ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Satire, Literary Realism and the Indian State

Fakir Mohan Senapati's literary device of using satire served a dual purpose. It was a strategy that made possible a veiled criticism of the colonial state and the norms it imposed but was also an admission of self-mockery. This tradition of satire and self-mockery is carried further in novels that depict the disillusionment the citizen experienced in the post-colonial state, most evocative in Shrilal Shukla's novel of post-Nehruvian despair, Raag Darbari. The use of satire strikes a bitterly mocking tone, yet the humour assuages, lifts the narrative from being a work of utter desolation to one the reader can understand, mourn and yet laugh.

T his paper outlines the modes of political critique employed in Fakir Mohan Senapatis seminal Oriya novel Chha Mana Atha Guntha (Six Acres and a Third (1897-99)) in order to consider the relationship between Indian literary realism, satire and the Indian state over the last 200 years. Using the methodology made available by Chha Mana in its satirical critique of 19th century colonialism, the paper will proceed to explore the nature of power in early post-colonial India, through a reading of Shrilal Shuklas Hindi novel Raag Darbari (1968). Raag Darbari, like Chha Mana, invokes forms of explosive humour central to the oral culture of Indian literary aesthetics in order to critique the political realities of the society it represents. In particular, the novel gives such humour a modern political inflection through the development of what can be called the descriptive logic of ulti batein, which, in turning on its head conventional understandings of the relationships between cause and effect, intention and result and other self-evident logics of realism, comprises a critical commentary on the particular kind of failure which characterised the post-colonial Indian state. By inverting conventional descriptive logic, Raag Darbari represents the utter failings of the ideals of the nationalist state in their post-colonial implementation and, more drastically, in their post-Nehruvian disintegration. In this way, Raag Darbari not only makes a humorous political critique, but also quite poignantly represents the extent to which the disillusionment of the era penetrates deeply into the Indian psyche into the very crevices between the representation and the real.

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