[(essay date January 2002) In the following essay, the Chakrabartis contrast the literary approaches taken by Lahiri and Shubodh Ghosh, who writes about life in Bengal during the period between 1950 and 1960.]
The comment on the literature written in different regional languages in India during the last 50 years, made by Salman Rudhdie is indeed unfortunate. In the introduction of a jointly edited book, Salman Rushidie comments:
The prose writing--both fiction and nonfiction created in this period (1947-1997) by Indian writers writing in English--is proving to be a stronger and more important body of work than of what has been produced in the 16 'official' languages of India, the so-called 'vernacular languages' during the same time, indeed, this new, and still burgeoning 'Indo-Anglian' Literature represents perhaps the most valuable contribution India has made to the world of book1.
One may or may not contest what Rushdie thinks of the role and the importance of Indian writings in English in the 'world of books'. But his comparison of Indian writings in English with Indian literature written in different regional languages--Indian literature which according to him is of minimal importance to the world of books shows his callow competence and infantile analysis of what has been written in Indian vernacular languages during the last fifty years. Indeed a comment like this is unfortunate.
Many Indian languages have rich traditions. Hindi speaking states in India have produced a variety of literature. Marathi literature has contributed a lot to the world of books, particularly literature dealing with Dalit community:
... One the other hand, in an Indian laguage like Marathi an entire school of Dalit writers of the lowest of the low classes has arisen during the last two decades, they have broadened the scope of Marathi literature, both in themes and style. The Dalit experience is one of the most tragic in the world, showing what man has made of Man, and since this experience is expressed in the Dalit's own words, Marathi literature has gained a new vocabulary and idiom, a new register and idiolect2.
The modern Bengali literature after the Indian Independence has inherited a very strong line of tradition. The Bengali language itself is rich with lexical varieties pertaining to different registers. References to Samaresh Basu, Naren Mitra, Bimal Kar, Subodh Ghosh, Shyamal Gangopadhyay, Sunil Ganguly, Manoj Basu, Jibananda Das, Sukanta Bhattacharya and lots of others are evidences of the literary richness transmuted through the Bengali language after the Indian freedom. Great writer in Bangladesh like Sayed Walliallah, Humayun Ahmed, Aal Mamud, Akhtarujjamam Ilias, Samsur Rahaman and others have made experiments not only with forms of novel but also with themes. Only reference to either Samaresh Basu's 'Ganga' or 'B. T. Roder Dhare' or Chilakothar Sipai' of Akhtarujjaman is sufficient in evaluating the richness of literature written in Bengali language. Had Samaresh Basu been translated into English and the translated version of his novel been sent to the Noble Prize committee, who knows Samaresh Basu...