Showing posts with label Indian Poetry in English. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian Poetry in English. Show all posts

Friday, March 13, 2015

“The Looking-Glass' by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

How a Woman Should Behave While Going to Bed With a Man

In this poem, Kamala Das offers a few suggestions to women about how to get the maximum possible pleasure out of her sexual experiences. A woman, says the poetess, should make no secret of her sexual requirements when she is going to have sexual intercourse with a man A woman should not, for instance, feel shy about admiring a man’s body and limbs when she sees him in the nude. In fact, a woman should stand naked before a mirror and ask her partner also to stand naked by her side so that they can enjoy his feeling of physical superiority over her by virtue of his bodily strength.

A woman should enjoy a feeling of her own superiority over him because her body is softer and lovelier than his. A woman should then note the perfection of the man’s limbs, and should note his eyes becoming red when the water enters his eyes while he is having a bath. She should note the shy manner in which he walks upon the bathroom floor, dropping his towel because of his loose grip on it, and she should note the jerky way in which he urinates. A woman should not only admire the man’s symmetrical and strong limbs, but also his movements including his jerky manner of ending his urination. All these details about the man’s body and his movements should actually please a woman and make her think that this particular man is the only one who can satisfy her fully and in every way when they lie together in bed.

How She Should Behave in Bed

The poetess then suggests that a woman should give to her lover everything that she is capable of giving to a lover in bed. She should make it possible for him to smell her long hair and the sweat between her breasts; she should let him feel the shock of coming into contact with her warm menstrual blood if she having her monthly period at the time, and she should make him conscious of all her sexual cravings which she wants him to satisfy. There is nothing difficult in doing all this, says the poetess. A woman would find it easy to do all these things if she sheds her shyness and timidity and behaves boldly in the matter.

Her Predicament After the Man Has Left Her for Good

The poetess then points out that the real difficulty for a woman lies in the fact that, if this particular lover, with whom she has had a most pleasurable experience of the sexual act, leaves her, never to come back, she would find it impossible to get a substitute for him. And, if she does not find a substitute, her life would become meaningless to her. Her eyes would keep searching for somebody like her departed lover, but she would not find anyone exactly like him. Her predicament would lead her into a state of total despair so that her body, which was at one time irresistibly alluring, would then lose its charm and would become unexciting.

“The Invitation "by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

The Persona’s Bitter-Sweet Memory of a Sexual Experience

The persona in the poem recalls her experience of the sexual act with a lover. (The persona is most probably the poetess herself). On a certain day, she felt as if a man’s fist was alternately tightening itself and then loosening its muscles. It seemed to her that the man were forming some firm resolve and then becoming somewhat uncertain. In other words, the poetess was feeling tortured by her memory of her experience of love-making with a lover of hers. The lover had gone away after making love to her, and had not returned. The woman (who, as we have already indicated, could be the poetess herself) knew that her lover would not come back, but she could not forget her experience of love-making with that man because the experience had been a most delicious one. The bitter-sweet of the memory of her sexual experience continued to haunt her.

The Sea’s Suggestion to the Woman to Jump into its Waters and Perish there.

Standing on the seashore, the woman got the feeling that the sea was inviting her to jump into its waters in order to perish there and thus put an end to her life. The sea seemed to say to her that she would lose nothing except her miserable life while it would certainly gain something by swallowing her body and thus adding to its conquests. The woman, however, told the sea to mind its own business and to go its own way, leaving her to go her way.

The Woman’s Effort to Dismiss Her Memories from Her Mind

The woman then recalled how her lover used to come to her in the intervals of his office-work in order to make love to her. He used to come to her to refresh himself after his tiring office-work, and he felt warmed in her embraces, remaining silent all the time. The woman then tried to dismiss this memory from her mind by telling herself that her lover had gone for good, and that it would be foolish on her part to entertain any hope that he would return.

The Sea’s Repetition of its Invitation to the Woman

The sea seemed to repeat its invitation to the woman to enter its waters in order to put an end to her life. But the woman replied that she wanted to be left alone, and not to be pestered by the sea. Her thoughts again turned to her lover; and she realized that she wanted no other lover but the same who had been sleeping with her and who had now gone away. In bed with him, she used to feel as if she was in paradise. The bed, six feet in length and two feet in width, was heaven for them; and, it was only when they left the bed-room and walked together in the open that they exposed themselves to the much wider space outside where the city was situated.

The Sea’s Invitation, Made to Appear More Attractive

The sea spoke to the woman again, urging her to end her life in its waters. The sea told her that, if she waited for her death to come naturally to her, she would have to be cremated; and her dead body would then be placed on a funeral pyre to be consumed by the fire. The sea said that, if she jumped into its waters, she would meet a cool death, and that she would be able to stretch her limbs on the cool sand at its bottom and would be able to rest her head on the flowers growing there.

The Woman, Unable to Shed Her Memories of Her Lover

The woman, turning away from the sea, thought again of her experience of love-making with that lover of hers. Throughout the summer they had been meeting in the afternoons to make love to each other, and, at the end of the sexual act, their bodies would lie listlessly on the bed, with their minds rendered incapable of thinking by the heat of the sun.

The Woman’s Rejection of the Sea’s Invitation

The sea spoke once more, urging the woman to put an end to her memories of her past love-making and the heartache which those memories were causing her. The sea went on to say that it had waited for a long time for the right person, who would also be a bright person, like her, to come and enter its blue waters. But this time the woman replied to the sea that she was still young, and that she still needed that lover of hers to reconstruct her life and then to destroy it. In other words, she had a vague hope that her lover might come back to her even though he might again forsake her. So she told the sea to leave her to herself.

The Woman’s Final Decision

Then, once more turning away from the sea, the woman said that the sea could wait and that she was not yet prepared to drown herself in it. And next she spoke in her imagination to her absent lover and told him that the sea-waves were rushing violently towards the seashore, wanting to drown her. She had been resisting the sea’s invitation but she could not go on resisting it forever. Thus, the woman’s monologue ends with her intention soon to give a practical shape to her desire to commit suicide.

“The Sunshine Cat' by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

The Persona’s Feeling of Complete Disillusionment

 The persona in this poem describes her sexual experiences with her husband and with other men, and expresses her feeling of complete disillusionment with all her sexual partners. The persona is most probably Kamala Das herself; and she tells us that, though she had originally loved her husband in the hope that he would love her too, she no longer loves him because he proved to be a selfish man and a coward. Her husband did not love her at all and did not even make use of her as a sexual partner in the right manner. Her husband showed himself to be a keen and relentless observer when, in sheer desperation, she acquired other lovers and went to bed with them.

The Persona’s Failure to Win the “Love” of Any of Her Sexual Partners

 It was her disgust with her husband which drove the poetess to have extra-marital love –affairs. But even these other men, with whom she slept, proved to be most disappointing because of their selfish attitude towards love-making. She did her utmost to excite some genuine feeling in those other lovers by clinging to their bosoms on which there was a thick growth of hair; and she clung to their bosoms as if wanting to hide her face in their hair. Those lovers were younger than she herself, and she tried to make them forget everything expect the act of love-making. But each of them told her that he could not “love” her though he could be “kind” towards her. Thus even they provided her with no real satisfaction, and she could only shed tears over her disappointment. She was not even able to enjoy any sound sleep because of her disappointment with those lovers. She wept so profusely that she could have built walls with her tears, walls to hold her like a prisoner.

Her Husband’s Cruelty to Her

The poetess’s husband was so cruel to her that he used to lock her in a room containing books every morning and used to unlock the room only when he returned home in the evenings. A ray of sunshine fell at the door of that room; and this ray of sunshine was the only company she had. That ray of sunshine looked like a yellow-coloured cat; and that was the poetess’s only companion. Time passed; and, when winter came, the sun’s ray lost its brightness because of the cloudy skies. The sun’s ray was now reduced only to a thin line, as thin as a hair. And the poetess herself had now become so emaciated and thin because of her chronic depression and despondency that she felt herself to be half-dead and, therefore, no longer an object of sexual desire on the part of any man.

“A Hot Noon in Malabar' by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

The poetess recalls some of her experiences in her home in Malabar. She thinks of the hot noon-time when all sorts of persons used to pass her home and to pause and to stop there in order to sell the wares which they carried from place to place. She first thinks of the beggars who used to come to her house to beg alms in their characteristic voices expressive of their discontent with life and their need for charity. 

Then she thinks of the men who came from the hills with parrots in a cage and fortune-cards, all stained because of the long time during which those cards had been used again and again. She thinks of the brown-complexioned girls who belonged to the class of basket-makers and manufacturers of bird-catching traps. These girls were palm-readers who offered, in their monotonous voices, to read the palms of those who wanted their fortunes told on the basis of the lines on their palms. 

The poetess then recalls the bangle-sellers who had walked miles and miles of the dusty roads in order to sell their bangles of various colours (red, green and blue). Next, she thinks of the strangers who used to come and peep into her house through the window-curtains but were unable to see anything because the rooms of the house were dark while their eyes carried the heat and the brightness of sunlight in them. The strangers were suspicious about how they might be received and what treatment they might get from the inmates of the house. These strangers remained silent most of the time but, when they spoke, they did so in voices which were wild like the sounds that are heard in a jungle. 

The poetess then expresses the view that noon-time in Malabar was not only a time for the visits of wild men but also for wild thoughts to enter her mind, and for a wild desire for love-making to arise in her mind. The poetess laments the fact that she is now living so far away from her Malabar home. She experiences an intense longing to go back there and to look at all those men at whom she used to look during her life there. The feeling that she is now so far away from that home is a torture to her.

“My Grandmother's House' by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

The Poetess’s Recollection of Her Childhood in Her Grandmother’s House

 The poetess recalls the house where she once used to live with her grandmother who was quite fond of her and from whom she used to receive a lot of love. The grandmother had died; and the house had then ceased to be inhabited by anybody. The poetess was in those days a little girl and did not even know how to read the books which lay in the house. The death of her grandmother had robbed the little girl of her capacity to feel. It had seemed to her that the blood in her veins was no longer warm but had turned cold, as cold as the moon.

The Deserted House After the Grandmother’s Death

 The poetess now often thinks of going to that house in order to look at the things inside it through the windows; but the windows being closed she would not be able to see anything lying inside, and would be able only to experience a feeling of utter hopeless, and then to gather some of the darkness from that place and bring it with her to her bedroom where she would merely lie down to meditate upon her memories of the past.

The poetess’s Desperate Need of Love

Addressing her husband, Kamala Das says that he would perhaps not be able to believe that she had lived in such a house, had felt proud of herself, and had received the love of someone (namely her grandmother). She tells her life and because she no longer receives any love from anybody. Now she seeks love like a beggar from strangers; and she would feel consoled even if she gets a small measure of love from somebody.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Old Playhouse by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

The Old Playhouse, published in 1973 in The Old Playhouse and Other Poems, is a poem of protest against patriarchy in which  Kamala Das voices against the domination of the male and the consequent dwarfing of the female. The poetess expresses the common expectations of the male-dominated Indian society. In a male-dominated society, a woman is expected to play certain conventional roles, and her own wishes and aspirations are not taken into account. 

The poem is written in the first-person point of view. The persona in this poem is a woman, who gives an account of her unsatisfactory and disappointing conjugal life with her husband. She compares herself to a swallow and her husband a captor who wanted to tame her and keep her fully under his control by the power of his love-making.


The husband wanted to make her forget all those comforts which she might have enjoyed in her home before being married; but, in addition to that , he wanted also make her forget her very nature and her innate love of freedom by keeping her in a state of subjection to him. 

The speaker says that she had come to her husband with a view to developing her own personality. But all she has had from her husband are lesson about him. Her husband, who is a self-centered person, makes love with her and he feels pleased by her bodily response to his love-making. He approves her state of mind and her mood when he makes love to her and he feels pleased by the tremors of her body during the sexual union. 

He, however, fails to understand that her response to his love-making is purely physical and ,therefore, superficial because she never experiences any feeling of oneness with him. According to the speaker, the notions of love and affection mean nothing to her husband. To him she is nothing but a plaything, a sexual partner and a housewife. In the course of the sexual union, he kisses her very hard , pressing his lips against hers and letting his saliva flow into her mouth. He presses his whole body against hers with great vehemence ,gratifying his sexual desire in this process. 

In this physical union, her husband is successful as he is able to penetrate every part of her body and make his bodily fluids mingle with hers. But he never realizes that she is still   emotionally unsatisfied and hungry. In the emotional and spiritual sense, he completely fails. 

The Old Playhouse

You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every
Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body's response, its weather, its usual shallow
Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall. I remember the rudder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves. Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is
No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man's technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For, love is Narcissus at the water's edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.

Monday, January 6, 2014

'Revelations' by Sri Aurobindo: Summary and Analysis

Revelations by Sri Aurobindo is ‘a lovely, the mystical lyric of great transparency’, that has a visionary power. The poet passes through spiritual illumination. 

For Aurobindo, Nature becomes very often the abode of the heavenly spirit. Here also the poet gleans amidst Nature the flash of a spiritual creature. A check of frightened rose is a transferred image that connotes a spiritual existence. Heavenly rout indexes Aurobindo’s realization of the spiritual world.

Revelation is a mystic experience of the poet (some understanding with universal vision). He feels as if the presence of God, Vision of God leaps behind the rocks and passes him like a blow of wind. By the time he tries to guess what it would be, it vanishes. He feels it like a bright light which is visible to his mortal eyes. It is like a frightened rose glows with a sudden beauty. He feels as if someone is passing him with a footstep like the wind. When he harries to take a glance at it, but there remains nothing. He feels it is just a veil of Maya (illusion ). He that it is to make the man understand the heavenly vision.

A mystical poem where Aurobindo speaks as an illumined soul. The speaker is no longer a man of flesh and bone; he is transformed into God’s happy tool. His cells are lighted with the rapture and joy of the unknown and the supreme. The poem captures the process of transformation from the human to the divine. Time is my drama suggests eternity. Senses’ narrow mesh stands for the physical reality. Sun of deathless night connotes the infinite, immortal divine spirit.

Evaluation of Sri Aurobindo as a Poet

Sri Aurobindo is an outstanding figure in Indo-Anglian literature. He represents a new poetic consciousness which seeks to create a more refined instrument to express the new version and experience. So his noetry has a distinction of its own in its rhythm and language.
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. His Wner,Krishnadhan Ghose, was a popular civil surgeon, while his mother, Swarnalata Devi, was a daughter of Rishi Rajnarain Bose, one of the great men of the Indian renaissance in the nineteenth century who embodied the new composite culture of the country that was at once Vedantic, Islamic and European. On the other hand, Krishnadhan had a pronounced partiality for the Western way of life. Having himself had his medical education at Aberdeen, he desired that his children should, if possible, go one better even and be wholly insulated from the contamination of Indian ways.

If Krishnadhan had sent his son, not to the Loretto Convent School at Darjeeling and thence to Manchester, London (St. Paul’s) and Cambridge (King’s), but to ‘native’ schools and colleges at Calcutta, Sri Aurobindo might have early mastered his mother tongue, Bengali, and become in the fulness of time another Bankim Chandra or Rabindranath, wielding with suppleness,grace and power the most dynamic of modern Indian languages. But his translation to England in 1879 (along with his two elder brothers, Manmohan the future poet and Benoy Bhushan) and his stay there for a period of about fourteen years made English his mother tongue for all practical purposes, and he came to acquire a complete mastery over that difficult language as if verily born to that heritage.

At Manchester, Sri Aurobindo was taught privately by the Rev. William H. Drewert and Mrs. Drewett who grounded him well hi English, Latin, French, and history; at St. Paul’s, Dr. Walker the High Master himself took a deep interest in Sri Aurobindo’s education and pushed him rapidly hi his Greek studies. It was a fruitful period, and Sri Aurobindo, besides securing the Butterworth Prize in Literature and the Bedford Prize in History, won a scholarship that enabled him to proceed to King’s. At Cambridge he made a notable impression on Oscar Browning, passed the I.C.S. open competitive examination (although he couldn’t finally join the Service), and secured a First in classical tripos at the end of his second year.
To his proficiency in the classics and English was now added a growing acquaintance with German and Italian, and also some knowledge of Sanskrit and Bengali. He read widely, spoke often at the Majlis, and wrote poetry. He left England at last in February 1893, having received an appointment in the service of the Maharaja of Baroda. Sri Aurobindo passed the next thirteen years at Baroda. He was employed in various departments, but he finally gravitated towards the Baroda College. He taught French for a time, and ultimately became Professor of English and Vice-Principal. During these years Sri Aurobindo fast achieved the feat of re-nationalizing himself. His mind had returned from “Sicilian olivegroves” a n d “Athenian lanes” to the shores of the Ganges, to Saraswati’s domains. He gained a deeper insight into Sanskrit and Bengali, and cultivated besides Marathi and Gujarati. He read with avidity, and he wrote copiously.
The political scene in India depressed nun, and he contributed a series of trenchant articles to the columns of Indu Prakash under the telling caption ‘New Lamps for Old’. But the time was inopportune yet for political action, and after this first burst of self-expression he withdrew into silence. Yet his pen was not idle; politics may be taboo for the tune being, but not literature. And so ‘New Lamps for Old’ was followed by a series of articles on the art of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Already in these early prose writings we can mark the
sinuosity and balance, the imagery and colour, the trenchancy and sarcasm that were to distinguish the maturer prose writings of the ‘Bandema-taram’ period. The Baroda period was the significant seed-time of Sri Auro-bindo’s life, for he seems to have pursued his varied interests— teaching, poetry, even politics—simultaneously. Songs to Myrtilla appeared in 1895, and was followed next year by the narrative poem, Urvasie. He completed also Love and Death, another long poem, besides the first draft of Savitri. Some of his blank verse plays too—notably Perseus the Deliverer—belong to this period.

Drawn slowly to the centre of revolutionary politics in Bengal, in 1905 Sri Aurobindo wrote Bhavani Mandir, ‘A Handbook for Revolutionaries dedicated to the service of Bhavani’, which caused deep concern to the bureaucracy. In April 1906 he attended the Barisal Political Conference and took the plunge into politics at last. This meant his leaving the Baroda College, but other arduous duties awaited him in Calcutta. In August 1906, he assumed charge as Editor of the Bandemataram, a new English daily started by Bepin Chandra Pal. A year later he was arrested in connection with the publication picertain articles in his paper, but was later honourably acquitted Romain Holland saw in Sri Aurobindo the foremost of Indian thinkers, the greatest synthesis that has yet been realized of the genius of Asia and the genius of Europe, the last of the great Rishis who held in his hand, “in firm unrelaxed grip, the bow of creative energy”. 

The poet, J. A. Chadwick (Arjava), wrote in 1936 of Sri Aurobindo’s Consciousnessp Considered merely as a poet and critic of poetry, Sri Aurobindo would still rank among the supreme masters of our time. His poetical output represents the creative effort of about sixty years and, on a modest estimate, may run to some three thousand pages Sri Aurobindo’s poetry stands a class apart in Indo-English poetry and offers scope for critical reassessment. George Sampson has referred to Sri Aurobindo as “more famous as an exponent of Indian nationalism than as a poet. K.R.S.Iyengar has made a substantial and balanced contribution to Aurobindonian criticism. He realises that a new kind of poetry like Sri Aurobindo’s “demands a new mentality in the recipient as well as in the writer.

Throughout his long career, amid all the many-faceted achieve-rents he never abandoned his first love, poetry. He has given us poetry—-lyrical, narrative, dramatic, epic, which, in volume and in variety, in quantity and in quality can be compared with the work of the greatest poets who have enriched the poetical literature of the world. But he is not a widely-known poet, partly because his aim was not success and personal fame, but to express spiritual truth and experience of all kinds in poetry. He tried to use the English tongue for the highest spiritual expression The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga related only to an individual self-development, in The Human Cycle originally published under the title of Psychology of Social Development, he has indicated how these truths affect the evolution of human society. In The Ideal of Human Unity he has taken the present trend of mankind towards a closer unification and tried to appreciate its tendencies and show what is wanting in them in order that real human unity may be achieved. He extended the application of this very approach to the sphere of international politics in his The Ideal of Human Unity.

His poetic career spreads over a period of sixty years from 1890 to 1950 during which he has enriched the realm of letters by a ‘royal quantity of quality’. In the words of V. K. Gokak, he is undoubtedly “the most outstanding Indo-Anglian writer for volume as well as for variety.”4 The two volumes of’Collected Poems and Plays’, the multi-aspected epic Savitri with its 24,000 lines, narrative poems, a large body of philosophical poems besides the clusters of lyrics represent the creative effort of about sixty years and give the impression of the enormous poetic stature of Sri Aurobindo – the poet.
The poem beautifully expresses Sri Aurobindo’s belief that the transformation of man into superman is possible only if two requisites are there-the aspiring call from below and the Divine Grace from above. In a number of poems like Thought the Paraclete, Rose of and The Bird of Fire, Sri Aurobindo has transcribed his mystical experiences and achieved in English verse something equivalent to the Mantra He makes us see what he himself has seen—visions of close spiritual communion. While Thought the Paraclete 1$ a vision or revelation of an ascent through spiritual plane& Rose of God with the most famous of mystical symbols presents the Divine Glory and Reality. It is signiificant to note that Sri Aurobindo has dealt with mystical experiences in a way different from other mystic poets. He has not clothed them in human symbols and allegories, in images and figures of earthly and secular life. He presents them in their nakedness, just as they are seen and realised, and therefore appear obscure to the common human understanding.

But there are poems like God’s Labour which, with, lucidity and ease of expression outline and explain the central beliefs. The poem reveals the poet’s beliefs of God, of the problem of evil and suffering in the world and of man’s evolution to greater and more glorious heights.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nissim Ezekial's 'The Company I Keep': Summary and Analysis

In his poem 'The Company I Keep' Nissim Ezekial speaks about his contemporaries and the types of poetry that appeared during his age. He expects that a poet must keep up the morale, ethics of the age and people. If a poet cannot keep up that moral, then it shows that the poet has a minor talent in writing poetry. This cannot be called a greater curse but having no talent. Just like - ring refers to the groups of poets who write poems. Millions of people find happiness in writing poetry. He is also one of the poets, who enjoys writing poetry. Ezekiel feels that poets are mixing up metaphors and common thoughts. But poetry is not simply miring up put an expression of deeper thoughts.


Ezekiel, here, tries to condemn outrightly those who just min metaphors and statements and produce bogus poetry. These unfortunate beings exploit others skill and parade themselves as poets. He curses all those who use other's talents for their own selfish purpose. He also includes the publishers of small magazines and broadcasters of small weather woes. The poet in his indignant mood calls them as seducers of experience. By doing so these men show their letter lack of imaginative power. He also condemns such practice by saying that they are the victims of their own spontaneous fraud. Ezekiel asks them their last composition of a real poem. He himself answers that they are in hell and they do not know it. But instead, they will answer that they have been reviewing as compensation. He asserts that he himself belonged once to as advertising offence. Ezekiel finds faults of not knowing the secret of writing and becoming thoughts which cause a variety of disasters to the mind of people through their poems.

This practice is nothing but making the most out of borrowed intelligence, imagination and skill. They really contribute nothing to the world of literature. The occasional rhyme or two coming from such people cannot be a thing of justification at all. This activity is described by the poet as a trail of smoke, that just irritates the people by its small and continuous suffocation. Thus, the poet gives a warning here of such people. In a relentless vein of critical self-awareness and with downright candour Ezekiel denounces all such poetasters:

No greater curse
than a minor talent
in the verse ring bull ring, yet
millions revel in it,
and I am counted
one among them, mixing
metaphors and platitudes...
Damn all you sensitive poets,
seducers of experience,
self-worshippers and publishers,
broadcasters of small weather woes.
Victims of your own spontaneous fraud
Your only achievement is monumentality of vanity.

Nissim Ezekiel's ‘Night of the Scorpion': A Short Summary and Analysis

The poem ‘Night of the Scorpion' has been taken from Nissim Ezekiel's collection of poems entitled 'The Exact Name', published in 1965. The poem reads like a story. In ‘Night of the Scorpion' Ezekiel recalls the behaviour of 'the peasants', his father, his mother and a holy man when his mother was poisoned by a scorpion's sting. Here the aim is to find poetry in ordinary reality as observed, known, felt, experienced rather than as the intellect thinks it should be. While the peasants pray and speak of incarnations, his father, 'sceptic, rationalist', tries 'every curse and blessing, powder, mixture, herb and hybrid' and a holy man performs a rite. After a day the poison is no longer felt and, in a final irony, his mother, in contrast to the previous feverish activity centred upon her, makes a typical motherly comment:


My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
and spared my children.
The 'Thank God' is doubly ironic as it is a commonplace expression of speech in contrast to all the previous religious and superstitious activity. Ezekiel's purpose is not, however, an expression of scepticism but rather the exact notation of what he saw as a child. The aim is not to explain but to make it real by naming, by saying 'common things'. The poem is a new direction, a vision of ordinary reality, especially of Indian life, unmediated by cold intellect. The new purpose is seen in the poem's style, unrhymed, with line lengths shaped by natural syntactical units and rhythm created by the cadences of the speaking voice into a long verse paragraph, rather than the stanzaic structure used in earlier poems.

In his poetry, there is the truth of acknowledging what is felt and experienced in its complexity, contradictions, pleasures, fears and disillusionments without preconceived ideas of what poetry should say about the poet and life. Nissim Ezekiel’s ‘Night of The Scorpion’ is much appreciated by the critics and it has found a place in many anthologies for as excellence, Critics, commenting on its aesthetic beauty expressed different views. In their critical sweep, they brought everything from superstitious ritualism to modern rationalism. One can find that in the poem superstitious ritualism or sceptic rationalism or even the balance of the both with an expression of Indian ethos through maternal love in the Indian way, is nothing but scratching the surface.

The poem has something more gigantic than its face value, which as I find is the symbolic juxtaposition of the forces of darkness and light that is intrinsically centripetal in the poem. It is ‘Night’ of The Scorpion’ with the first word absorbing accent. It seems to have been implicitly contrived here that ‘Night should stand as a symbol of darkness with the ‘Scorpion’ as the symbol of evil. Such ingenuity in craftsmanship takes the poem to a higher level of understanding. Prof. Birje Patil is right in putting that in “Night of The Scorpion”, where evil is symbolized by the scorpion, The reader made to participate in the ritual as well as suffering through’ a vivid evocation of the poison moving in the mother’s blood. And evil has always been associated with darkness, the seamy side of our life, in the human psyche. It has always been an integral part of theology, in whatever form it has manifested that suffering helps in removing that darker patch in the human mind, the patch that has been a besetting sin of man’s existence.

May the sum of evil
Balanced in this unreal world
against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain, they said
These lines amply testify that the poem aims at achieving something higher than its narrative simplicity. The choric refrain ‘they said’ in the chain of reactions made by the village peasants is undoubtedly ironic, but the poet hasn’t as much to stress the concept of sin, redemption or rebirth as he has to insinuate the indomitable force of darkness gripping the minds of the unenlightened. Going through the poem attentively more than once, it can’t fail catching our notice that modern rationalism is also equally shallow and perverse. It is also a road leading to confusion where through emerges scepticism, the other darker patch on our modernized existence. The image of the father in this poem speaks volumes for this capsizing modernism which sandwiches in its arm- space the primitive and the perverted. The “sceptic rationalist’ father trying ‘powder, mixture, herb and hybrid’ bears upon human primitivism and when he experiments with ‘a little paraffin upon a bitten toe and put a match to it he becomes a symbol of perversion in the modern man’s psyche.

Christopher Wiseman puts it, “...a fascinating tension between personal crisis and mocking social observation”” ; neither there is any personal crisis. On the other hand there is spiritual compassion and an intense urge for getting rid of this psychological syndrome that the whole modern world has been caught, the slow-moving poison of this syndromic scorpion into the very veins of creation, the image of the mother in agony nullifying the clear vision of human thought and enveloping the whole of humanity In the darker shades of confusion more chaolic, troubles the poet as much sharply as the sting of the poisonous worm. There is crisis, but it is the crisis of human existence that needs lo be overcome. The poet, though a distant observer, doesn’t take a stance of detachment. On the exact opposite, he watches with curiosity “the flame feeding on my mother’, but being uncertain whether the paraffin flame would cleanse her of the agony of the absorbing poison, he loses himself in a thoughtful trance.
The whole poem abounds with these two symbols of darkness and light. In the very beginning, the poet has ushered in this symbolic juxtaposition and then as the poem advanced, built upon it the whole structure of his fascinating architecture in the lines. Ten hours of steady rain had driven him to crawl beneath a sack of rice parting with his poison - flash of diabolic tail in the darkroom he risked the rain again.

The incessant rain stands for hope and regeneration wherewith is juxtaposed the destructive hurdles to fruitfy that hope. But the constructive, life-giving rain continuous and the evil, having fulfilled its parts, departs. Then afterwards other hurdles more preying than the first, come in. More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours more insects, and the endless rain My mother twisted through and through groaning on a mat. The symbols of light and darkness, candles lanterns, neighbours and insects and rain again are noteworthy. But the force of light gains a width handover the evil force and life is restored once again in its joyous stride and this life long struggle between forces of darkness and light reaches a crescendo when - after twenty hours It lost its sting. Here, In the above lines, lies the beauty of the poem, when the ascending steps of darkness, being chased by the force of following light are ripped down; when at last on the peak the chaser wins and the chased slips down.
The man who has not understood what motherhood is. might be taken in by such expression of motherly love. But I convincingly feel that any woman would have exclaimed the same thing as the mother in this poem did. In my view, it would have been truly Indian had the mother in her tortures remembered her children and though helplessly, had she desired to protect them lest the scorpion might catch them unawres. Anyway, the beauty of the poem remains- unmarred by such revision. The poem is a thing of beauty par excellence.

The poem "Night of the Scorpion" can be classified as poetry of situation - an art in which Browning and Robert Frost excelled. It presents a critical situation in which a mother is bitten by a scorpion. It involves a typical Indian Situation in which an entire village community identifies itself with a sad domestic happening. It pictures the traditional Indian society steeped in ignorance and superstition.

The poem is set against the backdrop of an Indian rural setting. The rural habit of Storing rice in gunny bags is referred to in the phrase, " a sack of rice". The rural practise of building huts with mud walks is captured in the phrase "mud backed walks". The absence of rural electrification in Indian villages before independence is hinted at in a string of images, "darkroom" and " Candles and lanterns". "Darkness" has the extended meaning of Indian villages being steeped in ignorance.

The situation of a scorpion-stung mother is encountered in different ways of prayer, incantation and science. Not one stays at home when the peasants hear of a mother bitten by a scoipion. They rush buzzing the name of God times without number. With candles and lanterns, they search for him. He is not found. They sit on the floor with the mother in the centre and try to comfort her with words of philosophy. Their prayer brings out their genuine concern for the suffering mother. The father, through a sceptic and a rationalist, does not differ in the least from the ignorant peasants. He tries both medicine and "mantra" drugs and chants as seen in the phrase "trying every were and blessing". A holy man is brought to tame the poison with an incantation.

It is the belief of the village community that buzzing " the name of God a hundred times" will bring about relief to the mother stung by the scorpion. The action of the rural folk brings out their firm faith in God and in the efficiency of prayer. It is the belief of the rural community that the faster the scorpion moves, the faster the poison in the mother's blood will move. In equating the movement of the scorpion and that of the poison in the blood stream, the peasant betray their superstition.
The peasants sit around the mother groaning in pain and they try to console her offering remedial advice of a strong ritualistic and faith - healing kind. Some peasants say that as she has suffered now, in the rent birth she will experience less troubles. She will now be in a balanced state whereby her body is ridden of device and her spirit of ambition. The incantatory utterances made by the peasants smack of their belief in the Hindu law of "Karina", in the Hindu doctrine of rebirth and in the 13 Hindu concept of the world as one of illusion and the physical suffering bringing about spiritual rejuvenation.
The poem is remembered particularly for its 'memorable close' - me last three lines:

My Mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my childred.
The use of the restricted adverb 'only' distinguishes the mother from the peasants, the father and the holy man. The, other does not blame God but she thanks God because the scorpion stung her and spared her children. Her agony would have been greater if any of her children were bitten. Ultimately, it assumes universal dimensions. The poet throws light on the selfless lore of the Indian mother.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Evaluation of R. Parthasarathy as an Indian Poet writing in English

A poet, translator, critic, and editor, R. Parthasarathy ( Rajagopal Parthasarathy) is one of the leading Indian poets writing in English. He is considered as one of the few gifted Indian poets who tried their pen in English. The strength of his poetry lies almost entirely in its visual juxtapositions and the startling image. His lines do not sing. He cultivates the deliberately prosaic style, an undertone of rhythm itself. So, at their best, his poems become memorable individual images themselves. But occasionally the prose ignites no metaphor, is almost purely descriptive. Flat passages also weaken his longest and most ambitious poem, 'An Unfinished Biography', a meditation in five parts on the poet approaching thirty, his past, and his travels abroad. 

Written during his year of linguistic studies in Leeds, 'An Unfinished Biography' is important in that it foreshadows the poet's future preoccupations with language and its roots, and hints, owing to his own cultural deracination, at a future silence. In exile, too, the poet gains new insight into his colonial identity and learns the despair of having been born too late to affect the lives of both the colonizers and the colonized; Both the themes of language, and colonial alienation come together in one of his latest poems 'An Epitaph for Francis Day', where the poet's sense of futility is reinforced on being back in India.

Both these dilemmas, the colonial and the linguistic, the feeling of being born between two worlds, have turned Parthasarathy to the study of Sanskrit and his mother tongue Tamil. Sarojini Naidu gave up writing in English, though probably for other reason, more than fifty years ago. Young poets, bilingually accomplished, also stop writing in English continue writing in both English and the mother tongue. Some of the best work in English has been done by such bilingual writers as Aruu Kolathkar. Dilip Chitre, and Kamala Das. P. Lal, on the other hand, a founder of Calcutta's Writers Workshop which encourages Indian writing in English very successfully to translating from the Sanskrit, Adil Jussawalla is confidents that the next ten years of poetry writtenin English will see ,t deal of translated and bilingual work.

As the bulk of translations grow, so does work originally in English. The best book of English-language poems published in India in 1966 is Gieve Patel's Poems. This is an important work in that it contains the poems by an Indian to be committed to a recognizably human reality. The preoccupations in the poems are neither aesthetic nor philosophical but truly human. A doctor by profession, Patel sees his subjects with a sharp but rather helpless compassion.

Parthasarathy's, Grieve Patel's use of language is spare and unambitious, the poems progressing in a series of verse sentences which make little use of cadence, rhyme, or melody.

'The Freaks' by Kamala Das: Summary and Analysis

The Freaks by Kamala Das

He talks, turning a sun-stained
Cheek to me, his mouth, a dark
Cavern, where stalactites of
Uneven teeth gleam, his right
Hand on my knee, while our minds
Are willed to race towards love;
But they only wander, tripping
Idly over puddles of
Desire……. Can this man with
Nimble finger-tips unleash
Nothing more alive than the
Skin’s lazy hungers? Who can
Help us who has live so long
And have failed in love? The heart,
An empty cistern, waiting
Through long hours, fills itself
With coiling snakes of silence……..
I am freak.  It’s only
To save my face, I flaunt, at
Times, a grand, flamboyant lust.


'The Freaks', a short lyric written in the confessional manner, is written in the first person point of view. The poem gives expression to a the speaker's (the poetess) feelings as she lies in bed with her husband, when both of them are waiting for the commencement of their physical intimacy. Though they are waiting for their physcial union, the female partner is a bit disgusted and scared. She finds her husband to be rather slow in moving his fingers over her body in order to enjoy the sensation of his contact with her. 

The poetess thinks that her partner is not passionate enough or not skilful enough to be able to arouse in her a really intense desire for sexual union. She then realizes that her marriage with this man had failed and that , even though they have lived together for a long time , they vane not really been able to achieve any conjugal happiness. She thinks herself unhappy and feels the 'coiling snakes of silence' or emptiness in her heart. At the end, she calls herself a freak or abnormal person who makes a show of being lustful in order that she may be regarded as a normal person.   

Kamala looks very determined to revolt against the conventional society’s definition of womanhood. Even she challenges the traditional sex roles. In many of her poems, she brings out the emotional emptiness and sterility of married life and the intensity of misery of the wife who surrenders to her husband who is repulsive, and with whom she has no emotional contact at all. 

The poem 'The Freaks' begins with a slow movement,representing her indifference to sex and ends on a n impulsive note, in keeping with the compromise. She must not only surrender herself to his love making however she hates it, she must also pretend to like it. Her self-respect insists it; the social customs require it. This is a male dominated world.

A married woman cannot articulate her voice to the filth of her experience. She must follow the social rules which man has made in a world. She is his subordinate, his property, an object; she has no right to raise her voice. Kamala Das`s poetry proves that Indian woman has irritated the typical male sense of courtesy and modesty. Kamala Das initiates a new age for woman poets by accepting new idiom, a new standard and new way of expression which reflects a entire denial of the conventional form of poetic expression of the male dominant culture.

Kamala Das is honest and at times full of anger when she projects andattacks on male domination. She is a poet of the modern Indian woman, giving expression to it more openly than any other Indian woman poet.

The motivating force of her notion is love that is frustrating experience. All her efforts to establish meaningful relations with other show to be fruitless. In Freaks, poet depicts the disappointment, senselessness and the torment of a woman who longs for true love but it is denied by her husband who is insensible to her psychological desires. She is revolted by cruelty of her companion. She feels trapped by her male ego. Therefore she refused to play the traditional role as a wife. It is natural that her poems represent a rebellion against male dominated social system .It shows that in a male dominated world she has courage to emphasis her feminine sensibility and to revolt against the system. She is proud of her femininity and does not fail to claim it.

She is conscious of a primary need for true love, psychological need and a desire for liberty within the family system. In this sense, she is truly liberated woman and a representative of modern woman who identify her right to sexual fulfillment and psychological security.