Tribals in Indian English Novel: A.K. Chaturvedi, Atlantic Publishers, New Delhi ISBN -975-81-269-09445

A.K. Chaturvedi, a senior lecturer and scholar of English literature has been seriously involved in criticism of Indian English novel for a pretty long time and has published most of his research papers in distinguished literary and critical magazines of India. He is currently Assistant Professor in English in a Govt. College of Gwalior.

The book under review is designed beautifully in hard bound exhibits the author’s hard labour which he undertook in the preparation of the book. Though a few pieces from the book are already published, yet the author has arranged all of them in a single volume which ‘seeks to bring out the similarly between the primitive life as portrayed by the Indian English novelists and as lived by the tribal in the remote rural area of India’. 

Chaturvedi in the book starts from the historical background of Indian English novels to the English education in India and then elaborates clearly the reasons of late development of Indian English fiction. A few of his reasons why authors chose English as a medium of their expression are no less interesting when he says that Indians wrote in English because they were desirous of impressing the British public and here Chaturvedi gives references of Shambhu Nath Mukherji’s letter to Meredith Townshend to prove his argument. And he appears more hopeful to the future of Indian English novel than the counterpart literature in the regional languages.

In the second chapter of ‘Tribal in ancient India Literature’ the author at first defines the tribal from Indian and Western resources, then searches its roots in Ancient Indian literature like that of Kadambari, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the most ancient book in the Rig Veda. Here he has tried to remain honest in his opinions when he looks at the both pros and cons on the point of discrimination and the treatment with the tribal by the upper strata of society.

The third chapter ‘Searches’ references of the tribal and the issues pertaining to the tribal in the four major Indian English novels viz. Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Vishwas, Kamla Markandey’s The Coffer Dam, Gita Mehta’s A River Sutra and Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.           

In Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Vishwas, Chaturvedi finds tribal world as symbol of ‘elemental life when nature the absolute are not conceived as separate entities but the Tribal village to which Billy escapes is a haven for him. Here he is free of worldly restraints. It is the place where the border lines of divinity, superstition and magic converse’.

Similarly in the sixth novel of The Coffer Dam (1969) Kamla Markandaya, Chaturvedi finds ample references of tribal issues and incidents in the picture of a Tribal village near which the British engineers, Howard Clinton and Mackendrick intend to build a big dam to control and channelize a turbulent river “that rose in the lakes and valleys of the south Indian highland and thundered through inaccessible gorges and jungle dawn to planes with prodigal waste”.

In Gita Mehta’s A River Sutra, which according to Chturvedi, unlike her previous novels is one that could not make a mark, is seminal book that ‘reflects the shift of novelists concern to Indian sensibility and deals with the themes like cultural values, music, art forms, ethos and tribal life’. Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss the booker prize winner novel deals the issues of Tribal’s marginalization in a very limited space. According to the seventeenth chapter of the novel, where the pathos of the tribal of the stone town, Janjiwar are clearly visible. Here the issue of tribal’s marginalization is very significant because for long Trival community which suffered the lack of resources, poverty, illiteracy and even starvation despite false promises of the govt. and groundless development programmes of Govt. and non-Govt. sectors. Tribal, though have seen the light of development and the authors poets and journalists have looked deep into their life, yet they need all round support in our Nation, so that they may not remain a issue or object of the author’s writing but may walk hand in hand on the road of progress.

To sum up, Chaturvedi deserves high accolades for his arduous labour in the book which is fully critical precise, objective and to the point. In his mission of research of the subject matter, Chaturvedi nowhere seems strayed or superfluous. So, the book needs wide distribution among critics and laureates of Indian English criticism so that they may understand the literary contribution of Dr. Chaturvedi.

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