BEGC 132 Solved Free Assignment

The students talk of learning, adopting, grasping and feeling in a language. Naik says in the 17th century John Milton used Latin words in ample measure and placed them in the middle of sentences and clauses, denoting heightened creativity.

His ‘Latinisms’ were noted for effect and conscious distancing so they conveyed a spectacle away from the planet Earth. Yet, Milton’s Paradise Lost was deeply rooted in the soil of England’s culture and aesthetic life.

IGNOU BEGC 134 Solved Free Assignment

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