Resuscitating Nationalistic Feelings through Reading of Literature

Author : Dr Shalini Yadav

(Professor, Editor and Writer) 

The soul cum quintessence of patriotism is alive and flexing intensely in the hearts of millions of proud Indians. The 77th year of independence that is widely evident in a new India with a breed of youngsters, pragmatic and sensible representatives who are looking for new horizons to touch upon, need to realize and remember always how the country broke age old shackles of colonialism, got freedom and came out of post independence’ tear-jerking and heart-rendering traumatic experiences of horrendous partition where every person of the country was angst-ridden directly or indirectly. Youth should understand the importance of freedom for which ancestors paid a massive price.

The independence got after almost two hundred years heaved under the yoke of British colonial rule has been documented in the historical chronicles but with mere facts and details of the deaths happened due to massacres and number of people who crossed the borders. Thus, Indian English Literature has been a vast canvas for the portrayal of struggle during partition time and till date, leaving imprints on upcoming generations via reading of outstanding literary texts to value the freedom invoking nationalistic feelings inside for country’s all-inclusive growth.

Indian English Literature was initiated due to colonial encounter of India and Britain; exchanged the culture, language and literature with Britishers; opened new doors of knowledge, power and freedom to Indians; led to literary renaissance in the country; influenced the language of thinkers, philosophers, and reformers, and assisted in resisting orthodoxy, superstitions and rituals, ill practices prevailing in the society. 

In Pre Independence era, after Sake Dean Mahomed’s book 'The Travels of Dean Mahomet' in English in the form of thirty-eight letters, it was Raja Rammohan Roy's essay 'A Defense of Hindu Theism' that is counted as the first original publication in expository prose form in the history of Indian writing in English. He wrote articles such as "practice of burning widows alive" and "Address to Lord William Bentinck" in English and wished to modernize the country. Additionally Aurbindo Ghosh, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhay, Mulk Raj Anand and R K Narayan exhibited imperialism and Indian Culture in their works to be read by youth.

'Viswa Kavi’ and first non-European Nobel Prize Winner Rabindranath Tagore revolutionized and gave the ideology of peace and universal brotherhood after independence. He gave a thoughtful message through his poem ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’ for the right of expression without fear.

Before independence, the whole nation dreamt and struggled for achieving independence with mixed emotions of anguish and hope. But after attaining freedom from colonial power with an unusual condition of partition followed with riots in whole country, the whole nation was in mixed expression state. Happiness and hopefulness of better future at one side, where social and economical growth were a part of its credo, and destruction, despair and blood shed due to partition were also there to let everyone down. 

The epitome of human sufferings was witnessed in various forms during the cataclysmic partition of India in 1947. Massacres and mutilation of human bodies went on parallel with migration and uprootedness. Sexual assaults became quite common experience belilttling and terrifying women of that period, moreover loss of honour, property, relations, mental peace, sense of security, nationality, identity etc everything was on stake. 

The real sufferings faced by people were portrayed through literature in most obvious way. In the works of writers such as Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Krishan Chandra, Saadat Hasan Manto, Sardar Singh Duggal, Bhishma Sahani, B. Rajan, Amrita Pritam, Nanak Singh, Chaman Nahal, Yashpal, Kamleshwar and, Rajendra Singh Bedi, there are some very emotional and heart-rending delineations about catastrophic and horrified partition which became more about despair than hope after the division. They described gut-wrenching scenes of devastating partition and portrayed how humanity tattered into pieces and survived during hard times with a ray of hope for better future. 

Many poets of that period lamented the bloodshed through their poetry. Few of such works are Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Subh-e-Azaadi’, Annada Shankar Ray’s ‘Khoka O Khuku’, Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s ‘Dudh Da Qatl’, Amrita Pritam’s ‘Waris Shah’, Agha Shahid Ali’s ‘By the Waters of Sind’ and Mehjoor’s ‘Azadee’ etc. which are translated in English too. Amrita Pritam’s poem ‘Waris Shah’ is one of the best illustrations to understand the disastrous condition of that time. She wrote the poem when she was going from Delhi to Dehradun through a train as a refugee and prayed through the following lines- “Just look at your Punjab / Today corpses haunt the woods / Chenab river overflows with blood / Some one has mixed poison / In the Five Rivers of Punjab…”

The partition had smeared, smashed and turned the feeling of the light and brightness of freedom into darkness and gloom. The riots aroused on both sides of the border led to extreme destruction, mournfulness, and killing spree. Depicting the moral paradox, in his most famous novel ‘Train To Pakistan’, Khushwant Singh says, “The bullet is neutral. It hits the good and the bad, the important and the insignificant, without distinction”. 

In India, post independence people became more aware in terms of reading our own languages’ literature, additionally, technological advancement gradually left an impact on Indian literature but still partition time literature due to tragic setting is counted in the best including these novels -Khushwant Singh’s ‘Train to Pakistan’, B. Rajan’s ‘The Dark Dancer’, Attia Hosain’s ‘Sunlight on a Broken Column’, Manohar Malgaonkar’s ‘A Bend in the Ganges’, Amrita Pritam’s ‘Pinjar’ and short stories like “Of Ram and Rahim” by Mahasweta Devi, “Toba Tek Singh” by Saadat Hassan Manto and “The Crossing” by Jotirmoyee Devi and many more.

Amrita Pritam’s ‘Pinjar’ narrated the gendered experience of the trauma, exploitation, sacrifices and sufferings of partition. It is an extraordinary saga that depicted the issues of displacement, marginalization, abduction, dual identity and powerlessness moreover, different dimensions of violence against women on religious, social and most prominently physical and mental levels. Moreover it detailed how women were mutilated, sexually assaulted, raped, rotated naked in the surroundings, impregnated and fetus killed in the womb during the tremulous time of partition.  

The tragic memories still haunt people who were wounded, fractured and survived in that period.  Those terrifying scenes are well portrayed and depicted in the literature by writers and poets who suffered mentally and physically. How people suffered, struggled, migrated, became homeless, without a penny and food in that period can never be forgotten. 

Literature either English Literature or regional such as Punjabi, Hindu, Urdu, Bengali and English, in both type of, writers and poets have tried to describe the heinousness and havoc of tragic partition through characters and settings portrayed in the literary pieces touching the hearts of the readers to realize utmost what people exactly suffered. The terror overpowered their souls and body, the fear of losing everything, the insecurities, the pain to leave the roots behind, and the lose of reverence and homelessness everything has been skillfully portrayed and narrated in the stories in literature to reach the unreach.  

Imprints and marks of partition memories on the hearts and minds of people are alive due to literature that can never be faded away. The startling narratives of many writers from the time of partition till today mention this catastrophic episode. In ‘Borders and Boundaries: How Women Experienced the Partition of India’, Ritu Menon says, “The rending of the social and emotional fabric that took place in 1947 is still far from mended.” Though the suffering is Unsalvaged after the subcontinent was blooded, yet survived and colonizer or partition riots could not kill the spirit of the country.   

The techno-savvy youth of our country has access to numerous virtual platforms, where they can find a surfeit of literary works. Hence today’s youth is more active on social media, they can be socially conscious and politically active exchanging ideas for better outcomes.

The literature of partition struggle and post-independence era reflects on the nation-building process, the comprehensive, and reformist attitude towards growth. It recounts stories of humanity, heroism, and self-abnegation amongst the turmoil and violence. Such literary works educe sensations of responsiveness, empathy and benevolence among the youth, making them more thoughtful towards the predicament of the fatalities of any battle.

Hereafter reading of post independence Indian English Literature continues to evoke the sense of responsibility in youth; assist in respecting the importance of independence; understand the past struggle of forefathers; intensify the sense of national pride and the feel of patriotism and instill the values of empathy, inclusiveness, and social justice to ensure better future of India.  (The author has his own study and views)