Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Toru Dutt

Today is the 140th death anniversary of Toru Dutt, (1856-1877) arguably the first Indian poetess in English. She was born of Bengali parents in Calcutta –now Kolkata .Though less widely known than Sarojini Naidu, her immediate successor as far as English poetry by Indian women is concerned, her literary output , in terms of maturity and literary merit is something to marvel at keeping in view the fact that she lived on this planet only for 21 years. Her Bengali Hindu family later converted to Christianity.Toru Datt spent about four years in England and France, during which she learnt French and also honed her skills in writing . She wrote in English and French and besides poems she also wrote two Novels one each in English & French. She was well versed in Bengali too and in later stages of her short life span learnt Sanskrit also. Sometimes a parallel is drawn , comparing her with John Keats who had also died of consumption at a young age of 26 , leaving a precious treasure of English Romantic poetry. She was sharply critical of the injustice meted out to Indians by the British and did not hesitate to express her disapproval of the same.
Though a convert to Christianity, her interest in Indian tradition, Hindu mythology and mythological figures remained in tact . Her poem ‘Lakshman’ is about the dilemma of Lakshman on being exhorted, taunted and scolded by Sita to compel him to go to protect Ram who had gone hunting for Golden Deer at Sita’s behest. It is common knowledge, Sita was abducted by the demon King Ravan , when she was alone and mistakenly crossed the Lakshman Rekha , drawn to form a protective ring around the hut where the three were dwelling at that time during exile.The poem itself is a fine specimen of poetic genius of Toru Dutt. All her English poems are always a pleasure to read . Her poetical collection ‘A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields’ though published 1876 brought her fame and recognition ,only after her death.
Our humble tributes to this poet prodigy !

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