Reading Muktibodh Through The Lens Of Cosmopolitan Theory
This paper intends to read Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh’s poetry and short stories (particularly his anthology चाँद का मुँह टेड़ा है translated as Crooked is the face of moon) in the light of cosmopolitan thought. In the post-1947 Hindi literary scene, Muktibodh, the petit-bourgeois intellectual, can be seen as a cosmopolitan subject who is struggling between the vision of a classless society and his aspiration, as a poet, to be recognized as a part of the upper class whose ideals he has ingested in the form of his education, evident in his poem मैं तुम लोगों से दूर हूँ translated as So Very Far. There is recognition in the poet-narrator that he is a privileged individual yet there is a desire to be a part of the “void” characteristic of the “underground wretch”. As opposed to Kant’s idea of cosmopolitanism which paid a strong emphasis on geography and defined it as “the condition of possibility of all other forms of practical knowledge of the world”, Muktibodh’s poetry consists of the underbelly of a soon-to-be capitalist society which is geographically isolated yet is the repository of knowledge for him. As a proponent of the Prayogvad (experimental) school of poetry and later Pragativad (Progressive/Marxist) school, Muktibodh posed a challenge to the traditional Chhayavad (Romantic) school and brought to fore the social realities which had been largely ignored in the wake of the nationalist struggle for independence. Muktibodh’s poetry can be read as a counter-discourse to the elite forms of cosmopolitanism which simply believe in travel and tourism. Interestingly, his poems are almost always set in urban spaces where his protagonist is chosen to be a little famished girl or a split-eared worker repairing Chevrolets and Dodges. The city not only becomes a place of inequality, prejudice and injustice but also a place where a vision of solidarity and tolerance among the working classes can be achieved by Muktibodh, and this solidarity depends on the recognition and acceptance of difference. In this sense, the poet/narrator can be called a ‘citizen of the world’ because his voice resonates with the social and class struggles all over the world.