Indian Writing In English: Toru Dutt, Sri Aurobindo, Vikram Seth, R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao

Indian Writing In English: Toru Dutt, Sri Aurobindo, Vikram Seth, R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Raja Rao

Toru Dutt (1856-1877)

Doru Dutt is one of the pioneer Indian English poets and acquired a prominent place in the history of Indian English literature. But unfortunately she didn’t receive fame in her life but she was acknowledged as an important poet after hundred years of her death.

She was born in Calcutta.

Toru Dutt was an Indian poet who wrote in English and French.

Her father was Goving Chandra Dutt, sister Aru and brother Abju.

Their family became Christian in 1862.

She died at a very young age of 21. She was a poet, novelist and translator.

Dutt died young, at age 21, which has influenced some comparison of her to the poet John Keats.

Her poetry is characterized by sensitive descriptions and lyricism.

Her poems revolve around themes and loneliness, longing, patriotism, and nostalgia.

She is considered the first English writing woman of India.

Edmund Goose wrote about her that ‘she brought with her from Europe a store of knowledge that would have sufficed to make an English or French girl seemed learned. ‘

Works Of Toru Dutt

  • Our Casurina Tree
  • Bougmaree
  • A Sheaf Gleaned In French Fields (1876)
  • Amon Pere: It is praised world-wide and considered ‘faultless’.
  • Le Journel De Medmoiselle d’Arvers (1879) – This is the first novel in French by an Indian writer.

Bianca or The Young Spanish Maiden written in English unfinished.

Our Causarina Tree is a poem published in 1881 by Toru Dutt, an Indian poet. In this poem Toru Dutt celebrates the majesty of the Casuarina Tree that she used to see by her window, and remembers her happy childhood days spent under it and revives her memories with her beloved siblings. It still remains one of the most popular poems in modern Indian literature.

Anciant Ballads and Legends of Hindustan are unfinished volume of original poems in English and Sanskrit translations.

Baugmaree is a sonnet and is considered as one of her excellent poem. The title of the poem is very suggestive and apt reflecting her love for nature and an inclination towards romantic poetry. The garden, “Baugmaree” which was the garden of Dutt family is the main theme of the poem. The poetess has described the scenic beauty of her garden in it.

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)

Sri Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghose) was an Indian nationalist, philosopher, yogi, guru and poet.

Aurobindo studied for the Indian Civil Service at King’s College, Cambridge, England.

He took up various civil service works under the Maharaja of Baroda.

He introduced his visions on human progress and spiritual evolution.

He was imprisoned by the British for writing article against British rule in India.

Aurobindo joined the Indian movement for independence from British rule.

His main literary works are “The Life Divine” which deals with theoretical aspects of Internal Yoga.

Savitri: a legend and a symbol 1940 an epic poem in blank verse which refers to passage in The Mahabharata where its characters actualize integral yoga in their lives.

His works also include Philosophy, poetry, translations and commentaries on Vedas, Upnishads and Bhagavad Gita.

He was nominated for the Noble Prize for literature in 1943 and for Peace Prie in 1950.

He started a monthly philosophical magazine called Arya.

Letters on Yoga appeared in 3 volumes.

The American philosopher Ken Wilber has called Aurobindo “India’s greatest modern philosopher sage”.

Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol

The Life Divine

The Synthesis of Yoga

Hymns to the Mystic Fire


Kena and Other Upanishads

Essays on the Gita

The Renaisance of India with a Defence of Indian Culture

The Life Divine

The Synthesis of Yoga

The Human Cycle – The Ideal of Human Unity – War and Self-Determination

Famous Quote by Sri Aurobindo – “The voice of poetry comes from a region above us, a plane of our being above and beyondour personal intelligence.”

Vikram Seth (1952 – )

Vikram Seth is an Indian poet and a novelist born 20 June 1952.

Seth has travelled widely, and has lived in India, China, Britain and California.

Father, Prem Nath SEth, was an executive of Bata Shoes and his mother, Leila Seth, a barrister by training, became the first female judge of the Delhi High Court and first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court in Inddia.

Education at St. Xavier’s High School and St. Michael’s High School in Patna. The Doon School in Dehradun, where he edited The Doon School Weekly.

Tonbridge school, England, to complete his A-Levels at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He then pursued a Ph.D in Economics at Stanford University though never completed it.

Seth bought and renovated the former home of the Anglican poet George Herbert near Salisbury.

In India, he has a family home in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

In 2006, he became a leader of the campaign against section 377 of the Indian Penal code, a law against sodomy.

1983 – Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet

1985 – Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Azia) for The Humble Administrator’s Garden

1988 – Sahitya Akademi Award for The Golden Gate

1993 – Irish Times International Fiction Prize (shortlist) for A Suitable Boy

1994 – Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book ) for A Suitable Boy

1994 – WH Smith Literary Award for A Suitable Boy

1999 – Crossword Book Award for An Equal Music

2001 – Order of the British Empire, Officer

2001 – EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award) for Best Book/Novel for An Equal Music

2005 – Pravasi Bharatiya Samman

2007 – Padma Shri in Literature and Education

2013 – NDTF’s 25 Greatest Global Living Legends in India.

Mapping 1980 – Seth’s First collection of poetry translations (one each) from the Chinese of Du Fu, the Urdu of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the German of Heinrich Heine and the Hindi of Suryakant Tripathi Nirala.

Beastly Tales (Beastly Tales from Here and There) is a 1991 collection of ten fables in poetry written by Vikram Seth. In the introduction, Seth states, ” the first two come from India, the next two from China, the next two from Greece, the next two from the Ukraine. The final two came directly to me from the Land of Gup”. Seth’s sense of humour is exemplified by his retelling of the well-known fable of The Hare and the Tortoise. In his version the loser, being a celebrity, is feted and the winner ignored.

  1. The Crocodile and the Monkey
  2. The Louse and the Mosquito
  3. The Mouse and the Snake
  4. The Rat and the Ox
  5. The Eagle and the Beetle
  6. The Hare and the Tortoise
  7. The Cat and the Cock
  8. The Goat and the Ram
  9. The Frog and the Nightingale
  10. The Elephant and the Tragopan

A Suitable Boy (1993)

1249 pages and 591,552 words, won WH Smith Prize in 1993. The longest novels eery published in a single volume in the English language. A SSuitable girl, A Sequel, still unpublished.

The novel set in a newly post-independence, post-partition India. The novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, and centres on Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s efforts to arrange for the marriage of her younger daughter, Laata, to a ‘suitable boy’. Lata is a 19 year-old university student who refuses to be influenced by her domineering mother or opinionated brother, Arun. Her story revolves around the choice she is forced to make between her suitors Kabir, Haresh, and Amit. It begins in the fictional town of Brahmpur, located on the Ganges between Banaares and Paatna. Brahmpur, along with Calcutta, Delhi, Lucknow and other Indian cities, forms a colourful backdrop for the emerging stories.

The Golden Gate, 1986 – his first English novel.

An Equal Music published in 1999 – The plot concerns Michael, a professional violinist, who never forgot his love for Julia, a pianist he met as a student in Vienna. They meet again after a decade, and conduct a secret affair, though she is married and has one child. Their musical careers are affected by this affair and the knowledge that Julia is going deaf.

Two Lives published in 2005 is a memoir (non fiction) of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt. A story of two extraordinary lives, that of his great uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, and of his German Jewish great aunt, Hennerle Gerda Caro. Two Lives is divided into 5 parts.

Seth has written other works of poetry including ‘Mapping’ (1980), From Heaven Lake (1983), The Humble Administrator’s Garden (1985), All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990), and Tree Chinese Poets (1992).

He has also authored a travel book “From Heaven Lake” Travel through Sin Kiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal.

Children’s fiction Arion and the Dolphin – 1994

R.K. Narayan (1906-2001)

Known as R.K. Narayan – Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayanaswami – nickname – Kunjappa.

Father – Iyer Narayan Swami

Born – 10 October 1906 – Madras – now Chennai, India

Grandmother – Parvati – taught him arithmetic, mythology, classical Indian music and Sanskrit.

While vacationing at his sister’s house in Coimbatore, in 1933, he fell in love with Rajam, only 15. Despite many astrological and financial obstacles, Narayan managed to gain permission from the girl’s father and married her.

Died – 13 May 2001 – aged 94 – Chennai.

Notable awards: Padma Vibhushan 2001, Sahitya Akademi Award 1958, and Filmfare Award for the best story for The Guide. In 1964, he received the Padma Bhushan.

Malgudi – Fictional Town – was first introduced in Swami and Friends – 1935.

Graham Greene, was instrumental in getting publishers for Narayan’s first four books.

W.S. Maugham in 1938 wish to meet, E.M. Forster liked Narayan’s work.

Narayan was labeled the South Indian E.M. Forster by critics.

John Updike noticed his word and compared Narayan to Charles Dickens. In a review of Narayan’s works published in The New Yorker, Updike called him a writer of a vanishing breed.


  1. Swami and Friends – 1935
  2. The Bachelor of Arts – 1937
  3. The Dark Room – 1938
  4. The English Teacher
  5. Mr. Sampath: The Printer of Malgudi – 1948
  6. The Financial Expert – 1952
  7. Waiting for the Mahatma – 1955 (Partition novel)
  8. The Guide – 1958
  9. The Man-Eater of Malgudi – 1961
  10. The Vendor of Sweets – 1967
  11. A Painter off Signs – 1977
  12. A Tiger for Malgudi – 1983

Short Story Collection:

Malgudi Days – 1942 – 9 stories

An Astrologer Day – 1947 – 30 stories

Under the Bunyan Trees and Other Stories – 1985

A Horse And Two Goats


My Dateless Diary

Reluctant Guru

My Days – 1974 – autobiography

A Winter Nightmare – 1998

Semi-autobiographical trilogy:

  1. Swami and Friends
  2. The Bachelor of Arts
  3. The English Teacher

The Guide – 1958

The Guide Character List –

  1. Raju – The protagonist of the story
  2. Raju’s mother – a traditional Indian woman
  3. Rozio – Daughter of a dancer and therefore belonged to a lower caste
  4. Marco – Rosie’s husband – archaeologist
  5. Velan – a faithful, fervent man who believes in Raju’s holiness and spends a great deal of time with him.
  6. Velan’s Sister
  7. Gaffur
  8. Velan’s Brother.

The Guide (1958)

Won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1960.

Set in fictional town Malgudi, in South India.

Based on the life of Raju, from guide to a spiritual guide and then of the greatest holy man of India. Earlier he was known as Railway Raju (nicknamed). He falls in love with a beautiful dancer Rosie, wife of archeologist Marco. Rosie is encouraged by Raju, to follow her dreams by starting her career as a dancer. Marco does not approve Rosie’s passion for dancing. Raju’s mother was not in support of the relationship of Rosie and Raju and thus she leaves them. Rosie soon becomes a good dancer. Raju tries to control her. Raju gets involved in a case of Fraud and Spends two years in jail. Raju passes through a village after completing the sentence is mistaken for a “Sadhu” by Velan. Due to his past he does not want to return to Malgudi, he stays in an abandoned temple. There is a famine in the village and Raju is expected to keep a fast in order to make it rain so that the villagers get rid of famine. Raju confesses the entire truth about his past to Velan, who mistakes Raju as a Sadhu. Media publicizes Raju’s fast and after fasting for several days, he goes to the river side one morning as a part of his daily ritual where his legs sag down as he falls, that the rain is falling in the hills. The novels ends leaving unanswered the question of whether he died or whether the drought has really ended.

Swami and Friends – 1935

Part of Semi-autobiographical trilogy – Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts, The English Teacher.

Set in Malgudi Graham Greene helped to publish this book.

Theme – in Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan, we have the theme of disobedience, conflict, cntrol, authority, power, rebellion, and independence.

Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Narayan may be exploring the theme of disobedience.

Swami and Friends is the story of a 10 year old boy, growing up durin his particular time, his innocence, wonder, mischief and growing pains. He is a sstudent at Albert Mission school, a school established by te British which gives importance to Christianity, English iterature and education.

Divided into 19 chapters.

Swaminathan is the protagonist of the story.

The fictional town of Malgudi was first introduced in Swami and Friends.

Characters – Swami’s father, Swami’s grandmother Rajam, Swami’s mother Swaminathan Samual Swami’s little brother Shanker Mani Somu.

‘The Bachelor of Arts – 1937’

Second book of a trilogy Swami and Friends and ends with The English Teacher.

Set in Malgudi, the story describes the complex transition of an adolescent mind into adulthood and the heartbreak which a youth faces. It revolves around a young man named Chandran, later on Sanyasi Malati and Sushila.

The Man Eater of Malgudi – 1961

This story revlves around the life of an Indian printer named Nataraj. Nataraj lives in a huge ancestral house in Malgudi, a fictional toown in South India. This place is near Mempi hills which is very calm, pleasant and beautiful. He leads a contented lifestyle, with his own circle of friends, such as a poet, a journalist named Sen, and his one employee, Sastri.

The theme of the novel is self-destruction.

Vasu – a taxidermist, villain of the novel, and the man eater of Malgudi.

Kumar is the name of the elephant.

Rangi – a prostitute who has an affair with Vasu.

Mulk Raj Anand (12 December 1905 – 28 SEptember 2004)

Notable for his depiction of the lives of the poorer castes in traditional indian society SEeven Summers 1951 Autobiographical work.

Born 12 December 1905, Peshawar – Now in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Pakistan.

Died 28 September 2004, aged 98 – Pune, Maharashtra, India.

Alma Mater – Cambridge university, University college London, Khalsa College Amritsar.

Notable Work – coolie, Untouchable, Morning Face (1968)

Notable awards – Morning Face – 1968 Sahitya Akademi Award – 1971 Badma Bhushan – 1968, International Peace Prize – 1953

Spouses – Kathleen Gelder, Shirin Vajifdar


He started his writing by a family tragedy result of Indian caste system. His first prose essay was a response to the suicide of an aunt excommunicated by her family for sharing a meal with a Muslim woman.

  1. Untouchable – 1935 – caste system
  2. coolie – 1936 – Munoo 14 year old
  3. Two Leaves and a Bud – 1937
  4. The Village – 1939 – Trilogy
  5. Across the Black Waters – 1939 – Trilogy
  6. The Sword and the Sickle – 1942 – Trilogy
  7. The Big Heart – 1945
  8. The Lost Child – 1934
  9. Seven Summers: A Memoir – 1951 – Autobiography
  10. The Private Life of an Indian Prince – 1953
  11. The Old Woman and the Cow – 1960
  12. The Road – 1961

Untouchable 1935, his first novel, depicts Indian caste system.

It is a story of a single day in the life of Bakha, a toilet cleaner.

Role of christian missionary

Listening to a speech about untouchability by Mahatma Gandhi.

Anand suggests that it is technology, in the form of the newly introduced flush toilet, that may be his savior by eliminaating the need for a caste of toilet cleaners.

Untouchable, which captures the vernacular inventiveness of the Punjabi and Hindi idiom in English.

Anand known as India’s Charles Dickens.

The novel’s introduction was written by his friend E.M. Forster, whom he met while working on T.S. Eliot’s magazine Criterion.

Forster writes: “Avoiding rhetoric and circumlocution, it has gone straight to the heart of its subject and purified it.

It depicts a day in the life of Bakha, a young sweeper, who is untouchable due to his work of cleaning latrines.

The book was inspired by his aunt’s experience when she had a meal with a Muslim woman and was treated as an outcast by her family.

Set in the fictional Indian town of Bulashah

  1. Bakha
  2. Lakha
  3. Charat Singh
  4. Sohini
  5. Pundit Kali Nath
  6. Colonel Hutchinson
  7. Mahatma Gandhi

Two Leaves and a Bud – 1937

Deals with oppression of the poor, and is about a peasant who tries to protect his daughter from a British soldier. The story is set in the tea plantations of Assam. The novel depicts in detail the concept of haves and have-nots and the exploitation of one at the hand of the other, in pre-independence India. This is a dramatic novel that ends with a tragic clash of interests and destinies.


Gangu lives in Hoshiarpur

Sanjani wife

Leila Daughter

Budhu son

Reggie Hunt, a British officer who tries to rape Laila

John De La Harve doctor

Croft-Cooke, plantation’s boss

Main characters:

  1. Munoo – protagonist
  2. Daya Ram – Munoo’s uncle
  3. Bab Nathoo Ram – Sub-accountant of the imperial wife, Bibiji wife.
  4. Seth Prabha Dayal – owner of pickle factory
  5. Ganpat – Prabha partner, cruel nature
  6. Tulsi – Munoo friend, one of the employees in the pickle factory
  7. Hari Har – employee in white cotton mills, Lakshmi wife
  8. Jim Thomas/Chimta Sahib – supervisor at ssir George White Cotton Mills
  9. Ratan – Munoo friend, member of Indian National Trade union
  10. Mrs. Mainwaring – Anglo-Indian

Raja Rao (1908-2006)

Raja Rao was the famous novelist of the Gandhian era whose worrks show an acute consciousness of the forces that came into existence by the Gandhian movement. His works include Kanthapura (1938), The Cow of the Barricades (1947), The Serpent and the Rope (1960), The Cat and Shakespeare (1965), Comrade Kirillov (1976) and The Policeman and the Rose (1978). He was much influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy and this is evident in his two works namely Kanthapura and The Cow of the Barricades where the Mahatma never appears physically but his indomitable presence is felt everywhere. He won the Sahitya Academy Award for The Serpent and the Rope. He was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan for his literary achievements. His works show a perfect blend of eastern and western sensibility. As far as narration is concerned, he was a lot inspired by James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Valmiki and Ved Vyas.

Important work By Raja Rao

Fiction: Novels

  1. Kanthapura – 1938
  2. The Serpent and the Rope – 1960
  3. The Cat and Shakespeare: A Tale of India – 1965
  4. Comrade Kirillov – 1976
  5. The Chessmaster and his Moves – 1988

Fiction: Short Story Collections

  1. The Cow of the Barricades – 1947
  2. The Policeman and the Rose – 1978
  3. On the ganga Ghat – 1989


  1. Changing India: An Anthology – 1939
  2. Tomorrow – 1943-44
  3. Whither India – 1948
  4. The Meaning of India, essays – 1996
  5. The Great Indian Way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi, biography – 1998

Anthologies –

The Best of Raja Rao – 1998

5 Indian Masters (Raja Rao, Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand, Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Khushwant Singh) 2003.

Kanthapura 1938

Kanthapura is the story of a south Indian village named Kanthapura. The novel is narrated in the form of a Sthala Purana by an old woman of the village, Achakka. Dominant castes like Brahmins are privileged to get the best region of the village, while lower castes such as Pariahs are marginalized. Despite this classist system, the village retains its long-cherished traditions of festivals in which all castes interact and the villagers are united. The village is believed to be protected by a local deity named Kenchamma.

The main character of the novel, Moorthy, is a young Brahmin who leaves for the city to study, where he becomes familiar with Gandhian philosophy. He begins living a Gandhian lifestyle, wearing home-spun Khaddar and discarded foreign clothes and speaking out against the caste system. This causes the village priest to turn against Moorthy and excommunicate him. Heartbroken to hear this, Moorthy’s mother Narasamma dies. After this, Moorthy starts living with an educated widow, Rangamma, who is active in India’s independence movement.

Moorthy is then invited by Brahmin clerks at the Skeffington coffee estate to create an awareness of Gandhian teachings among the pariah coolies. When Moorthy arrives, he is beaten by the policeman Bade Khan, but the coolies stand up for Moorthy and beat Bade Khan – an action for which they are then thrown out of the estate. Moorthy continues his fight against injustice and social inequality and beomes a staunch ally of Gandhi. Although he is depressed over the violence at the estate, he takes responsibility and goes on a three-day fast and emerges morally elated. A unit of the independence committee is then formed in Kanthapura, with the office bearers vowing to follow Gandhi’s teachings under Moorthy’s leadership.

The British government accuses Moorthy of provoking the townspeople to inflict violence and arrests him. Though the committee is willing to pay his bail, Moorthy refuses their money. While Moorthy spends the next three months in prison, the women of Kanthapura take charge, forming a volunteer corps under Rangamma’s leadership. Rangamma instills a sense of patriotism among the women by telling them stories of notable women from Indian history. They face poice brutality, including assault and rape, when the village is attacked and burned. Upon Moorthy’s release from prison, he is greeted by the loyal townspeople, who are now united regardless of caste. The novel ends with Moorthy and the town looking to the future and planning to continue their fight of independence.

The Serpent and The Rope – 1960

It is a semi-autobiographical novel recounting a search for spiritual truth in Europe and India, won him the Sahity Akademi Award in 1964. Returning to India in 1939, he edited with Iqbal Singh, Changing India, an anthology of Modern Indian thought from Ram Mohan Roy to Jawaharlal Nehru.

Participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942. In 1043-44, he co-edited with Ahmad Ali a journal from Bombay called Tomorrow.

He had great respect for women, once he said, “Women is the Earth, air, ether, sound, women is the microcosm of the mind”.

Cat and Shakespeare – 1965, was ametaphysical comedy.

Notable awards

  1. Sahitya Akademi Award – 1964
  2. Padma Bhushan – 1969
  3. Neustadt International Prize for Literature – 1988
  4. Padma Vibhushan – 2007

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