Fascinated by India and its English

John Oliver Perry

Fascinated by India and its English

English in East London is different from that in West London. And regional variations are the highest in the case of Indian English, says John Oliver Perry, retired English professor from the U.S. Prof. Perry, a critic of Indian English poetry, arrived here on Monday with his wife Sue to attend a seminar on Mulk Raj Anand's works, organised by Ashayavedi.

Prof. Perry's mission is to concentrate on Indian English poems. In the past, these poems did not command any recognition at the international level.

In 1981, Prof. Perry says that the misconception about Indian English literature underwent a change through poet Jayanta Mohapatra's `Relationships.' Keki Daruwalla carried the change in attitude still forward through his poems.

The 75-year-old Prof. Perry says that one of the good things about India is that poetry is still recognised here. "Ayyappa Panikkar's poems are highly appreciated even by a taxi driver in Kerala.''

Prof. Perry's aim is to work towards improving interaction among Indian critics of Indian English literature. He said that he has found that Indian critics are prejudiced against Indian English poems.

"Indian criticism of Indian English literature should be made more fertile instead of depending on the West. For this, there should be productive conflict,'' he says.

Why is Prof. Perry showing such an interest in Indian English? Well, it all began with his cherished dream to visit the land of Gandhi.

But he got the opportunity at the wrong time. Associated with the anti-war movement, it was during the height of the 1971 India-Pak war he came to India first.

Although the maiden visit was disappointing, India continued to fascinate him.

"There were other reasons for me to fall in love with this country,'' he says. From then on, he has been somehow managing to visit India in spite of his busy schedule in the U.S. He is now on his twelfth visit.

After the first visit, he developed an intimate relationship with Indian English writers; novelist U.R. Ananthamurthy was among them. During his second visit in 1978, Prof. Perry engaged in getting translated into English poems written in protest against the Emergency. In 1983, he published the work `Voices of Emergency.'

Two hundred and fifty poems written by two hundred and thirty poets in fifteen languages were translated into English. He says that many a time, translations fail to convey to him what he is looking for. That is why he concentrates more on Indian English works. For this, he is introducing an Indian Critics Survey in association with a professor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Makaran Paranjpe, and the editor of the Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, S. Sreenivasan.

The aim of the survey is to "strengthen our critical community by facilitating communication among us all.''

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