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This report is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

Letter from Denmark (and India) Tabish Khair

After five years in Denmark I am still surprised by the reluctance of many Danes to accept me as a 'genuine' speaker and writer of English. Some of them are simply not aware of the fact that about 20 million Indians speak fluent English from choice (mostly along with some other language) and another 50 million or so can communicate in various varieties of pidgin English. Other Danes, while aware of the Englishlanguage heritage of India, are unwilling to allot standard English-in-India the same prestige as standard US or UK English.

As an Indian writing in English and settled in Denmark, such (implicit and explicit) attitudes are not just a reminder of the obscured element of 'Eurocentricity' in Danish thinking. More problematically, such attitudes threaten to unknit the fabric of poetry that I have been painstakingly stitching over the past few years - a fabric made of patches of Urdu, Hindi and various other language-imbricated heritages, though stitched together by the thread of English. This problem is complicated by the 'official' approach to poetry and literature in general.

While literature and, especially, poetry are trumpeted as 'universal' and 'our collective human heritage', their availability and propagation continue to be bricked in by the walls of nationality and 'ethnicity'. Which means that if you are an Indian based in India you can avail of certain established avenues of publication and acknowledgement, which cease to be readily available once you move to Spain or Denmark. Of course, ...


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