The Literary City

Finding The Indian Voice In English Literature With Poile Sengupta

May 11, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 1 Episode 20
The Literary City
Finding The Indian Voice In English Literature With Poile Sengupta
Show Notes Chapter Markers

In the late 80s, the Indian voice in English literature started to be heard in a meaningful way. 

But in the early days, the writing was criticized as being imitative of colonial English, swollen and bloated, and not keeping up with contemporary usage.

Either that, or it swung the other way to bring a self-referential rebellion against colonialism with cringe-worthy caricatures of Indian English. While this Quixotic legacy—of grammar, structure and the idiom being the casualty of a war without an enemy—hasn’t entirely left us. 

But as a wise man never ever said, through this fustian thicket Indian voices peeped. New authors threw away the sola topee, and started to write in English, the narrative being Indian; with neither apology nor explanation for parlance.

My guest today, Poile Sengupta is one of the first such writers. From her debut in the mid-80s, she has widely and well…written prose, poetry and plays.

While Poile is both respected and reputable, I believe she has not received all the accolade she deserves…for her prose, poetry, being a playwright and above all, for being a pathfinder…kicking the doors open…for younger Indian writers to walk into a better future.

Let’s talk to Poile now and deep dive into her relationship with the English language.

Poile Sengupta is a playwright, poet, novelist and writer for children and adults. Her full length plays include Mangalam (1993), Inner Laws (1994), A Pretty Business (1995), Keats was a Tuber (1996), Collages (1998), Alipha and Thus Spake Shoorpanakha, So Said Shakuni (2001) and Samara’s Song (2007).  Her plays have been performed and read across India and also abroad.
Her earlier books include The Exquisite Balance, The Way to My Friend’s House, Story of the Road, How the Path Grew - all from CBT, and Waterflowers by Scholastic. Her later work includes Role Call and Role Call Again, 2003, by Rupa and Co., Vikram and Vetal, 2005, Good Heavens!, 2006 and Vikramaditya’s Throne, 2007, from Puffin. Role Call has been translated and published in Bhasa Indonesia, while Vikram and Vetal has been translated and published in French. A picture book Four by Tulika, came out in 2018, and a chapter book A Time for Ebby, was published in September 2021, by Minmini Reads, an imprint of Karadi Tales, Chennai.
Poile Sengupta’s first novel for grown-ups, Inga was published in 2014 by Westland.

Link to buy A Time For Ebby:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", where they discuss the the words "husband and husbandry".

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