You are currently viewing In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language. Comment.

In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language. Comment.

In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language. Comment.

There’s no way to celebrate the Salman Rushdies and the Arundhati Roys who have earned such fame without going back to the originals: R.K. Narayan, G.V. Desani, Raja Rao. In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

In the preface of his classic Kanthapura , first published in 1938, Raja Rao writes, “We cannot write like the English. We should not. We cannot write only as Indians. Our method of expression… has to be a dialect which will some day prove to be as distinctive and colourful as the Irish and the American. Time alone will justify it.” In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

The beginning of Kanthapura lives up to this distinctiveness: “Our village—I don’t think you have ever heard of it—Kanthapura is its name, and it is in the province of Kara. High on the Ghats is it, high up the steep mountains that face the cool Arabian seas, up the Malabar coast is it, up Mangalore and Puttur and many a centre of cardamom and coffee, rice and sugarcane. Roads, narrow, dusty, rut-covered roads, wind through the forests of teak and of jack, of sandal and of sal, and hanging over bellowing gorges and leaping over elephant-haunted valleys, they turn now to the left and now to the right…”

The telling was not easy. “One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own…. English is not really an alien language to us. It is the language of our intellectual make-up…not our emotional make-up,” he says, choosing to write in English and not Kannada or French, two other languages he was fluent in. In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

The story is of an upheaval that will soon tell on the lives of a community. A disarray is caused by the arrival of a person influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. “O, lift the flag high/ Lift the flag high/ This is the flag of the Revolution.” In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

As the grandmother-narrator Achakka puts it: “We said to ourselves, he is one of the Gandhi-men, who say there is neither caste nor clan nor family, and yet they pray like us and they live like us. Only they say, too, one should not marry early, one should allow widows to take husbands and a brahmin might marry a pariah and a pariah a brahmin. Well, how does it affect us? We shall be dead before the world is polluted.” In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

But her world will be upended too. Raja Rao, who lived in France for decades, and later taught philosophy at the university of Texas, was always in search of the best way to infuse the “tempo of Indian life” while writing in English. In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

“We, in India, think quickly, we talk quickly, and we move quickly. There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on… we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling.” In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

Intrestingly, the essential flavour in many images used by the Indian fiction writers in englishis Indian. In fact, their inherent indianness cannot escape talking metaphorically or obliquely by implication is general in natural with Indians. In everyday language they often use imagery as a means of expression, reinforcement, endorsement, illustration, evocation, and also as objective correlative. Indeed, their minds have a remarkable ability to shift gears smoothly from ‘the literal to the fanciful’ with a view to enhancing the possibility of wider implication. In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

Indianness as a way of life as a culture, as a socio-political and economic ethos, is too immense to be accommodated into a concept. Any attempt at conceptualisation of indianness is married by the immense variety is matters of language, caste, subcastes, creed, sex, superstitions, food, and dress habits in India. The diversity within the country is much greater than the one that is found among the various nations of Europe. Yet underneath the surface of diversity there are certain commonly shared features, emotions, taboos and sentiments that contribute to a unified vision of Indiannes. In Kanthapura, Raja Rao conveys a purely Indian experience through the foreign medium of the English Language.

 

English has been in India for nearly two hundred years. With varying degrees of emphasis from time to time it has been enjoying the status of  the official language of the country without being included in the eight schedule of the country’s constitution. It has been and still continues to be the medium of higher education in most of the states in India. An increasing number of English-medium schools not only use English as the medium of education at the primary and secondary levels, but also create in the Indian society the English-knowing elite, cutting across the linguistic, religious, caste, and regional barriers. A cultural profile of the Indian society shows that its upper strata are more English than the English. A good number of creative writers in India have taken to English as their creative medium of poetry, novel, drama, and other forms of writing. Most of these writers are bilingual and some are trilingual. But the choice of the medium is dictated by the factors of proficiency in the language, pre- Indian and international readers, and such other things. Many of these writers are influenced by their mother tongues in their use of English language. In spite of their choice of English as their medium, they are not alien to the Indian way of life. In their themes, sentiments and emotions and also in their thought process they are much Indian as any creative writer in any Indian language. Back to the concept of indianness, it is restricted to mean the distinctive features of Indian English, which make it look and sound different from the Englishness of british English and also different from American English. It is presupposed here that the English language has so much diffused to the various  level of the Indian society  that it can be termed Indian English  like other varieties of English, such as Australian English, American English, African English, and so on.. more than those who have only working

knowledge of English, it is the creative writers who have shaped and contributed to the growth of indian English.

The concept of Indianness is, therefore restricted to the kind and style of the English language used by Indian writers of all hues and levels. It is applied here to the restricted body of Indian English writers purely from a linguistic standpoint, namely, collocations, syntactic devices and literal or idiomatic translations from the mother tongue from this perspective the Indianness of English is traced to the following sources. Kachru identifies the following sources of indianness in Indian English.

1)    Transfer of context:-  This implies the transfer of cultural contexts , which are not available in any English –speaking society. For example the caste system, social attitudes, religious Indian story writing, from transfer of context from one language community to another.

2)    Transfer of meaning in L1 to those in L2:- meanings of certain lexical items in the native language of the writers are transferred to corresponding lexical unit in the native language into English. For example in british and American English the compound flower-bed is associated with gardening. But the same compound word, is made to mean a bed decorated with flowers on the nuptial night.

Sometimes this kind of transfer is extended to longer units of speech, such as phrases, clauses or sentences:

  • a)     turmeric ceremony
  • b)    salt giver
  • c)     three-eyed
  • d)    fall at your feet
  • e)    a licker of your feet
  • f)     a dog is a lion in his own street.

Many examples of this kind are available in kanthapura:

  • a)     purnayya has a grown-up daughter who will come home soon.
  • b)    Now my seenu too, was going to go with him
  • c)     He wanted me to be his dog’s tail.
  • d)    You are the son of my woman/ concubine

You will get a marriage greeting today

3) Transfer of form- context component:-  This is a combination of the earlier two, where typically Indian contextual units with their specific formal items are transferred to Indian English. The process involves indianisationn of the functions of speech, such as abuses, curses, greetings, blessings, flattery, and so on.

The following are some of the examples of this kind

  • a)     You goose-faced minion
  • b)    A sinner may go to the ocean, but the water will touch only his knees.
  • c)      You shall not light your kitchen fires.

Many of these examples shows one aspect of Indian English which is essentially cultural in its context. The indianness of Raja Rao’s kanthapura as perceived by his literary critics may be described as literary stylistic perceptions.  It may be noted here that there is a perceptible difference between the literary critic’s approach and the linguist’s approach to indianness. The following is a survey of what the literary critics of raja rao mean by his indianness.

Read more:

Leave a Reply