Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Evaluation of R. Parthasarathy as an Indian Poet writing in English

A poet, translator, critic, and editor, R. Parthasarathy ( Rajagopal Parthasarathy) is one of the leading Indian poets writing in English. He is considered as one of the few gifted Indian poets who tried their pen in English. The strength of his poetry lies almost entirely in its visual juxtapositions and the startling image. His lines do not sing. He cultivates the deliberately prosaic style, an undertone of rhythm itself. So, at their best, his poems become memorable individual images themselves. But occasionally the prose ignites no metaphor, is almost purely descriptive. Flat passages also weaken his longest and most ambitious poem, 'An Unfinished Biography', a meditation in five parts on the poet approaching thirty, his past, and his travels abroad. 

Written during his year of linguistic studies in Leeds, 'An Unfinished Biography' is important in that it foreshadows the poet's future preoccupations with language and its roots, and hints, owing to his own cultural deracination, at a future silence. In exile, too, the poet gains new insight into his colonial identity and learns the despair of having been born too late to affect the lives of both the colonizers and the colonized; Both the themes of language, and colonial alienation come together in one of his latest poems 'An Epitaph for Francis Day', where the poet's sense of futility is reinforced on being back in India.

Both these dilemmas, the colonial and the linguistic, the feeling of being born between two worlds, have turned Parthasarathy to the study of Sanskrit and his mother tongue Tamil. Sarojini Naidu gave up writing in English, though probably for other reason, more than fifty years ago. Young poets, bilingually accomplished, also stop writing in English continue writing in both English and the mother tongue. Some of the best work in English has been done by such bilingual writers as Aruu Kolathkar. Dilip Chitre, and Kamala Das. P. Lal, on the other hand, a founder of Calcutta's Writers Workshop which encourages Indian writing in English very successfully to translating from the Sanskrit, Adil Jussawalla is confidents that the next ten years of poetry writtenin English will see ,t deal of translated and bilingual work.

As the bulk of translations grow, so does work originally in English. The best book of English-language poems published in India in 1966 is Gieve Patel's Poems. This is an important work in that it contains the poems by an Indian to be committed to a recognizably human reality. The preoccupations in the poems are neither aesthetic nor philosophical but truly human. A doctor by profession, Patel sees his subjects with a sharp but rather helpless compassion.

Parthasarathy's, Grieve Patel's use of language is spare and unambitious, the poems progressing in a series of verse sentences which make little use of cadence, rhyme, or melody.