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This report is taken from PN Review 103, Volume 21 Number 5, May - June 1995.

Letter from India Tabish Khair

Are Indians a dour lot? One would think so, if one was to judge Indians by the poems they have written in English. These poems may be good, but they are almost always predictably 'serious'. There are only two collections of light verse in the growing corpus of Indian English poetry - that is, if one forgets a collection or two of lame limericks brought out by Writers' Workshop, Calcutta. An Indian, it seems, prefers a solemn simile to a smile and a glum metaphor to a guffaw. Or, perhaps, mothers of prospective 'humour-poets' in India took Ogden Nash's suggestion more seriously than their counterparts elsewhere: 'So my advice to mothers is that if you are the mother of a poet don't gamble on the chance that future generations may crown him. Follow your original impulse and drown him.'

I woke up to this shortage when Rupa & Co. talked me into publishing a compilation of my light verse and political satires (written for friends and magazines). As light verse is a more serious matter than many of the heavier species of verse, I did not wish to be talked into the venture. But I finally gave in when a Rupa editor pointed out that only one collection of Indian English light verse has been published by a major house in India. This is Vikram Seth's finely flavoured Beastly Tales. Since then I have consulted various booklists and rummaged through four or five libraries without being able ...


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