Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

Indian English prose and poetry. Pixabay

It’s an anthology that took 10 years to compile but that’s not surprising given that it takes 200 years of Indians writing prose and poetry in English and what emerges is a priceless collection of something that has never been attempted before.

“We started talking about the book, or one like it, about eight or ten years ago. But it was only an idea and it never got anywhere, mainly because I did not know where to begin or where to find the essays, especially of the 19th century,” its editor, poet-translator-anthologist Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, told IANS in an interview of “The Book of Indian Essays” (Black Kite)”.

Follow NewsGram on LinkedIn to know what’s happening around the world.

“At first I thought of restricting the book to essays written since independence, then pushed it back to cover the 20th century, then decided to take in the whole period of writing in English in India, from around the 1820s to the present.

“We have never had a selection of essays for the general reader before and I thought that if we were going to do one we may as well include the 19th century, particularly since I knew at least two essays that I wanted to include the ones by (poet and assistant headmaster of Hindu College Calcutta Henry Louis Vivian) Derozio and (author-historian-poet), Shoshee Chunder Dutt.

“They would otherwise have remained buried in books that only a handful of specialists would ever read. Which is sad, for the essays, when they were written, were aimed at the magazine or newspaper reader of the time and not for the specialist of the future,” Mehrotra explained.

A handful of specialists. Pixabay

Given his vast research, does he see the writing in English evolving over the 200 years that the book covers?

“Unlike science, literature does not evolve. Unlike economies, it does not stagnate or grow. Something was written let’s say in the 1870s, Shoshee Chunder’s ‘Street Music of Calcutta’ for example, might have been written yesterday in Delhi if anyone in Delhi had the brains to listen to street cries and write an essay on the subject. The essay (or poem) is immersed at the moment, but it is a moment that’s been illuminated and which the passage of time cannot darken.

“Literature does not evolve but neither does it fade. Parts of it can of course be neglected and sink into obscurity. ‘The Book of Indian Essays’ is an attempt at rescuing a few pieces of prose before they disappeared altogether, though their sentences, had you stumbled upon them, would have lost none of their newness and surprise, as Derozio’s and Shoshee Chunder’s have not,” Mehrotra contended

He also noted that while Indians have been writing prose for 200 years, and yet when we think of literary prose we think only of the novel. “The ‘essay’ brings only the school essay to mind. Those of us who read and write English in India might find it hard to name an essay even by someone like R.K. Narayan as easily as we would one of his novels, say ‘Swami and Friends’ or ‘The Guide’. Our inability to recall essays is largely due to the strange paradox that while the form itself remains invisible, it is everywhere present.

Poetry. Pixabay

“The paradox becomes even more strange when we realize that some of our finest writers of English prose did not write novels at all, they wrote essays. The anthology is an attempt at making what has always been present also permanently visible,” Mehrotra explained. To this end, the 45 essayists in the anthology include some of the best-known Indian writers of English, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Aubrey Menen, G.V. Desani, Dom Moraes, Sheila Dhar, Madhur Jaffrey, Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai, Chitrita Banerji, Mukul Kesavan and Pankaj Mishra, to mention just a few.

ALSO READ: Say No To Discrimination Against Vaccine Allocation: Centre

Working as an alternative history, the anthology is impressive in its range, taking in the reflective essay, the luminous memoir, the essay disguised as a story, the memorable prefatory article, the newspaper column that transcends its humdrum origins, the gossip piece that oozes literariness, the forgotten flower in the long-dead magazine, the satirical put down – all of them find a place.

This is Mehrotra’s 21st work. How does he find the time and energy for this?

“Time is something we are always short of but in this I was fortunate. I retired from my job the day it started. Since I started at a young age, at 21, I retired early. You could say that I have been retired all my well-paid working life. The job I had was teaching English at the University of Allahabad. It was as undemanding on my time as it was on my mind. The only way to keep the mind from rotting away and falling off and immersing it in Sangam was to write or translate or edit books,” Mehrotra concluded. Power to those of his ilk! (IANS)


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Japan launched its new satellite, QZS-1R.

Japan has successfully launched a new navigation satellite into orbit that will replace its decade-old navigation satellite.

The satellite, QZS-1R, was launched onboard an H-2A rocket that lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 10.19 p.m. on Monday night, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said in a statement.

The company builds and operates H-2A rockets the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

QZS-1R is a replacement for Quasi-Zenith Satellite System 1 satellite first launched in 2010. “It was a really beautiful launch," the company said in a tweet after a successful lift-off.

"H-IIA F44 flight proceeded nominally. Approximately 28 minutes 6 seconds after launch, as planned, the payload separated from the launch vehicle," the statement said.

The official QZSS website lists four satellites in the constellation: QZS-1, QZS-2, QZS-3 and QZS-4, reported.

The QZSS constellation will eventually consist of a total of seven satellites that fly in an orbit passing through a near-zenith (or directly overhead) above Japan, and QZS-R1 is meant to share nearly the same transmission signals as recent GPS satellites, according to JAXA.

It is specially optimised for mountainous and urban regions in Japan, JAXA said.

Mitsubishi's H-2A 202 rocket launch system has been operational since 2003 and has sent satellites to locations such as Venus (Akatsuki) and Mars (Emirates Mars Mission).

The latest H2-A rocket launch is the first since November 29, 2020, when Japan launched an advanced relay satellite with laser communications tech into orbit, the report said. (IANS/JB)

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

Fireworks light up the night sky

Everyone loves firecrackers, even the most environment-friendly advocates cannot hide their joy when they see these delightful lights colour the skies. India celebrates Diwali in the true spirit of her culture and heritage by spraying the navy-blue skies with sparkling hues of gold, silver, red, and green. Firecrackers are not just a tradition in this country, they are a legacy.

The original connotation one makes with fireworks in China. The elaborate Chinese celebrations with dragons and zapping firecrackers have left their mark in human memory, but the use of fireworks is not limited to heralding the Chinese New Year. All over the world, fireworks have come to symbolise the ultimate celebration. During Diwali in India, this spirit is re-ignited every year.

Keep Reading Show less

A visitor looks at statues of the 'Royal treasures of Abomey kingdom' on display at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris on Sept. 10, 2021, part of 26 artworks set to be restituted to Benin later in the year.

PARIS — In a decision with potential ramifications across European museums, France is displaying 26 looted colonial-era artifacts for one last time before returning them home to Benin.

The wooden anthropomorphic statues, royal thrones and sacred altars were pilfered by the French army in the 19th century from Western Africa.

Keep reading... Show less