Review of “Very Indian Poem in Indian English” written by Nissim Ezekiel

Nissim Ezekiel is quite unique among Indian poets writing in English in so far as he is an Indian Jew of Bene-Israel origin. Ezekiel was born in Mumbai in 1924 and educated there. He later studied Philosophy at Birkbeck College, London. He stayed in England from 1948 to 1952 where according to his own view ‘philosophy, poverty and poetry’ shared his basement room. In 1982,he was awarded with the Sahitya Academi Award.

The poem ‘Very Indian Poem in Indian English’, written in a very light vein is an ‘Indian poem’ because the poet looks at the world around him through the eyes of a typical middle-class Indian. Apparently the speaker, the ‘I’ of the poem is literate but not highly educated. Here, the personna is voicing his opinions to a visitor.

“I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct.
I should say even 200% correct.
But modern generation is neglecting-
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.”

So it can be now easily understandable from the above extract that how different his type of writing is. The poem is in ‘Indian English’ because it is full of ‘Indianisms”, little mistakes of grammer and usage which do not resemble with standard English. For example, many Indian tend to use the continuous tense where rightly they should use the present indefinite form of the tense-‘I am standing’ for ‘I stand’, ‘Every day I’m reading’ for ‘every day I read’ and so on. ‘I’m the total teetotaller,completely total’ would be unthinkable in standard usage.

Although basically humorous and ironic in tone, the poem may be seen as an attempt to assert the legitimacy of ‘Indian English’, the English that is used by the Indians, which seems to be ‘wrong’ and quirky to others.
(Bibliography: Poems Old and New)