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Full text of "Gathered Grace"

EROZIO 



GATHERED GRACE 
(An Anthology of Indian Verse in English) 



GATHERED GRACE 

(An Anthology of Indian Verse in English) 



Edited with Notes and Commentary 

by 
K.R. Ramachandran Nair 

Professor & Head of the Department of English 

Tagore Arts College 

Pondicherry 




STERLING PUBLISHERS PRIVATE LIMITED 



STERLING PUBLISHERS PRIVATE LIMITED 

L-10, Green Park Extension, New Delhi-1 10016 

G~2, Cunningham Apartments, Cunningham Road, Bangalore-560052 



Gathered Grace 

1991, K.R. Ramachandran Nair 



All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, 
stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, 
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior 
written permission of the publisher. 



PRINTED IN INOIA 



Published by S.K. Ghai f Managing Director, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 
L-10, Green Park Extension, New Delhi-110016. Laserset at Vikas 
Compographics, A-l/256 Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi-1 10029. Printed at 
Print India, New Delhi. 



PREFACE 



In recent times most of the universities in India have introduced Indo- 
Anglian literature as one of the papers at the undergraduate and post- 
graduate levels in their English literature programmes. However, there 
are very few student editions of anthologies that cover the whole range 
of Indo-Anglian poetry. Some of the good anthologies available now 
are only meant for elite reading as they do not provide any notes or 
commentary. 

This anthology is an attempt to present a representative selection of 
Indo-Anglian verse along with notes and commentary to enable the 
student and the lay reader to have a proper understanding of each poem. 
The notes are prepared to assist the student to absorb the spirit of each 
poem and the commentary on each poet gives adequate details about 
his/her life and work. All selection is perception and this is a range 
rather than a total picture that I have tried to reflect in choosing the 
poets and poems. 

One of the problems I encountered while compiling the anthology 
is the scarcity of reference material, especially on contemporary Indo- 
Anglian poems. There are no full-length studies on most of the 
contemporary poems included in this anthology. The interpretations of 
such poems are purely subjective. In the matter of punctuation, I have 
adopted the system followed in earlier standard publications of the 
poems. 

Several people have helped me with suggestions in the compilation 
of this anthology. Foremost among them is my friend and colleague, 
Mr. P. Raja, a poet in his own right who has given me several useful 
hints about interpretations of some of the poems. I am thankful to him. 
I gratefully acknowledge the help rendered by my wife, Seetha, in 
preparing and typing the manuscript 

K.R. Ramachandran Nair 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



The editor and the publishers gratefully acknowledge permission to use 
the following poems in this anthology. 

1 . Sri Aurobindo for 'The Tiger and the Deer', 'The Blue Bird' and 
*A Dream of Surreal Science' from the Collected Poems of Sri 
Aurobindo to Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry. 

2. Shiv K. Kumar for 'Indian Women 1 and 'An Encounter With 
Death' from Subterfuges to the author and the publishers, the 
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, and for 'Epitaph on an 
Indian Politician' to the author. 

3. Nissim Ezekiel for 'Background, Casually*, and 'The Railway 
Clerk* from Hymns in Darkness and 'A Morning Walk', 
'Enterprise* and 'Marriage' from Latter-Day Psalms to the 
author and the publishers, the Oxford University Press, New 
Delhi. 

4. Jayanta Mahapatra for 'Thought of the Future* and 'The 
Mountain* from Selected Poems to the author and the publishers, 
the Oxford University Press, New Delhi, and for 'The Bride* to 
the author. 

5. A.K. Ramanujan for The Striders*, 'Of Mothers, among Other 
Things', 'Still Another for Mother* and 'Snakes' from Selected 
Poems to the author and the publishers, the Oxford University 
Press, New Delhi. 

6. Kamala Das for 'A Hot Noon in Malabar', The Dance of the 
Eunuchs', 'The Old Playhouse* and 'Death is so Mediocre* to 
the author. 

7. R. Parthasarathy for 'Exile - F, Trial - i & ii' and 'Home- 
coming-xiii' from Rough Passage to the author and the 
publishers, the Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 

8. K.D. Katrak for 'Woman on the Beach* and 'Colaba Causeway' 
to the author. 



viii Gathered Grace 

9. Keki N. Daruwalla for *Hawk* and 'Apothecary* from The 
Keeper of the Dead to the author and the publishers, the Oxford 
University Press, New Delhi, and for Easy and Difficult Animals 
to the author. 

10. Dom Moraes for * Sailing to England* and 'At Seven O'clock* to 
the author. 

11. Gieve Patel for 'On Killing a Tree* and 'Commerce* to the 
author. 

12. Adil Jussawalla for 'The Waiters* and * Approaching Santa Cruz* 
to the author. 

13. Gauri Deshpande for *Lunch on the Train* and 'Migraine* to the 
author. 

14. Pritish Nandy for 'Calcutta If you Must Exile Me* and *Love* to 
the author. 



CONTENTS 



Preface v 

Acknowledgements vii 

Poems 

1. Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809-1831) 1 

(i) The Harp of India 2 

(ii) To the Pupils of the Hindu College 2 

(iii) Chorus of Brahmins 2 

(iv) A Walk by Moonlight 3 

(v) Morning After a Storm 6 

2. Kasiprasad Ghose (1809-1873) 7 
(i) A Farewell Song 8 

(ii) The Moon in September 8 

(iii) To a Dead Crow 9 

3. Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1827-1873) 11 
(i) My Thoughts, My Dreams 12 

(ii) Oft Like a Sad Imprisoned Bird 13 

4 Toru Dutt (1856-1877) 14 

(i) Lakshman 15 

(ii) Sita 19 

(iii) Our Casuarina Tree 20 

(iv) Sonnet: The Lotus 22 

(v) The Tree of Life 22 

5. Manmohan Ghose (1869-1924) 24 

(i) London 25 

(ii) The Rider on the White Horse 25 

(iii) TheDewdrop 27 

6. Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) 29 
(i) The Tiger and the Deer 30 

(ii) The Blue Bird 30 

(iii) A Dream of Surreal Science 31 



: Gathered Grace 

7. Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949) 32 

(i) Palanquin Bearers 33 

(ii) Indian Dancers 33 

(iii) To a Buddha Seated on a Lotus 34 

(iv) June Sunset 35 

(v) The Lotus 36 

8. Shiv K* Kumar (b. 1921) 37 

(i) Indian Women 39 

(ii) An Encounter with Death 39 

(iii) Epitaph on an Indian Politician 40 

9. Nissim Ezekiel (b. 1924) 41 

(i) Background, Casually 43 

(ii) A Morning Walk 45 

(iii) Enterprise 46 

(iv) Marriage 47 

(v) The Railway Clerk 48 

10. Jayan ta Mahapatra (b. 1928) 49 

(i) Thoughts of the Future ^ 50 

(ii) The Bride 51 

(iii) The Mountain 52 

11. A.K. Ramanujan (b* 1929) 53 

(i) TheStriders 55 

(ii) Of Mothers, among Other Things 55 

(iii) Still Another for Mother 56 

(iv) Snakes 57 

12. Arun Kolatkar (b. 1932) 59 

(i) From Jejuri - The Bus 60 

(ii) Irani Restaurant Bombay 61 

13. Kamala Das (b. 1934) 62 
(i) A Hot Noon in Malabar 63 

(ii) The Dance of the Eunuchs 63 

(iii) The Old Playhouse 64 

(iv) Death is so Mediocre 65 

14. R. Parthasarathy (b. 1934) 67 

(i) Exile -i 69 

(ii) Trial -i 70 



Contents xi 

(Hi) Trial - ii 70 

(iv) Homecoming - iii 71 

15. KJX Katrak (b, 1936) 72 

(i) Woman on the Beach 73 

(ii) Colaba Causeway 75 

16. Keki N. Daruwalla (b. 19: /) 76 

(i) Hawk 77 

(ii) Easy and Difficult Animals 79 

(iii) Apothecary 80 

17. Dom Moraes (b. 1938) 83 

(i) Sailing to England 85 

(ii) At Seven O'clock 85 

18. Gieve Patel (b. 1940) 87 

(i) On Killing a Tree 89 

(ii) Commerce 90 

19. Adil Jussawalla (b. 1940) 91 

(i) The Waiters 93 

(ii) Approaching Santa Cruz 93 

20. Gauri Deshpande (b. 1942) 95 
(i) A Lunch on the Train 96 

(ii) Migraine 97 

21. Pritish Nandy (b. 1948) 99 
(i) Calcutta If You Must Exile Me 101 

(ii) Love 102 

Notes 103 

A Select List of Books for Further Reading 176 

Index of Titles 178 

Index of First Lines 1 79 



HENRY LOUIS VIVIAN DEROZIO 

(1809-1831) 



Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was born on 18th April 1809 in Calcutta, 
died on 26th December 1831 and was buried in the Park Street 
cemetery. His father was Portuguese and mother English. Thus he had 
no Indian blood in him. But he was born and brought up in India, he 
taught Indian students in an Indian college and the themes and 
sentiments in his poetry were purely Indian. Above all, he loved India 
and was sad about her condition. So Derozio is, undoubtedly, an Indo- 
Anglian poet. During his exciting life of twenty-three years he was 
clerk, teacher, poet, journalist, free thinker and social reformer. In 1828 
he became an Assistant Master in Hindu College, Calcutta. However, in 
183 1 he had to resign the job following accusations by the management 
that his teaching and influence had corrupted young minds and that he 
was a rebel and an atheist. Eight months later he died. 

Derozio wrote lyrics, narrative poems, sonnets and ballads. The 
Faheer ofJungheera is his most successful effort as a narrative poet His 
poems reveal a talent which would have blossomed further had he lived 
longer. Two important themes in his poetry are love and death. Besides 
the poems included in this anthology, some of his other well-known 
poems are The Bridal, The Golden Vase, Song of the Hindustanee 
Minstrel, Night, The Tomb, The Poet's Habitation and Poetic Haunts. 



Gathered Grace 



The Harp of India 

Why hang'st thou lonely on yon withered bough? 

Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain; 

Thy music once was sweet who hears it now? 

Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain? 

Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain; 5 

Neglected, mute and desolate art thou, 

Like ruined monument on desert plain: 

O! many a hand more worthy far than mine 

Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave, 

And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine 10 

Of flowers still blooming on the imnstreFs grave: 

Those hands are cold but if thy notes divine 

May be by mortal wakened once again, 

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain! 

n 

To the Pupils of the Hindu College 

Expanding like the petals of young flowers 

I watch the gentle opening of your minds, 

And the sweet loosening of the spell that binds 

Your intellectual energies and powers, 

That stretch (like young birds in soft summer hours) 5 

Their wings, to try their strength. O, how the winds 

Of circumstances, and freshening April showers 

Of early knowledge, and unnumbered kinds 

Of new perceptions shed their influence; 

And how you worship truth's omnipotence. 10 

What joyance rains upon me, when I see 

Fame in the mirror of futurity, 

Weaving the chaplets you have yet to gain, 

Ah, then I feel I have not lived in vain. 

ra 

Chorus of Brahmins 

Scatter, scatter flowerets round, 
Let the tinkling cymbal sound; 



Henry Louis Vivian Derozio 3 

Strew the scented orient spice, 

Prelude to the sacrifice; 

Bring the balm, and bring the myrrh, 5 

Sweet as is the breath of her 

Who upon the funeral pyre 

Shall, ere Surya sets, expire* 

Let pure incense to the skies 

Like the heart's warm wishes rise, 10 

Till, unto the lotus throne 

Of the great Eternal One 

High ascending, it may please 

Him who guides our destinies. 

Bring the pearl of purest white, 15 

Bring the diamond flashing light; 

Bring your gifts of choicest things, 

Fans of peacocks' starry wings, 

Gold refined, and ivory, 

Branches of the sandal tree, 20 

Which their fragrance still impart 

Like the good man's injured heart, 

This its triumph, this its boast, 

Sweetest 'tis when wounded most! 

Ere he sets, the golden sun 25 

Must with richest gifts be won 

Ere his glorious brow he lave 

In yon sacred yellow wave, 

Rising through the realms of air 

He must hear the widow's prayer. 30 

Haste ye, haste, the day declines 

Onward, onward while he shines, 

Let us press, and all shall see 

Glory of our Deity. 

IV 

A Walk by Moonlight 

Last night it was a lovely night, 

And I was very blest 
Shall it not be for Memory 

A happy spot to rest? 4 



4 Gathered Grace 

Yes; there are in the backward past 

Soft hours to which we turn 
Hours which, at distance, mildly shine, 

Shine on, but never burn. 8 

And some of these but yesternight 

Across my path were thrown, 
Which made my heart so very light, 

I think it could have flown. 12 

I had been out to see a friend 

With whom I others saw: 
Like minds to like minds ever tend 

An universal law, 16 

And when we were returning home, 

"Come who will walk with me, 
A little way**, I said, and lo! 

I straight was joined by three: 20 

Three whom I loved two had high thoughts 

And were, in age, my peers; 
And one was young, but oh! endeared 

As much as youth endears. 24 

The moon stood silent in the sky, 

And looked upon our earth: 
The clouds divided, passing by, 

In homage to her worth. 28 

There was a dance among the leaves 

Rejoicing at her power, 
Who robes for them of silver weaves 

Within one mystic hour. 32 

There was a song among the winds, 

Hymning her influence 
That low-breathed minstrelsy which binds 

The soul to thought intense. 36 

And there was something in the night 

That with its magic wound us; 
For we oh! we not only saw, 

But felt the moonlight around us. 40 



Henry Louis Vivian Derozio 5 

How vague are all the mysteries 

Which bind us to our earth; 
How far they send into the heart 

Their tones of holy mirth; 44 

How lovely are the phantoms dim 

Which bless that better sight, 
That man enjoys when proud he stands 

In his own spirit's light; 48 

When, like a thing that is not ours. 

This earthliness goes by. 
And we behold the spiritualness 

Of all that cannot die. 52 

*Tis then we understand the voice 

Which in the night- wind sings, 
And feel the mystic melody 

Played on the forest's strings. 56 

The silken language of the stars 

Becomes the tongue we speak, 
And then we read the sympathy 

That pales the young moon's cheek. 60 

The inward eye is open then 

To glories, which in dreams 
Visit the sleeper's couch, in robes 

Woven of the rainbow's beams. 64 

I bless my nature that I am 

Allied to all the bliss, 
Which other worlds we're told afford, 

But which I find in this. 68 

My heart is bettered when I feel 

That even this human heart 
To all around is gently bound, 

And forms of all a part; 72 

That, cold and lifeless as they seem, 

The flowers, the stars, the sky 
Have more than common minds may deem 

To stir our sympathy. 76 

Oh! in such moments can I crush 

The grass beneath my feet? 
Ah no; the grass has then a voice, 

Its heart - I hear it beat 80 



Gathered Grace 



Morning After a Storm 



The elements were all at peace, when I 

Wandered abroad at morning's earliest hour, 

Not to inhale the fragrance of a flower, 

Or gaze upon a sun-illumined sky: 

To mark the havoc that the storm had made 5 

I wandered forth, and saw great Nature's power. 

The hamlet was in desolation laid 

By the strong spirits of the storm; there lay 

Around me many a branch of giant trees, 

Scattered as leaves are by the southern breeze 10 

Upon a brook, on an autumnal day; 

Cloud piled on cloud was there, and they did seem 

Like the fantastic figures of a dream, 

Till morning brighter grew, and then they rolled away. 



Oh! Nature, how I love thy face! and now 

That there was freshness on thy placid brow, 

While I looked on thee with extreme delight, 

How leapt my young heart at the lovely sight! 

Heaven breathed upon me sweetly, and its breath 5 

Was like the fragrance of a rosy wreath. 

The river was wreck-strewn; its gentle breast 

Was like the heart of innocence, at rest; 

I stood upon its grass-grown bank, and smiled, 

Cleaving the wave with pebbles like a child, 10 

And marking, as they rose those circles fair 

Which grew, and grew, then vanished: but oh! there 

I learned a moral lesson, which I'll store 

Within my bosom's deepest, inmost core! 



KASIPRASAD GHOSE 

(1809-1873) 



Kasiprasad Ghose was born in 1809 and was educated at Hindu College, 
Calcutta. After leaving the college, he edited an English weekly, The 
Hindu Intelligence. It was the publication of The Shair and Other 
Poems (1830) that brought him recognition as a poet He was one of the 
earliest Indians to publish a regular volume of English verse and in his 
own day some of his poems were included in The Bengal Annual, an 
anthology brought out by CapL D JL. Richardson. 

In spite of occasional bright flashes, Kasiprasad Ghose's poetry is 
generally imitative and full of conventional descriptions and 
moralisings. He had a predilection for unhappy and unfortunate themes. 
He was one of the pioneers of Indo- Anglian poetry. 



8 Gathered Grace 



The Farewell Song 

Farewell my lovely native land! 

Where roses bloom in many a vale; 

Where green-clad hills majestic stand, 

Where flowerets woo the scented gale; 

Where Surya from his throne above 5 

With brightest colours paints the day; 

Where ripplets rise to clasp their love, 

Th* eluding beams that o'er them play; 

Where when the queen of silent night 

Graces the star illumined hall, 10 

How on the heart her dewy light 

In streams o'erpowering still doth fall; 

Where mighty Ganga's billows flow 

And wander many a country by; 

Where ocean smiles serene below, 15 

Beneath thy blue and sunny sky* 

Where many sacred rivers lave 

Full many a wood or mountain green, 

Where pines and citrons towering wave 

In rural grandeur stately scene! 20 

Land of the Gods and lofty name; 

Land of the fair and beauty's spell; 

Land of the bards of mighty fame; 

My native land! fore'er farewell! 

n 

The Moon in September 

How like the breath of love the rustling breeze 

Is breathing through the fragrant sandal trees! 

How sad but sweet the Bulbul sings above 

The rose plucked off its stalk his withering love! 

Like liquid silver yon soft-gliding stream 5 

Wanders and glistens in the lunar beam, 

Which like a modest maid, in love and fear 

Shrinks, half reluctant, from the clasp so dear 



Kasiprasad Ghose 9 

Of frequent heaving waves. But see! a cloud 

Hath wrapt the Moon like Beauty in a shroud. 10 

But now, she issuing shines with brightest sheen, 

And tips with silver all the woodlands green. 

Region of bliss! Irradiate gem of night! 

Soother of sorrows! Orb of gentle light! 

Full right the bards of ancient days suppose 15 

Thou wert the region where the deities chose 

To hide their nectar from the demons fell, 

Destroyed or headlong hurled to deepest hell. 

For still, resplendent Moon! whene'er we see 

Thy placid face, and fondly gaze on thee, 20 

Its gentleness upon the wounded soul 

Exerts a healing power and calm control. 

m 

To a Dead Crow 

Gay minstrel of the Indian clime! 

How oft at morning* s rosy prime 

When thou didst sing in caw, caw numbers, 

Vexed Fve awoke from my sweet slumbers, 

And to avoid that hateful sound, 

That plagues a head howe'er profound, 

Have walked out in my garden, where 

Beside the tank, in many a square, 

Sweet lilies, jasmines, roses bloom, 

Far from those trees within whose gloom 10 

Of foliage thick, thou hadst thy nest 

From daily toil at night to rest 

Now lifeless on the earth, cold, bare, 

Devoid alike of joy and care, 

The offals of my meal no more 15 

Attract thee as they did before 

There's rubbish scattered round thee, but 

Thy heart is still, thine eyes are shut 

No more that blunt yet useful beak 

From carcasses thy food can seek, 20 



10 Gathered Grace 

Or catch the young unheeding mouse, 
Which from the flooring of my house 
Urged by its helpless luck, would stray 
And bask beneath the solar ray. 

Gay minstrel! ne'er had Death before 25 

Its dart destructive, sharpened more 

To pierce a gayer, mortal heart 

Than thine, which ah! hath felt the smart! 

Though life no more is warm in thee, 

Yet thou dost look as though *t may be 30 

That life in thee is full and warm; 

Not cruel death could mar thy form: 

Thy features, one and all, possess 

Still, still, their former ugliness 

They are in truth the very same 35 

The Indian crow hath, known to fame. 

Oh! may when death hath closed these eyes, 

And freed from earthly bondage, flies 

The spirit of eternity, 

Stretched at full length I lie like thee, 40 

On mother earth's cold lap so ne*er 

To spin such verses out I'll dare, 

And please the public ear again 

With such discordant, silly strain, 

As though didst once delight to pour 45 

At morn or noon, or evening hour. 

In sooth I promise this shall be 

My last line in addressing thee. 



MICHAEL MADHUSUDAN DUTT 

(1827-1873) 



Michael Madhusudan Dutt was a Bengali by birth. In 1843 he 
converted to Christianity. He married a European and went to England 
where he qualified for the bar. After his return to India he moved to 
Madras where he edited an English newspaper. His most well-known 
work is The Captive Ladie (1849), a metrical romance centred round 
the legends about the Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan and his captive 
princess Sanyogita. Another blank verse work is Visions of the Past. 
His Bengali epic Meghnad-Badha narrating the adventures of Indrajit, 
son of Ravana, secured him an immortal place among Bengali poets. 

Madhusudan Dutt's English poems show the influence of the 
English romantics, especially that of Byron. Most of his poems deal 
with episodes and incidents from Indian history and legends. 



12 Gathered Grace 

I 

My Thoughts, My Dreams 



My thoughts, my dreams, are all of thee, 

Though absent still thou seemest near; 

Thine image everywhere I see 

Thy voice in every gale I hear. 4 

ii 

When softly o'er the evening sky, 

The stars seem twinkling one by one, 

The star of eve arrests my eye, 

As if it hit the sky alone 8 

iii 

So like its tranquil lustre seems 

The light of that soft eye of thine 

The star of hope, whose cheering beams 

Upon my heart so sweetly shine. 12 

iv 

The lake, whose placid waters lie 

Calm and unruffled by the wind 

Gives a fair image to mine eye 

Of thy serenely pensive mind. 16 



The streams, that wander glad and free 

And make sweet music as they flow 

Remind me of thine hours of glee 

Thy playful arts to banish woe. 20 

vi 

Thy soul is imaged by the hills 

That unshaken by the blast: 

And hence the hope my bosom fills, 

Thou wilt be constant to the last 24 



Michael Madhusudan Dull 1 3 

vii 

Whatever in this fair earth I see 

'Mong Nature's form that's pure and bright 

Reminds me ever, love, of thee 

And brings thine image to my sight 28 

n 

Oft Like a Sad Imprisoned Bird 

Oft like a sad imprisoned bird I sigh 

To leave this land, though mine own land it be; 

Its green robed meads, gay flowers and cloudless sky 

Though passing fair, have but few charms for me. 

For I have dreamed of climes more bright and free 5 

Where virtue dwells and heaven-born liberty 

Makes even the lowest happy; where the eye 

Doth sicken not to see man bend the knee 

To sordid interest: climes where science thrives. 

And genius doth receive her guerdon meet; 10 

Where man in all his truest glory lives, 

And nature's face is exquisitely sweet: 

For those fair climes I heave the impatient sigh, 

There let me live and there let me die. 



4 



TGRU DUTT 
(1856-1877) 



Tom Dutt, one of the earliest of Indo- Anglian poets, led a life of tragedy 
and beauty. She died young leaving behind a modest corpus of poetry of 
which the poems included in Ancient Ballads and Legends a/Hindustan 
(1882) are the most enduring. The Ancient Ballads consists of nine 
legends, most of them chosen from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana 
and the Vishnu Purana. They are Savitri, Lakshman, Jogadhya Uma, 
The Royal Ascetic and the Hind, Dhruva, Buttoo, Sindhu, Prahlad and 
Sita, 

Tom Dutt's fame rests mainly on these ballads and a few other 
poems of which Our Casuarina Tree is the most well known. Most of 
her poems are narrative and her poetry as a whole exhibits a 
sophisticated poetic mind saturated with Hindu ethos and tempered by 
European cultural influences. 

Toru was the first Indo- Anglian poet to interpret the spirit of India 
to the West. She was the first woman writer in Indo- Anglian literature. 
She left behind such a glory and legacy that even today we think of her 
as the marvellous young girl who died before her prime after blazing an 
immortal trail in Indo- Anglian poetry. 



ToruDutt 15 



Lakshman 

"Hark! Lakshman! Hark, again that cry! 

It is, it is my husband's voice! 
Oh hasten, to his succour fly, 

No more hast thou, dear friend, a choice. 
He calls on thee, perhaps his foes 

Environ him on all sides round, 
That wail, it means death's final throes! 

Why standest thou, as magic-bound? 8 

"Is this a time for thought, oh gird 

Thy bright sword on, and take thy bow! 
He heeds not, hears not any word, 

Evil hangs over us, I know! 
Swift in decision, prompt in deed, 

Brave unto rashness, can this be, 
The man to whom all looked at need? 

Is it my brother that I see! 16 

"Oh no, and I must run alone, 

For further here I cannot stay; 
Art thou transformed to blind dumb stone! 

Wherefore this impious, strange delay! 
That cry, - that cry, it seems to ring 

Still in my ears, I cannot bear 
Suspense; if help we fail to bring 

His death at least we both can share** 24 

"Oh calm thyself, Videhan Queen, 

No cause is there for any fear, 
Hast thou his prowess never seen? 

Wipe off for shame that dastard tear! 
What being of demonian birth 

Could ever brave his mighty arm? 
Is there a creature on earth 

That dares to work our hero harm? 32 

"The lion and the grisly bear 

Cower when they see his royal look, 



16 Gathered Grace 

Sun-staring eagles of the air 

His glance of anger cannot brook, 
Pythons and cobras at his tread 

To their most secret coverts glide, 
Bowed to the dust each serpent head 

Erect before in hooded pride. 40 

"Rakshasas, Danavs, demons, ghosts, 

Acknowledge in their hearts his might, 
And slink to their remotest coasts* 

In terror at his very sight. 
Evil to him! Oh fear it not, 

Whatever foes against him rise! 
Banish for aye the foolish thought, 

And be thyself, bold, great, and wise. 48 

"He call for help! Canst thou believe 

He like a child would shriek for aid 
Or pray for respite or reprieve 

Not of such metal is he made! 
Delusive was that piercing cry, 

Some trick of magic by the foe; 
He has a work, he cannot die, 

Beseech me not from hence to go. 56 

For here beside thee, as a guard 

'Twas he commanded me to stay, 
And dangers with my life to ward 

If they should come across thy way. 
Send me not hence, for in this wood 

Bands scattered of the giants lurk, 
Who on their wrongs and vengeance brood, 

And wait the hour their will to work**. 64 

"Oh shame! and canst thou make my weal 

A plea for lingering! Now I know 
What thou art, Lakshman! And I feel 

Far better were an open foe. 
Art thou a coward? I have seen 

Thy bearing in the battle-fray 
Where flew the death-fraught arrows keen, 

Else had I judged thee so today. 72 



ToruDutt 17 

"But then thy leader stood beside! 

Dazzles the cloud when shines the sun, 
Reft of his radiance, see it glide 

A shapeless mass of vapours dun; 
So of thy courage, or if not, 

The matter is far darker dyed, 
What makes thee loth to leave this spot? 

Is there a motive thou wouldst hide? 80 

"He perishes well, let him die! 

His wife henceforth shall be mine own! 
Can that thought deep imbedded lie 

Within thy heart* s most secret zone! 
Search well and see! one brother takes 

His kingdom, one would take his wife! 
A fair partition! But it makes 

Me shudder, and abhor my life. 88 

"Art thou in secret league with those 

Who from his hope the kingdom rent? 
A spy from his ignoble foes 

To track him in his banishment? 
And wouldst thou at his death rejoice? 

I know thou wouldst, or sure ere now 
When first thou heardst that well known voice 

Thou shouldst have run to aid, I trow. 96 

"Learn this, whatever comes may come, 

But I shall not survive my Love, 
Of all my thoughts here is the sum! 

Witness it gods in heaven above. 
If fire can burn, or water drown, 

I follow him: choose what thou wilt, 
Truth with its everlasting crown, 

Or falsehood, treachery, and guilt 104 

"Remain here with a vain pretence 

Of shielding me from wrong and shame, 
Or go and die in his defence 

And leave behind a noble name* 
Choose what thou wilt, I urge no more, 

My pathway lies before me clear, 



18 Gathered Grace 

I did not know thy mind before, 

I know thee now, and have no fear/* 112 

She said and proudly from him turned, 

Was this the gentle Sita? No. 
Flames from her eyes shot forth and burned, 

The tears therein had ceased to flow. 
"Hear me, O Queen, ere I depart, 

No longer can I bear thy words, 
They lacerate my inmost heart 

And torture me, like poisoned swords. 120 

"Have I deserved this at thine hand? 

Of lifelong loyalty and truth 
Is this the meed? I understand 

Thy feelings, Sita, and in sooth 
I blame thee not, but thou mightst be 

Less rash in judgement, Look! I go, 
Little I care what comes to me 

Wert thou but safe, God keep thee so! 128 

"In going hence I disregard 

The plainest orders of my chief, 
A deed for me, a soldier, hard 

And deeply painful, but thy grief 
And language, wild and wrong, allow 

No other course. Mine be the crime, 
And mine alone. but oh, do thou 

Think better of me from this time. 136 

"Here with an arrow, lo, I trace 

A magic circle ere I leave, 
No evil thing within this space 

May come to harm thee or to grieve. 
Step not, for aught, across the line, 

Whatever thou mayst see or hear, 
So shalt thou balk the bad design 

Of every enemy I fear. 144 

"And now farewell! What thou hast said, 
Though it has broken quite my heart, 



ToruDutt 19 

So that I wish I were dead 

I would before, O Queen, we part, 
Freely forgive, for well I know 

That grief and fear have made thee wild, 
We part as friends, is it not so?" 

And speaking thus he sadly smiled, 152 

"And oh ye sylvan gods that dwell 

Among these dim and sombre shades, 
Whose voices in the breezes swell 

And blend with noises of cascades, 
Watch over Sita, whom alone 

I leave, and keep her safe from harm, 
Till we return unto our own, 

I and my brother, arm in arm. 160 

"For though ill omens round us rise 

And frighten her dear heart, I feel 
That he is safe. Beneath the skies 

His equal is not, and his heel 
Shall tread all adversaries down, 

Whoever they may chance to be. 
Farewell, O Sita! Blessings crown 

And peace for ever rest with thee!" 168 

He said, and straight his weapons took 

His bow and arrows pointed keen, 
Kind, nay, indulgent, was his look, 

No trace of anger there was seen, 
Only a sorrow dark, that seemed 

To deepen his resolve to dare 
All dangers. Hoarse the vulture screamed, 

As out he strode with dauntless air. 176 

n 

Sita 

Three happy children in a darkened room! 
What do they gaze on with wide-open eyes? 
A dense,.dense forest, where no sunbeam pries, 
And in its centre a cleared spot. There bloom 



20 Gathered Grace 

Gigantic flowers on creepers that embrace 5 

Tall trees; there in a quiet lucid lake 

The white swans glide; there, * 4 whirring from the brake," 

The peacock springs; there, herds -of wild deer race; 

There, patches gleam with yellow waving grain; 

There, blue smoke from strange altars rises light, 10 

There dwells in peace the poet anchorite. 

But who is this fair lady? Not in vain 

She weeps, for lo! at every tear she sheds 

Tears from three pairs of young eyes fall amain, 

And bowed in sorrow are the three young heads. 15 

It is an old, old story, and the lay 

Which has evoked sad Sita from the past 

Is by a mother sung .... *Tis hushed at last 

And melts the picture from their sight away, 

Yet shall they dream of it until the day! 20 

When shall those children by their mother's side 

Gather, ah me! as erst at eventide? 

ffl 

Our Casuarina Tree 

Like a huge Python, winding round and round 

The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars 

Up to its very summit near the stars, 

A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound 

No other tree could live. But gallantly 5 

The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung 

In crimson clusters all the boughs among, 

Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee; 

And oft at nights the garden overflows 

With one sweet song that seems to have no close, 10 

Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose. 

When first my casement is wide open thrown 

At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest; 

Sometimes, and most in winter, on its crest 

A gray baboon sits statue-like alone 15 

Watching the sunrise; while on lower boughs 

His puny offspring leap about and play; 

And far and near kokilas hail the day; 



ToruDutt 21 

And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows; 

And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast 20 

By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast, 

The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed. 

But not because of its magnificence 

Dear is the Casuarina to my soul: 

Beneath it we have played; though years may roll, 25 

sweet companions, loved with love intense, 
For your sakes shall the tree be ever dear! 
Blent with your images, it shall arise 

In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes! 

What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear 30 

Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach? 

It is the tree's lament, an eerie speech, 

That haply to the unknown land may reach. 

Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith! 

Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away 35 

In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay, 

When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith 

And the waves gently kissed the classic shore 

Of France or Italy, beneath the moon, 

When earth lay tranced in a dreamless swoon: 40 

And every time the music rose, before 

Mine inner vision rose a form sublime, 

Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime 

1 saw thee, in my own loved native clime. 

Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay 45 

Unto thy honour, Tree, beloved of those 

Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose, 

Dearer than life to me, alas! were they! 

Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done 

With deathless trees like those in Borrowdale, 50 

Under whose awful branches lingered pale 

"Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton, 

And Time the shadow* *, and though weak the verse 

That would thy beauty fain, oh fain rehearse, 

May Love defend thee from Oblivion's curse. 55 



22 Gathered Grace 

TV 

Sonnet: The Lotus 

Love came to Flora asking for a flower 

That would of flowers be undisputed queen, 

The lily and the rose, long, long had been 

Rivals for that high honour. Bards of power 

Had sung their claims. "The rose can never tower 5 

Like the pale lily with her Juno mien" 

"But is the lily lovelier?" Thus between 

Flower-factions rang the strife in Psyche*s bower. 

"Give me a flower delicious as the rose 

And stately as the lily in her pride** 10 

"But of what colour?" "Rose-red", "Love first chose, 

Then prayed, "No, lily-white or, both provide," 

And Flora gave the lotus, "rose-red" dyed, 

And "lily-white", queenliest flower that blows. 

V 

The Tree of Life 

Broad daylight, with a sense of weariness! 

Mine eyes were closed, but I was not asleep, 

My hand was in my father* s, and I felt 

His presence near me. Thus we often past 

In silence, hour by hour. What was the need 5 

Of interchanging words when every thought 

That in our hearts arose, was known to each, 

And every pulse kept time? Suddenly there shone 

A strange light, and the scene as sudden changed. 

I was awake: It was an open plain 10 

Illimitable, stretching, stretching oh, so far! 

And o'er it that strange light, a glorious light 

Like that the stars shed over fields of snow 

In a clear, cloudless, frosty winter night, 

Only intenser in its brilliance calm 15 

And in the midst of that vast plain, I saw, 

For I was wide awake, it was no dream, 

A tree with spreading branches and with leaves 

Of diverse kinds, dead silver and live gold, 

Shimmering in radiance that no words may tell! 20 



ToruDutt 23 

Beside the tree an angel stood; he plucked 

A few small sprays, and bound them round my head. 

Oh, the delicious touch of those strange leaves! 

No longer throbbed my brows, no more I felt 

The fever in my limbs "And oh" I cried, 25 

"Bind too my father's forehead with these leaves". 

One leaf the angel took and therewith touched 

His forehead, and then gently whispered "Nay" 

Never, oh never had I seen a face 

More beautiful than that Angel's, or more full 30 

Of holy pity and of love divine. 

Wondering I looked awhile, then, all at once 

Opened my tear-dimmed eyes When lo! the light 

Was gone the light as of the stars when snow 

Lies deep upon the ground. No more, no more, 35 

Was seen the Angel's face. I only found 

My father watching patient by my bed, 

And holding in his own, close-prest, my hand. 



M ANMOHAN GHOSE 
(1869-1924) 

Manmohan Ghose, the elder brother of Sri Aurobindo, was born in 
1869, Educated at Manchester, London, and Oxford he stayed for 
eighteen years in England before returning to India in 1898 to become a 
Professor of English in the Presidency College, Calcutta* 

Manmohan" s first known verse were those included in Primavera, a 
volume of poems published in England in 1890. His other publications 
are Love Songs and Elegies (1898) and Songs of Love and Death (1926) 
besides a poetic play Nallo and Damayanti, a lyrical epic Adam 
Alarmed in Paradise and two poetic sequences entitled Immortal Eve 
and Orphic Mysteries. 

Manmohan Ghose was a quiet man and a disciplined poet Though 
his life was darkened by the prolonged illness of his wife, Manmohan 
did not neglect either his duties as a teacher or his commitment to 
poetry. His wife died in 1918. In 1921 he underwent an unsuccessful 
operation for cataract in the eyes which left him almost completely 
blind for the rest of his life. 

Manmohan 9 s poems deal with love, nature, fate and man's destiny 
in the ever-changing universe. Throughout his life Manmohan suffered 
from an unmitigated hankering for England. In fact, one of the ruling 
passions in his life and poetry is the conflict between a nostalgic longing 
for England and the compulsions of staying in India. 



Manmohan Chose 25 



London 

Farewell, sweetest country; out of my heart, you roses, 
Wayside roses, nodding, the slow traveller to keep. 

Too long have I drowsed alone in the meadows deep, 
Too long alone endured the silence Nature espouses. 

Oh, the rush, the rapture of life! throngs, lights, houses, 

This is London. I wake as a sentinel from sleep. 6 

Stunned with the fresh thunder, the harsh delightful noises, 
I move entranced on the thronging pavement How sweet, 

To eyes sated with green, the dusky brick- walled street! 
And the lone spirit, of self so weary, how it rejoices 

To be lost in others, bathed in the tones of human voices, 

And feel hurried along the happy tread of feet 12 

And a sense of vast sympathy my heart almost crazes, 

The warmth of kindred hearts in thousands beating with mine. 

Each fresh face, each figure, my spirit drinks like wine, 
Thousands endlessly passing. Violets, daisies, 

What is your charm to the passionate charm of faces, 

This ravishing reality, this earthliness divine? 18 

murmur of men more sweet than all the wood's caresses, 

How sweet only to be an unknown leaf that sings 
In the forest of life! Cease, Nature, thy whisperings. 

Can I talk with leaves, or fall in love with breezes? 
Beautiful boughs, your shade not a human pang appeases. 

This is London. I lie, and twine in the roots of things. 24 

II 

The Rider on the White Horse 

How did I lose you, sweet? 

I hardly know 
Roughly the storm did beat, 

Wild winds did blow. 

1 with my loving arm 5 
Folded you safe from harm, 



26 Gathered Grace 

Cloaked from the weather. 
How could your dear foot drag? 
Or did my courage sag? 
Heavy our way did lag, 10 

Pacing together. 

I |6oked in your eyes afraid, 

Pale, pale, my dear! 
The stones hurt you, I said, 

To hide my fear. 15 

You smiled up in my face, 
You smothered every trace 

Of pain and langour. 
Fondly my hand you took, 

But all your frail form shook; 20 

And the wild storm it struck 

At us in anger. 

The wild beast woke anew; 

Closely you clung to me. 
Whiter and whiter grew 25 

Your cheek and hung to me. 
Drooping and faint you laid 
Upon my breast your head, 

Footsore and laggard. 

Look up, dear love, I cried: 30 

But my heart almost died, 
As you looked up and sighed, 

Dead* weary, staggered. 

There came a rider by; 

Gentle his look. 35 

I shuddered, for his eye 

I could not brook. 
Muffled and cloaked he rode, 
And a white horse bestrode 

With noiseless gallop. 40 

His hat was mystery, 
His cloak was history; 
Pluto's consistory 

Or Charon's shallop. 



Manmohan Ghose 27 

Could not the dusky hue 45 

Of his robe match, 
His face was hard to view, 

His tone to catch. 
"She is sick, tired. Your load, 
A few miles of the road, 50 

Give me to weather** 
He took as 'twere a corse 
Her fainting form perforce. 
In the rain rider, horse, 

Vanished together. 55 

Come back, dear love, come back! 

Hoarsely I cry; 
After that rider black 

I peer and sigh: 

After that phantom steed 60 

I strain with anxious heed, 

Heartsick and lonely. 
Into the storm I peer 
Through wet woods moaning drear. 
Only the wind I hear, 65 

The rain see only. 

m 

The Dewdrop 

In the bliss, they say, of the love that laves the skies and ocean and earth, 
All things hasten to lose, they say, the grieving ripple of birth. 
Why, then, ah! do I tremble and pale at the thought of thee, O Death, 
And shivering, stand to take my plunge in that infinite sea of breath? 
There are the lost joys of my life, far sunk beyond rave and fret; 5 
There are the souls of dreams unflowered, and the roses of regret 
There is the sunken dreadful gold of the once that might have been, 
Shipwrecked memory anchors there, and my dead leaves there are 

green. 

Why in the merge of all with all by a plunge recoverable, 
Desperate diver shudder I from all pearls in one shell; 10 

For there more precious than all things lost is the one that I let fall, 



28 Gathered Grace 

One heart brimful of love for me, her love that encasketed all. 
Dear, like a trembling drop of dew I held thee in my hand; 
How of a sudden could I so spill as to lose it in infinite sand, 
Fresh on the rose-petal of life, with its fragrance through and 

through 15 

Drenching my heart? I held thee long, thou trembling drop of dew. 
As I stood sadly secure of thee, as happy I looked my fill, 
Thou from that rose petal didst glide and vanish in salt sea rill. 
Now by the infinite shore I roam, the bliss that all things laves; 
Down-bent, weeping, I seek for thee by a mournful music of 

waves, 20 

Deaf to the grandeur and the roar that hath washed thee away from me; 
In the streaming sands and my own salt tears I wildly look to thee. 
Thou with the freshness and the foam art glorying borne away; 
I mid wreck and driftwood grope and daily with all dismay. 
"Come back, tremulous heart," I sob, "heart's bliss, corne back", 

I cry. 25 

Only the solemn ecstasy of waters makes reply. 



SRI AUROBINDO 
(1872-1950) 



Sri Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghose) was born in 1872 in Calcutta. He was 
educated in England along with his poet brother Manmohan Ghose. He 
mastered English and the classical languages and began writing poetry 
very early. On his return from England in 1893, he was appointed in the 
service of the Maharaja of Baroda. In 1906 Bipin Chandra Pal invited 
him to become the editor of Bande Mataram, a journal devoted to the 
cause of India* s freedom. Thus was Sri Aurobindo involved in India's 
struggle for freedom and was branded as a terrorist by the British. In 
1910 Sri Aurobindo left for Pondicherry where he founded his now 
world famous ashram. He passed the rest of his life in Pondicherry and 
achieved fame not only as a poet but also as a philosopher who attracted 
disciples and admirers from all parts of the world. 

Sri Aurobindo was a voracious reader and prolific writer. He wrote 
poems, plays, criticism and philosophical essays. The Life Divine is his 
most philosophical work in prose. His poetry is, by and large, spiritual, 
mystic, symbolic and philosophical. Sri Aurobindo* s other important 
works are Savitri, Perseus the Deliverer, The Future Poetry, The 
Foundations of Indian Culture and The Human Cycle. In addition, he 
made several translations from Bengali and Sanskrit classics into 
English. Sri Aurobindo shows great metrical skill and thematic 
diversity in his poetry. 

Professor K.R. Srinivasa lyengar considers him as *the one 
uncontestably outstanding figure in Indo- Anglian literature*, a writer 
who *was not merely a writer who happened to write in English but 
really an English writer'. 



THER 



30 Gathered Grace 

I 

The Tiger and the Deer 

Brilliant, crouching, slouching, what crept through the green heart of 

the forest, 
Gleaming eyes and mighty chest and soft soundless paws of grandeur 

and murder? 
The wind slipped through the leaves as if afraid lest its voice and the 

noise of its steps perturb the pitiless Splendour, 
Hardly daring to breathe. But the great beast crouched and crept, and 

crept and crouched a last time, noiseless, fatal, 
Till suddenly death leaped on the beautiful wild deer as it drank 5 
Unsuspecting from the great pool in the forest's coolness and shadow, 
And it fell and, torn, died remembering its mate left sole in the deep 

woodland, - 
Destroyed, the mild harmless beauty by the strong cruel beauty in 

Nature. 
But a day may yet come when the tiger crouches and leaps no more in 

the dangerous heart of the forest, 

As the mammoth shakes no more the plains of Asia; 10 

Still then shall the beautiful wild deer drink from the coolness of great 

pools in the leaves* shadow. 
The mighty perish in their might; 
The slain survive the slayer. 

n 

The Blue Bird 

I am the bird of God in His blue; 

Divinely high and clear 
I sing the notes of the sweet and the true 

For the god's and the seraph's ear. 4 

I rise like a fire from the mortal's earth 

Into a griefless sky 
And drop in the suffering soil of his birth 

Fire-seeds of ecstasy. 8 

My pinions soar beyond Time and Space 
Into unfading Light; 



Sri Awrobindo 3 1 

I bring the bliss of the Eternal's face 

And the boon of the Spirit's sight. 12 

I measure the worlds with my ruby eyes; 

I have perched on Wisdom's tree 
Thronged with the blossoms of Paradise 

By the streams of Eternity. 16 

Nothing is hid from my burning heart; 

My mind is shoreless and still; 
My song is rapture's mystic art, 

My flight immortal will. 20 

m 

A Dream of Surreal Science 

One dreamed and saw a gland write Hamlet, drink 

At the Mermaid, capture immortality; 
A committee of hormones on the Aegean's brink 

Composed the Iliad and the Odyssey. 4 

A thyroid, meditating almost nude 

Under the Bo-tree, saw the eternal Light 
And, rising from its might solitude, 

Spoke of the Wheel and eightfold Path all right 8 

A brain by a disordered stomach driven 

Thundered through Europe, conquered, ruled and fell, 
From St Helena went, perhaps, to Heaven. 

Thus wagged on the surreal world, until 12 

A scientist played with atoms and blew out 

The universe before God had time to shout 14 



SAROJINI NAIDU 
(18794949) 



Sarojini Naidu, the Nightingale of India, was born in 1879 in a middle 
class Bengali family settled in Hyderabad. At the age of twelve, she 
stood first among the candidates who appeared at the Matriculation 
Examination from the erstwhile Madras Presidency. She went to 
England and studied in London and Cambridge, She began writing 
poetry while she was in England. The exotic lyric quality of her early 
poems attracted the attention of two English critics, Edmund Gosse and 
Arthur Symons. They encouraged the young girl to write more but 
advised her to confine herself to Indian themes instead of trying to be 
falsely English*. 

After her return to India, Sarojini plunged herself into poetic 
activity and the next twenty years of her life saw publication of three 
volumes of poetry, The Golden Threshold (1905), The Bird of Time 
(1912) and The Broken Wing (1917). Another volume entitled The 
Feather of Dawn was posthumously published in 1961. 

Sarojini was not only a poet but also a fiery patriot who took an 
active part in the country's struggle for freedom. She did not write any 
substantial poetry during the last 32 years of her life; the poet in her 
gave place to the patriot Sarojini entered the vortex of the freedom 
struggle along with Gandhiji and Nehru and rose to become the 
President of the Indian National Congress in 1925. After Independence 
she became the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. 

Sarojini*s poetry presents a kaleidoscope of Indian scenes, sights, 
sounds and experiences transmuted into a fantastic and sensitive vision 
of colour and rhythm. She is a poet of volatile imagination and lyrical 
tenderness endowed with an enormous sensitivity to sound, colour, 
rhythm and rhyme. A few of her poems border on the mysterious. 



Sarojini Naidu 33 



Palanquin-bearers 

Lightly, O lightly, we bear her along, 

She sways like a flower in the wind of our song; 

She skims like a bird on the foam of a stream, 

She floats like a laugh from the lips of a dream. 

Gaily, O gaily we glide and we sing, 

We bear her along like a pearl on a string. 6 

Softly, O softly we bear her along, 

She hangs like a star in the dew of our song; 

She springs like a beam on the brow of the tide, 

She falls like a tear from the eyes of a bride. 

Lightly, O lightly we glide and we sing, 

We bear her along like a pearl on a string. 12 

n 

Indian Dancers 

Eyes ravished with rapture, celestially panting, what passionate bosoms 

aflaming with fire 
Drink deep of the hush of the hyacinth heavens that glimmer around 

them in fountains of light; 
O wild and entrancing the strain of keen music that cleaveth the stars 

like a wail of desire, 
And beautiful dancers with houri-like faces bewitch the 4 

voluptuous watches of night 

The scents of red roses and sandalwood flutter and die in the maze of 

their gem-tangled hair, 
And smiles are entwining like magical serpents the poppies of lips that 

are opiate-sweet; 
Their glittering garments of purple are burning like tremulous dawns in 

the quivering air, 
And exquisite, subtle and slow are the tinkle and tread of 

their rhythmical, slumber-soft feet 8 

Now silent, now singing and swaying and swinging like blossoms that 
bend to the breezes or showers, 



34 Gathered Grace 

Now wantonly winding, they flash, now they falter, and, lingering, 

languish in radiant choir 
Their jewel-girt arms and warm, wavering lily-long fingers enchant 

through melodious hours, 
Eyes ravished with rapture, celestially panting, what passionate bosoms 

aflaming with fire! 12 

ra 

To a Buddha Seated on a Lotus 

Lord Buddha, on thy Lotus-throne, 

With praying eyes and hands elate, 

What mystic rapture dost thou own, 

Immutable and ultimate? 

What peace, unravished of our ken, 

Annihilate from the world of men? 6 

The wind of change for ever blows 

Across the tumult of our way, 

Tomorrow's unborn griefs depose 

The sorrows of our yesterday. 

Dream yields to dream, strife follows strife, 

And Death unweaves the webs of Life. 12 

For us the travail and the heat, 

The broken secrets of our pride, 

The strenuous lessons of defeat, 

The flower deferred, the fruit denied; 

But not the peace, supremely won, 

Lord Buddha, of thy Lotus-throne, 18 

With futile hands we seek to gain 

Our inaccessible desire, 

Diviner summits to attain, 

With faith that sinks and feet that tire; 

But nought shall conquer or control 

The heavenward hunger of our soul. 24 

The end, elusive and afar, 

Still lures us with its beckoning flight, 

And all our mortal moments are 



Sarojini Naidu 35 

A session of the Infinite* 

How shall we reach the great, unknown 

Nirvana of thy Lotus-throne? 

IV 

June Sunset 

Here shall my heart find its haven of calm, 

By rush-fringed rivers and rain-fed streams 

That glimmer thro* meadows of lily and palm* 

Here shall my soul find its true repose 

Under a sunset sky of dreams 5 

Diaphanous, amber and rose. 

The air is aglow with the glint and whirl 

Of swift wild wings in their homeward flight, 

Sapphire, emerald, topaz, and pearl, 

Afloat in the evening light 10 

A brown quail cries from the tamarisk bushes, 

A bulbul calls from the cassia-plume, 

And thro* the wet earth the gentian pushes 

Her spikes of silvery bloom. 

Where*er the foot of the bright shower passes 1 5 

Fragrant and fresh delights unfold; 

The wild fawns feed on the scented grasses, 

Wild bees on the cactus-gold. 

An ox-cart stumbles upon the rocks, 

And a wistful music pursues the breeze 20 

From a shepherd's pipe as he gathers his flocks 

Under the/npaJ-trees. 

And a young Banjara driving her cattle 

Lifts up her voice as she glitters by 

In an ancient ballad of love and battle 25 

Set to the beat of a mystic tune, 

And the faint stars gleam in the eastern sky 

To herald a rising moon. 



36 Gathered Grace 



The Lotus 

(To M.K. Gandhi) 

O mystic lotus, sacred and sublime, 

In myriad-petalled grace inviolate, 

Supreme o'er transient storms of tragic Fate, 

Deep-rooted in the waters of all Time, 

What legions loosed from many a far-off clime 5 

Of wild-bee hordes with lips insatiate, 

And hungry winds with wings of hope or hate, 

Have thronged and pressed round thy miraculous prime 

To devastate thy loveliness, to drain 

The midmost rapture of thy glorious heart... 10 

But who could win thy secret, who attain 

Thine ageless beauty born of Brahma's breath, 

Or pluck thine immortality, who art 

Coeval with the Lords of Life and Death. 



8 



SHIV K. KUMAR 
(b. 1921) 



Shiv K. Kumar was born in Lahore in 1921 and was educated at the 
local Foreman Christian College and later at Fitzwilliam College, 
Cambridge, from where he received his doctorate. He has travelled 
extensively and was a British Council Visitor at Cambridge (1961), a 
Research Fellow at Yale (1962), Visiting Professor at Marshall (1968) 
and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Northern 
Iowa (1969), For a few years he was Professor and Chairman of the 
Department of English at the University of Hyderabad. Kumar's poems 
have appeared in several Indian and foreign journals like Quest, Ariel 
(Leeds) and Meanjin Quarterly (Melbourne). His first collection of 
poems Articulate Silences was published in 1970. Since then he has 
published several volumes of poetry such as Cobwebs in the Sun (1974), 
Subterfuges (1975), Woodpeckers (1979), Broken Columns (1984) and 
Trap/alls in the Sky (1987). He was awarded the Central Sahitya 
Academy Prize for the best writing in English in 1987. His critical 
writings include Bergson and the Stream of Consciousness Novel, 
British Romantic Poets: Recent Revaluations and British Victorian 
Literature: Recent Revaluations. 

The major themes in Kumar's poetry are love, sex and 
companionship, birth and death and the sense of boredom and horror 
arising out of the anguish of urban life experiences. He adopts the ironic 
mode of a confessional poet especially in poems in which he explores 
the self through interaction with others. Like Robert Frost, he often 
selects a simple and unpretentious fact or incident and develops it into a 
meditative experience. Indian Women, A Mango Vendor and Rickshaw- 
Wallah illustrate this aspect of Kumar* s poetry. Yet another trait in his 
poetry is the harmonious mingling of wit, humour and irony. With a rare 
insight into the ridiculous aspect of a situation, experience or fact 
Kumar digs at follies and pretensions as seen in poems like Poet 
Laureate and Epitaph on an Indian Politician. 



3 8 Gathered Grace 

Kumar is a scholarly poet with the entire range of English literature 
at his command. The dichotomy between the East and the West is 
another major theme in his poetry. Autobiographical elements overflow 
in poems such as Broken Columns. Kumar writes, "In view of my 
extensive travelling in the West, I seem to be constantly returning to the 
theme of cultural interaction. I feel, unconsciously, I guess, that with me 
contrast is almost a mode of perception. It is this awareness that 
compels me to recapture my days in New York as a kind of life-in- 
death." 



SMv K. Kumar 39 



Indian Women 

In this triple-baked continent 
women don't etch angry eyebrows 
on mud walls. 

Patiently they sit 

like empty pitchers 5 

on the mouth of the village well 
pleating hope in each braid 
of their mississippi-long hair 
looking deep into the water's mirror 

for the moisture in their eyes. 10 

With zodiac doodlings on the sands 

they guard their tattooed thighs 
waiting for their men's return 
till even the shadows 
roll up their contours 15 

and are gone 

beyond the hills. 

II 

An Encounter with Death 

The blue-bells clanged like 

muffled cymbals, beating 

the retreat in a weird, funeral sound. 

Zeus, my white Alsatian, resting 

on his massive haunches, suddenly 5 

struck up a plaintive whine. 

But that gusty afternoon 

I sensed not these forebodings, 

still joking with my mother who reclined 

against the Mugal pillows on the divan, 10 

like an empress, four score and three. 

She laughed boisterously at something I said 
or unsaid. And then a pause, and then as though 
the door-handle shook, but it was her throat 



40 Gathered Grace 

caught in the noose of convulsive gasps, rattling 15 

like tiny pebbles in an earthen pitcher 

The dog's whine broke into three yelps 

my mother's hand was on her heart 

I was undone. 

In my flush I heard the snapping of some 20 

mysterious bonds. 

For thirteen days, say the Hindus, the departed 

soul hovers round its earthly habitat, 

and so for thirteen days I have communed with the spirit 

Whenever a door rattles, a nipping 25 

wind howls, a dog whines or 

blue-bells clang, I feel her 

presence within me. 

in 

Epitaph on an Indian Politician 

Vasectomised of all genital urges 

for love and beauty, 

he often crossed floors 

as his wife leaped across beds. 

In his kitchen garden he grew 5 

only tongues and lungs 

to blow into fragile mikes 

powerful harangues 
half conceived in haste. 

All his life he shambled around 10 

in homespun yarn, 
socialising his soul, 

while his sons flourished 

in the private sectors of big business. 

Here he lies, silenced by tongue 15 

cancer, during the stormy budget session, 
in the Lord's year of grace 1969 
My his soul rest in peace! 



NISSIM EZEKIEL 

(b. 1924) 



Nissim Ezekiel is one of the leading Indo-Anglian poets today. He was 
bom in Bombay of Bene-Israel parents. He took his Master's degree in 
English literature in 1947, went to England in 1948 and studied 
philosophy at Birbeck College under C JE.M Joad. 

Ezekiel had been a professor of English in one of the Bombay 
colleges* Later he lectured on American literature at the University of 
Bombay, He retired from his position as Reader in English in 1985 and 
now lives at his family home *The Retreat' in Bombay. He was a 
Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds in 1964. He recited his 
poems in a number of American colleges during a tour in 1967* Besides 
teaching and writing, Ezekiel has tried his hand at various occupations. 
He started as a copywriter in a Bombay agency of which he became the 
manager later. He also worked as a manager of 'ChemoukT, a frame 
manufacturing company, where he wrote poetry during his spare time. 
For some time during the sixties he edited the elite journal Quest. He 
was the poetry editor of The Illustrated Weetiy of India and the editor of 
Imprint. Besides contributing to several periodicals both at home and 
abroad, Ezekiel has authored seven volumes of poetry since 1952. In 
1983 he was selected for the Central Sahitya Akademi Award for the 
best writing in English, 

Ezekiel*$ important works are A Time to Change (1952), Sixty 
Poems (1953), The Third (1959), The Unfinished Man (1960), The 
Exact Name (1965), Hymns in Darkness (1976) and Latter Day Psalms 
(1982). In addition to these he has published Three Plays (1970) and 
edited a few books including An Emerson Reader (1965), 

Ezekiel is a poet of sophisticated manner and tone. His best poems 
show an introspective and meditative finesse. His conversational style 
and unpretentious mode reveal a highly disciplined craftsman who has 
perfect control over his medium. He is essentially an urban poet arid 



42 Gathered Grace 

there are several excellent poems on the city of Bombay revealing the 
poet's insight into the life of that 'barbarous city*. 

Broadly speaking, there are three main themes in Ezekiel's 
poetry the sensation of oppression in a crowded civilization 
represented by his native city, Bombay; the sensual woman we often 
encounter lingering on the borders of our respectable society, and the 
moral self of the poet expressed through his devastating irony. 



Nissim Ezekiel 43 

I 

Background Casually 

l 

A poet-rascal-clown was born, 

The frightened child who would not eat 

Or sleep, a boy of meagre bone. 

He never learnt to fly a kite, 

His borrowed top refused to spin. 5 

I went to Roman Catholic school, 

A mugging jew among the wolves. 

They told me I had killed the Christ, 

That year I won the scripture prize. 

A Muslim sportsman boxed my ears. 10 

I grew in terror of the strong 

But undernourished Hindu lads, 

Their prepositions always wrong, 

Repelled me by passivity. 

One noisy day I used a knife. 15 

At home on Friday nights the prayers 

Were said. My morals had declined, 

I heard of Yoga and of Zen. 

Could I, perhaps, be rabbi-saint? 

The more I searched, the less I found 20 

Twenty-two: time to go abroad. 

First, the decision, then a friend 

To pay the fare. Philosophy, 

Poverty and Poetry, three 

Companions shared my basement room. 25 

2 

The London seasons passed me by. 

I lay in bed two years alone, 

And then a Woman came to tell 

My willing ears I was the Son 

Of Man. I knew that I had failed 30 



44 Gathered Grace 

In everything, a bitter thought. 

So, in an English cargo-ship 

Taking French guns and mortar shells 

To Indo-China, scrubbed the decks, 

And learned to laugh again at home. 35 

How to feel it home, was the point 

Some reading had been done, but what 

Had I observed, except my own 

Exasperation? All Hindus are 

Like that, my father used to say, 40 

When someone talked too loudly, or 

Knocked at the door like the Devil. 

They hawked and spat. They sprawled around. 

I prepared for the worst. Married, 

Changed jobs, and saw myself a fool. 45 

The song of my experience sung, 

I knew that all was yet to sing. 

My ancestors, among the castes, 

Were aliens crushing seed for bread 

(The hooded bullock made his rounds) 50 



One among them fought and taught, 

A Major bearing British arms. 

He told my father sad stories 

Of the Boer War. I dreamed that 

Fierce men had bound my feet and hands. 55 

The later dreams were all of words. 

I did not know that words betray 

But let the poems come, and lost 

That grip on things the worldly prize. 

I would not suffer thai again. 60 

I look about me now, and try 

To formulate a plainer view: 

The wise survive and serve to play 

The fool, to cash in on 

The inner and the outer storms. 65 



Nissim Ezekiel 45 

The Indian landscape sears my eyes. 

I have become a part of it 

To be observed by foreigners. 

They say that I am singular, 

Their letters overstate the case. 70 

I have made my commitments now. 

This is one: to stay where I am, 

As others choose to give themselves 

In some remote and backward place. 

My backward place is where I am. 75 

n 

A Morning Walk 

Driven from his bed by troubled sleep 

In which he dreamt of being lost 

Upon a hill too high for him 

(A modest hill whose sides grew steep), 

He stood where several highways crossed 5 

And saw the city, cold and dim, 

Where only human hands sell cheap. 

It was an old, recurring dream, 

That made him pause upon a height 

Alone, he waited for the sun, 10 

And felt h ; s blood a sluggish stream. 

Why had u given him no light, 

His native place he could not shun, 

The marsh where things are what they seem? 

Barbaric city sick with slums 15 

Deprived of seasons, blessed with rains, 

Its hawkers, beggars, iron-lunged, 

Processions led by frantic drums, 

A million purgatorial lanes, 

And child-like masses, many-tongued, 20 

Whose wages are in words and crumbs. 
He turned away. The morning breeze 
Released no secrets to his ears. 



46 Gathered Grace 

The more he stared the less he saw 

Among the individual trees. 25 

The middle of his journey nears. 

Is he among the men of straw 

Who think they go which way they please? 

Returning to his dream, he knew 

That everything would be the same. 30 

Constricting as his formal dress. 

The pain of his fragmented view 

Too late and small his insights came, 

And now his memories oppress, 

His will is like the morning dew. 35 

The garden on the hill is cool, 

Its hedges cut to look like birds 

Or mythic beasts are still asleep. 

His past is like a muddy pool 

From which he cannot hope for words. 40 

The city wakes, where fame is cheap, 

And he belongs, an active fool. 

in 

Enterprise 

It started as a pilgrimage, 

Exalting minds and making all 

The burdens light. The second stage 

Explored but did not test the call. 

The sun beat down to match our rage. 5 

We stood it very well, I thought, 

Observed and put down copious notes 

On things the peasants sold and bought 

The way of serpents and of goats. 

Three cities where a sage had taught 10 

But when the differences arose 

On how to cross a desert patch, 

We lost a friend whose stylish prose 

Was quite the best of all our batch. 

A shadow falls on us and grows. 15 



Nissim Ezekiel 47 

Another phase was reached when we 

Were twice attacked, and lost our way. 

A section claimed its liberty 

To leave the group. I tried to pray. 

Our leader said he smelt the sea 20 

We noticed nothing as we went, 

A straggling crowd of little hope, 

Ignoring what the thunder meant, 

Deprived of common needs like soap. 

Some were broken, some merely bent. 25 

When, finally, we reached the place, 

We hardly knew why we were there. 

The trip had darkened every face, 

Our deeds were neither great nor rare. 

Home is where we have to gather grace. 30 

IV 
Marriage 

Lovers, when they marry, face 

Eternity with touching grace. 

Complacent at being fated 

Never to be separated. 4 

The bride is always pretty, the groom 

A lucky man. The darkened room 

Roars out the joy of flesh and blood. 

The use of nakedness is good. 8 

I went through this, believing all, 

Our love denied ihe Primal Fall. 

Wordless, we walked among the trees, 

And felt immortal as the breeze. 12 

However many times we came 

Apart, we came together. The same 

Thing over and over again. 

Then suddenly the mark of Cain 16 

Began to show on her and me. 

Why should I rain the mystery 

By harping on the suffering rest, 

Myself a frequent wedding guest? 20 



48 Gathered Grace 



The Railway Clerk 

It isn't my fault 

I do what I'm told 

but still I am blamed. 

This year, my leave application 

was twice refused. 5 

Every day there is so much work 

and I don't get overtime. 

My wife is always asking for more money. 

Money, money, where to get money? 

My job is such, no one is giving bribe, 10 

While other clerks are in fortunate position, 

and no promotion even because I am not graduate. 

I wish I was bird. 

I am never neglecting my responsibility, 

I am discharging it properly, 15 

I am doing my duty, 

but who is appreciating? 

Nobody, I am telling you. 

My desk is too small, 

the fan is not repaired for two months, 20 

three months 

I am living far off in Borivli 

my children are neglecting studies, 

how long this can go on? 

Once a week, I see a film 25 

and then I am happy, but not otherwise. 

Also, I have good friends, 

that is only consolation. 

Sometimes we are meeting here or there 

and having long chat 30 

We are discussing country's problems. 

Some are thinking of foreign 

but due to circumstances, I cannot think, 

My wife's mother is confined to bed 

and I am only support 35 



10 



JAYANTA MAHAPATR A 

(b. 1928) 



Jayanta Mahapatra was born in 1928 in Cuttack. He teaches Physics at 
Ravenshaw College. His poems have appeared in several Indian and 
foreign journals. Svayamvara and Other Poems appeared in 1971. His 
other earlier publications were Close the Sky (1971) and 
Countermeasures (1973). In 1975 Mahapatra was awarded the Jacob 
Glatstein Memorial Prize instituted by the Modern Poetry Association, 
Chicago. In 1976 he toured the USA as a visiting writer. Since 1976 
Mahapatra has brought out five collections of poems A Rain of 
Nights (1976), Waiting (1979), The False Start (1980), Relationship 
(1980) and Life Signs (1983). He won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 
1981. 

Mahapatra is deeply steeped in Indian tradition. He is a poet with 
great fidelity to his native environment and region. His poems reveal a 
mythic consciousness of the Orissa landscape and the ancient culture of 
that region combined with a deeply reflective vision of life. There is an 
abundance of local details in his poetry. He is a significant 'private lyric 
voice* meditating over the way of life and experiences of a region, yet 
reflecting the ramifications of the national culture. Mahapatra's 
sensibility seeks out images from the world of decay and pain and subtle 
ironies impart a certain permanence to his vision. His experiments in 
Indian English poetry have helped evolve a language eminently 
evocative and truly adapted to the Indian ethos. 

Mahapatra says that his attempt has been to * return to my roots so 
that they reveal who I am*. 



50 Gathered Grace 



Thoughts of the Future 

Cross-legged, sunk in a rope-cot throughout the day, 

he pores devoutly over papers, across wriggly letters 

that wear the fates of planets, stars. Nothing 

profanes him. Faith eases the ran of his household history: 

the cool beliefs of sandal wood's salve on his brow, 5 

a sacred thread the colour of his hidden bone, 

the tangle of hard births in the unshaven lock 

of holy hair behind the head. 

Fair, haughty Jagannath Mishra, 

his loose belly-flesh quivers as he voices a question: 10 

an illness in my past somewhere? 

My father's answer ends up my thirteen years. 

The man looks like a monsoon-month toad. 

His cold Hindu eye will not discard anything. 

Mute, I fidget seated on a low stool beside his bed. 15 

Father glances sharply at me: perhaps the fee 

he has to pay burns the skin along his spine. 

The world's the same. 

It's the future's face he would not offend. 

A woman of the house peeks through 20 

the discoloured curtain in the door. Her pumkin-face 

wearily backs in again, past the gaze of stone. 

The pundit leans forward to us, 

his eye conspiratorial, every act a ritual. 

Their meanings prostrate on the green field of time. 25 

The fragments he makes of time freeze my father; 

between the right moments and the inauspicious 

my thirteenth year stands as a dead wall. 

May be funeral pyres shine through Father's eyes. 

On my future the pundit nods. The world changes. 30 

Eyes of an alien British school teacher 

decorate my brick wall like festive wick-lamps in the dark. 

I escape the winds of other sons blowing down the veins. 

(I studied in the Stewart European, with the ecclesiastics.) 

At last the session over, the fee is paid. 35 



Jay ant a Mahapatra 5 1 

We tiptoe back slowly into the street, 

the future of my body dividing us, across the present 

The walk of wooden clogs creeps through our fears. 

I look up at a father 's face: its simple sky 

twisting with the stain of inheritance, 40 

the dilemma of worlds peddled between those two, 

making real the circle which karma leaves behind 

like a halo left behind by the rain 

his eyes dry and stiffened as the toes of a toad. 

n 

The Bride 

She who fought her fevered farewell all night 

and cried child's tears upon the rock-faced 

silence of a father's days, awaits the summit 

of her hopes that revolved 

around many a virgin night, 5 

a midnight vigil fashioned for her 

to carve an artificial dell of joy 

from a stranger's anonymous care. 

Where the starlight at the window stares 

at the perfumed innocence of her painted hands 10 

and spills the lyric hush of love in the air, 

she remembers the taste-of-sin smiles 

on her sisters* faces to feel the secret flutter 

of exiled body, the pressure of sunripe breast; 

yet shall this end 15 

in the fabled pride of a dying sunset? 

And, she herself, so mad and drunk 

of her lone vigil, is tuned to the stealthy 

opening of the door, a mammoth's footfalls 

upon the floor that envelop her bones 20 

in a common harlot's fare, 

for this moment when the bedecked bride, 

as stone at touch and belled, 

dreads the thunder and lets 

the fierce lightning race 25 

wave after wave through her 

sun-inflamed flesh. 



52 Gathered Grace 

in 

The Mountain 

Shackled to the earth it stands, all its dead weight 

In the darkness of evening 

silence and pressure only, 

multiplying, adding, subtracting, 

In the abyssal heart. 5 

Each day, 

falling to pieces under the straddling sunlight, 

it gives clear proof that one 

might still reconstruct one's life. Rigid, 

yet strangely impotent, 10 

perhaps it eagerly waits for the world to speak, 

for the mute clock to strike again, 

for a new kind of society to form from the ruins of hate. 

And all day 

we climb those slopes which do not ease at all, 15 

where unfinished time blots out the differences 

among us, as it sets itself irremediably on the peak. 

Late in the evening of life 

an embarrassment prevents the world from speaking. 

Can the wide valley here down below 20 

lessen the mountain's weight? Here, 

where we are afraid within ourselves, 

and the earth is thin and sad with insufficiency; 

the wind razes the fields of our rights 

and the great bulk of conscience stirs, 25 

moving in its process of exorcism. 



11 



A.K. RAMANUJAN 
(b. 1929) 



A.K. Ramanujan was born in Mysore and educated at the local 
Maharaja's College. He began his career as a lecturer in English in 
Quilon and later worked in Belgaum and Baroda before migrating to 
Chicago in 1962. He was a Fulbright scholar at Indiana University and 
later moved on to Chicago University where he is now Professor of 
Dravidian Studies in the Department of South Asian Languages and 
Civilizations. 

Ramanujan's first collection of poems The Striders appeared in 
1966. In 1969 he won the gold medal of the Tamil Writers* Association 
for his translation of the classical Tamil anthology Kurunihohai into 
English under the title The Interior Landscape. Relations appeared in 
1971. His next book, Speaking of Siva* translations from medieval 
Kannada literature* was given the National Book Award in 1974. 
Ramanujan's other important publications are The Literature of India; 
An Introduction (1975) and Selected Poems (1976). 

Ramanujan's poetry is an amalgam of Indian and American 
experiences. Its origin is *recollected personal emotion*. He draws upon 
our cultural traditions and the ethos of the orthodox Hindu family life. 
The major theme in his poetry is a pensive obsession with the familial 
and racial reminiscences. Even ordinary incidents and experiences 
seem to provide him with new insights enabling his memory to travel 
back nostalgically into the happenings of two or three generations. 

His favourite disciplines linguistics and anthropology gave 
him the 'outer forms linguistic, metrical, logical and other such ways 
of shaping experience*. Ramanujan has drawn effectively on the 
folklore tradition and each poem presents a kaleidoscopic view of the 
colour patterns of existence. Passion and reason characterise his poetry 
suggesting a desperate need for evolving an integrated personality in a 
chaotic world-of several alienations. 



54 Gathered Grace 

Rarnanujan is an exile reluctant to sever his links with the springs of 
his cultural traditions. The problems of life and poetry are basically the 
same for him. His chief concern has been to reconcile the recollected 
emotions with the vulnerability of the present and the future. "It is not 
an emotion recollected in tranquillity but recollection emotionalised in 
tranquil moments that appears to be the driving force behind much of 
Ramanujan's poetry/' 



A.K. Ramanujan 55 



The Striders 

And search 
for certain thin- 
stemmed, bubble-eyed water bugs. 
See them perch 

on dry capillary legs 5 

weightless 
on the ripple skin 
of a stream. 

No, not only prophets 

walk on water. This bug sits 10 

on a landslide of lights 
and drowns eye- 
deep 

into its tiny strip 
of sky. 15 

n 

Of Mothers, among Other Things 

I smell upon this twisted 
blackbone tree the silk and white 
petal of my mothers youth. 
From her ear-rings three diamonds 

splash a handful of needles, 5 

and I see my mother ran back 
from rain to the crying cradles. 
The rains tack and sew 

with broken thread the rags 

of the tree-tasselled light 10 

But her hands are a wet eagle's 

two black pink-crinkled feet, 

one talon crippled in a garden- 
trap set for a mouse. Her sarees 

do not cling: they hang, loose 15 

feather of a onetime wing. 



56 Gathered Grace 

My cold parchment tongue licks bark 

in the mouth when I see her four 

still sensible fingers slowly flex 

to pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor. 20 

ra 

Still Another for Mother 

And that woman 

beside the wreckage van 

on Hyde Park street: she will not let me rest 

as I slowly cease to be the town's brown stranger and guest 

She had thick glasses on. Was large, buxom, 5 

like some friend's mother. Wearing chintz 
like all of them who live there, eating mints 
on the day's verandahs. 

And the handsome 

short-limbed man with a five-finger patch of gray 10 

laid on his widows' peak, turned and left her 
as I walked at them out of the after- 
glow of a whisky sour. She stood there 
as if nothing had happened yet (perhaps nothing did) 
flickered at by the neons on the door, 15 

the edges of her dress a fuzz, lit red. 
Fumbled at keys, wishbone shadows on the catwalk, 
as though they were not keys, but words after talk, 
or even beads. 

He walked straight on, towards me, 

beyond me, didn't stop at the clicks of red 20 

on the signals. 

And she just stood 
there, looking at his walking on, me 
looking at her looking on. She wanted then 

not to be absent perhaps on the scene 25 

if he once so much as even thought 
of looking back. 

Perhaps they had fought. 
Worse still, perhaps they had not fought 



A.K* Ramanujan 57 

I discovered that mere walking was polite 30 

and walked on, as if nothing had happened 
to her, or to me: 

something opened 

in the past and I heard something shut 
in the future, quietly, 35 

like the heavy door 

of my mother's black-pillared, nineteenth-century 
silent house, given on her marriage day 
to my father, for a dowry. 

IV 

Snakes 

No, it does not happen 

when I walk through the woods. 

But, walking in museums of quartz 

or the aisles of bookstacks, 

looking at their geometry 

without curves 

and the layers of transparency 

that make them opaque, 

dwelling on the yellower vein 

in the yellow amber 10 

or touching a book that has gold 

on its spine, 

I think of snakes* 

The twirls of their hisses 

rise like the tiny dust-cones on slow-noon roads 15 

winding through the farmers* feet. 

Black lorgnettes are etched on their hoods, 

ridiculous, alien, like some terrible aunt, 

a crest among tiles and scales 

that moult with the darkening half 20 

of every moon. 

A basketful of ritual cobras 

comes into the tame little house, 

their brown- wheat glisten ringed with ripples 



58 Gathered Grace 

They lick the room with their bodies, curves 25 

uncurling, writing a sibilant alphabet of panic 

on my floor. Mother gives them milk 

in saucers. She watches them suck 

and bare the black-line design 

etched on the brass of the saucer. 30 

The snakeman wreathes their writhing 

round his neck 

for father's smiling 

money. But I scream. 

Sister ties her braids 35 

with a knot of tassel 

But the weave of her knee-long braid has scales, 

their gleaming held by a score of clean new pins. 

I look till I see her hair again. 

My night full of ghosts from a sadness 40 

in a play, my left foot listens to my right footfall, 
a clockwork clicking in the silence 
within my walking. 

The clickshod heel suddenly strikes 

and slushes on a snake: I see him turn, 45 

the green white of his belly 

measured by bluish nodes, a water-bleached lotus stalk 
plucked by a landsman hand. Yet panic rushes 
my body to my feet, my spasms wring 

and drain his fear and mine. I leave him sealed, 50 

a flat-head whiteness on a stain. 

Now 

frogs can hop upon this sausage rope, 
flies in the sun will mob the look in his eyes, 

and I can walk through the woods. 55 



12 



ARUN KOLATKAR 
(b. 1932) 



Arun Kolatkar was bom in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, in 1932 and lives in 
Bombay where he is employed as a graphic artist in an advertising 
agency. He is a bilingual poet writing in both English and Marathi. His 
first book of poems Jejuri appeared in 1976 and was awarded the 
Commonwealth poetry prize for the best first book of poetry in English. 
Jejuri is a long poem in thirty-one sections concerned with a visit to 
Jejuri, a place in western Maharashtra sanctified by the Khandoba 
temple. The poem combines the irreverent urbanite attitude of the 
pilgrim Manohar with a colloquial speech rhythm and irony to produce 
an impact of beauty and power. 

Kolatkar* s long poem The Boatride is a series of surreal 
perceptions characterised by contemplativeness. His poetry has an 
incantatory quality which must be the result of his familiarity with 
classical Indian narrative verse. A peculiar kind of stillness haunts The 
Boatride which has borrowed its rhythm from the surge of the sea. 

Kolatkar* s poems are marked by his inquisitive eye for detail. 
Some of his shorter poems are attempts to establish correspondence 
with reality through the employment of humour and irony. Poems like 
YeskwantRao and The Station Master come under this category. 



60 Gathered Grace 

From Jejuri 
I 
The Bus 

The tarpaulin flaps are buttoned down 

on the windows of the state transport bus 

all the way up to Jejuri 3 

A cold wind keeps whipping 

and slapping a corner of the tarpaulin 

at your elbow. 6 

You look down the roaring road. 

You search for signs of daybreak in 

what little light spills out of the bus 9 

Your own divided face in a pair of glasses 

on an old man's nose 

is all the countryside you get to see. 12 

You seem to move continually forward 

towards a destination 

just beyond the caste-mark between his eyebrows. 15 

Outside, the sun has risen quietly. 

It aims through an eyelet in the tarpaulin 

and shoots at the old man's glasses. 18 

A sawed-off sunbeam comes to a rest 

gently against the driver* s right temple. 

The bus seems to change direction. 21 

At the end of the bumpy ride 

with your own face on either side 

when you get off the bus 24 

you don't step inside the old man's head. 



Arun Kolatkar 61 

n 

Irani Restaurant Bombay 

the cockeyed shah of iran watches the cake 

decompose carefully in the cracked showcase; 

distracted only by a fly on the make 

as it finds in a loafer' s wrist an operational base. 4 

dogmatically green and elaborate trees defeat 

breeze, the crooked swan begs pardon 

if it distuib the pond; the road neat 

as a needle points at a lovely cottage with a garden. 8 

the thirsty loafer sees the stylised perfection 

of such a landscape in a glass of water wobble 

a sticky tea print for his scholarly attention 

singles out a verse from the blank testament of the table 12 

an instant of mirrors turns the tables on space. 

while promoting darkness under the chair, the cat 

in its two timing sleep dreams evenly and knows 

dreaming as an administrative problem, his cigarette 16 

lit, the loafer, affecting the exactitude of a pedagogue 

places the match in the tea circle and sees it rise: 

as when to identify a corpse one visits a morgue 

and politely the corpse rises from a block of ice 20 

the burnt match with the tea circle makes a rude 

compass, the heretic needle jabs a black star. 

tables, chairs, mirrors are night that needs to be sewed 

and cashier is where at seams it comes apart. 24 



13 



KAMALA DAS 
(b. 1934) 



Kamala Das was born in 1934 at Punnayurkulam in Kerala. She belongs 
to a family of poets and writers, her mother Balamoni Amma herself 
being a renowned Malayalam poet. Kamala Das had very little formal 
education. At the age of fifteen she was married and she spent most of 
her life in Calcutta. Now she lives in Trivandruin. 

Kamala Das's first book of poems Summer in Calcutta was 
published in 1965. Her other important verse collections are The 
Descendants (1968) and The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (1971). 
She published her Collected Poems in 1984 and for this she was 
awarded the Central Sahitya Akademi Prize in 1985. Her explosive 
autobiography My Story was translated into fourteen languages. Besides 
these, she has published a novel Alphabet of Lust and a number of 
stories for children. 

Kamala Das is a bilingual writer. She writes short stories in 
Malayalam under the pseudonym Madhavikutty. She was given the 
Kerala Sahilya Akademi Award in 1969 for Thanuppu (Cold), a 
collection of short stories in Malayalam. Earlier in 1963 she had been 
given the Asian Poetry Award sponsored by the Manila Centre of the 
PEN. For some time she was the poetry editor of The Illustrated Weekly 
of India and of Youth Times, Delhi. 

Kamala Das is predominantly a poet of love and pain. She hardly 
ventures outside her personal world and there is a remarkably felt 
confessional strain in her poetry. Her main themes are love, sexuality, 
sickness, mortality, loneliness and despair. She expresses her need for 
love and affection with a sense of urgency. In some of her poems there 
is a touch of pathos born of nostalgia for home and childhood. 

Kamala Das's poems reveal her sensitivity as a woman who seems 
to struggle for a few moments of happiness and tranquillity in a world of 
despair and sterility. She is often compared with Sylvia Plath in her 
quest for identity through self-revelation. 



Kamala Das 63 



A Hot Noon in Malabar 

This is a noon for beggars with whining 

Voices, a noon for men who come from hills 

With parrots in a cage and fortune cards 

All stained with time, for brown kurava girls 

With old eyes, who read palms in light singsong 5 

Voices, for bangle-sellers who spread 

On the cool black floor those red and green and blue 

Bangles, all covered with the dust of roads, 

For all of them, whose feet, devouring rough 

Miles, grow cracks on the heels, so that when they 10 

Clambered up our porch, the noise was grating, 

Strange .... This is a noon for strangers who part 

The window-drapes and peer in, their hot eyes 

Brimming with the sun, not seing a thing in 

Shadowy rooms and turn away and look 15 

So yearningly at the brick-ledged well* This 

Is a noon for strangers with mistrust in 

Their eyes, dark, silent ones who rarely speak 

At all, so that when they speak, their voices 

Run wild, like jungle- voices* Yes, this is 20 

A noon for wild men, wild thoughts, wild love. To 

Be here, far away, is torture. Wild feet 

Stirring up the dust, this hot noon, at my 

Home in Malabar, and I so far away 

n 

The Dance of the Eunuchs 

It was hot, so hot, before the eunuchs came 
To dance, wide skirts going round and round, cymbals 
Richly clashing, and anklets jingling, jingling, 
Jingling. Beneath the fiery gulmohur, with 

Long braids flying, dark eyes flashing they danced and 5 

They danced, oh, they danced till they bled ... There 

were green 



64 Gathered Grace 

Tattoos on their cheeks, jasmines in their hair, some 

Were dark, and some were almost fair. Their voices 

Were harsh, their songs melancholy; they sang of 

Lovers dying and of children left unborn .... 10 

Some beat their drums; others beat their sorry breasts 

And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy. They 

Were thin in limbs and dry; like half-burnt logs from 

Funeral pyres, a drought and a rottenness 

Were in each of them. Even the crows were so 15 

Silent on trees, and the children, wide-eyed, still; 

All were watching these poor creatures* convulsions 

The sky crackled then, thunder came, and lightning 

And rain, a meagre rain that smelt of dust in 

Attics and the urine of lizards and mice.... 20 

ra 

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 5 

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 10 

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 15 

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 ruder breezes 

Of the fall and the smoke from burning leaves. Your room is 

Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always 20 

Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little, 



Kamala Das 65 

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 25 

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. 30 

IV 

Death is so Mediocre 

Life has lost its clear outlines. Or else, I may 

Have gone half blind, its ritzy splendours stealing 

The light from my eye. The night, forever 

A garbage collector, tearing grubbily 

The wrappers off many a guilt remains 5 

A dubious ally. All the rest are lying morgued 

With that hazy past. And, yet invitations 

Come from strangers who proudly string me between 

Starched serviette blooms at their tables. And, after 

The drinks are drunk and the food eaten, when asked 10 

To speak I find my poor mouth turn into an 

Open cavern, ransacked bare, by burglars 

Of thoughts and suddenly wealth and lust seem like 

Languages once learnt but now forgotten. Death is 

So mediocre, any fool can achieve 15 

It effortlessly. For those such as me the awful 

Vulgarities of the final rites are not 

Quite right, the slow unwrapping of the carcass, 

The many paltry, human details that must disgust 

The esthete, the flabby thigh, the breasts that sag, 20 

The surgery scar, yes, it would indeed be 

Of no bloody use believing in my soul's 

Poise when the paid marauders strip me of that 

Last unbleached shroud and ready me for the fire. 

Like an elephant not bidding goodbye while 25 



66 Gathered Grace 

Taking off for that secret edge of forests 

Where they slope into a sure but invisible 

Sea, I shall go too in silence leaving not 

Even a finger print on this crowded earth, 

Carrying away my bird-in-flight voice and 30 

The hundred misunderstandings that destroyed 

My alliances with you and you and you .... 



14 



R. PARTHASARATHY 

(b. 1934) 



R. Parthasarathy was born at Tirupparaiturai near Tiruchirapalli in 
Tamil Nadu in 1934. He had his university education in Bombay and 
spent a year (1963-64) as a British Council scholar at the University of 
Leeds. He began his career as a lecturer in English in Bombay. In 1971 
he joined the Oxford University Press as an editor. 

Parthasarathy's poems have appeared in several Indian and foreign 
journals and anthologies. In 1966 he was awarded the Ulka Poetry Prize 
instituted by Poetry India. In 1968, along with J J. Healy, he edited 
Poetry from Leeds. 

Parthasarathy's only collection of poems Rough Passage was 
published in 1976. Though it consists of several poems written through 
a period of twenty years, Rough Passage is treated as a single poem. "It 
should be considered and read as one poem. In it twenty years* writing 
has finally settled,** says Parthasarathy. The three sections in Rough 
Passage are 'Exile*, Trial* and 'Homecoming*. This framework has 
helped the poet to express the three stages of his intellectual and 
emotional development, 'Exile* places the culture of Europe against 
that of India and points to the poet's loss of identity with his own 
culture. It begins with a search for roots. Trial* celebrates love that 
passes through turmoils but nevertheless gives the poet a sense of 
belonging. The third part 'Homecoming* is an attempt to reconcile his 
urban self with his Tamil roots. 

Parthasarathy began with an infatuation for English and England. 
However, after his visit to England he was disenchanted. The essential 
tension in his poetry lies in the dilemma caused by this disenchantment 
and his late awareness of a loss of identity with his own culture. His 
most striking poem Under Another Sky explores the problem of whether 
one becomes an exile in one's own country by speaking and writing an 
alien language. 



68 Gathered Grace 

Parthasarathy's poetry exhibits a sense of nostalgia; his comments 
on his country are half-ironic and often he indulges in self -satire. There 
is a sadness combined with contemplativeness visible in most of his 
poems. Parthasarathy is a consummate craftsman who possesses a 
highly sensitive and competent sense of language. He introduces 
surprising images and metaphors and his imagination endows them with 
symbolic and universal significance. 

The poems included in this anthology represent the three parts in 
Rough Passage. 



R. Parthasarathy 69 



Exile 

As a man approaches thirty he may 

take stock of himself. 

Not that anything important happens. 3 

At thirty the mud will have settled: 

you see yourself in a mirror. 

Perhaps, refuse the image as yours. 6 

Makes no difference, unless 

You overtake yourself. Pause for breath. 

Time gave you distance: you see little else, 9 

You stir, and the mirror dissolves. 

Experience doesn't always make for knowledge: 

you make the same mistakes. 12 

Do the same things over again. 

The woman you may have loved 

you never married. These many years 15 

you warmed yourself at her hands. 
The luminous pebbles of her body 
stayed your feet, else you had overflowed 18 

the banks, never reached shore. 

The sides of the river swell 

with the least pressure of her toes. 21 

All night your hand has rested 

on her left breast. 

In the morning when she is gone 24 

you will be alone like the stone benches 

in the park, and would have forgotten 

her whispers in the noises of the city. 27 



70 Gathered Grace 

II 
Trial 

(i) 

Mortal as I am, I face the end 

with unspeakable relief, 

knowing how I should feel 3 

if I were stopped and cut of f , 

Were I to clutch at the air, 

straw in my extremity, 6 

how should I not scream, 

*I haven't finished? 

Yet that too would pass unheeded. 9 

Love, I haven't the key 

to unlock His gates. 

Night curves. 12 

I grasp your hand 

in a rainbow of touch. Of the dead 

I speak nothing but good. 15 

00 

Over the family album, the other night, 

I shared your childhood: 

the unruly hair silenced by bobpins 3 

and ribbons, eyes half-shut 

before the fierce glass, 

a ripple of arms round SuneetTs neck, 6 

and in the distance, squatting 

on fabulous haunches, 

of all things, the Taj. 9 

School was a pretty kettle of fish: 

the spoonfuls of English 

brew never quite slaked your thirst 12 

Hand on chin, you grew up, 

all agog, on the cook's succulent 

folklore. You rolled yourself 15 



R. Parthasarathy 71 

into a ball the afternoon Father died, 

till time unfurled you 

like a peal of bells. How your face 18 

bronzed, as flesh and bone struck 

a touchwood day. Purged, 

you turned the coiner in a child's steps. 21 

m 

Homecoming 

This afternoon I dusted my table. 

Arranged everything in order 

in a desperate attempt to get hold of myself 3 

Later, I watched my forty years 

swim effortlessly ashore in a glass of beer. 

However, there is no end 6 

to the deceptions I practise on myself: 

I have, for instance, lived off friends. 

Told the usual lies 9 

and not batted an eyelid. 

I have burned my files for fear 

they'd close in on me. 12 

I have even kept letters unopened for days. 

I don't have to complete anything. 

Now I spend most of the day 15 

plucking grey hair from my forehead. 

Once in a way I light a cigarette. Follow 

the smoke as though it were a private tour. 18 



15 

KJ>. KATRAK 

(b. 1936) 



Kersy D. Katrak was born in 1936 and now lives in Bombay. He is the 
Managing Director of an advertising agency. He has contributed poems 
to several journals like Quest and The Illustrated Weekly of India. His 
poems have also appeared in several anthologies of Indo-Anglian 
poetry. His two collections of verses, A Journal of the Way and 
Diversions by the Wayside, came out in 1969. 

Katrak* s poetry is characterised by a reflective strain born of 
personal experience. He moulds his poems through several minor 
details to reach a sudden focus of revelation, exaltation or terror. Katrak 
exhibits a vein of the occult in some of his poems. One of his recurring 
major themes is man's struggle through a hostile and magical world. 
However, Katrak recoils from the unpalatable encounters with this 
outer world and tries to take refuge in domestic love and the comforts of 
a home. 

Katrak 9 s terse lines are marked by a colloquial vigour and his 
images and metaphors sharply outline the sentiments expressed. 



KD. Katrak 73 



Woman on the Beach 

Coming around the bend we felt the head 

Of subtly turning air, the changing sound 

Of larger tides beating against the land. 

Living beside the sea we sense them first: 

The first small signs of cold that apprehend 5 

Our short and sudden winter. As we came round 

The last flat bend, my wife smiled gently. Brandy, I said: 

Courvoiseur Brandy. Winter became a thirst; 

A singing in the ears, the senses sharp and free. 

I whistled and changed gears as we went forth 10 

To take the last steep drop that meets the sea: 

Turning towards the house I felt the wind 

Pointing its finger North. 

Details sometimes intrude upon our lives and point 

Towards the centre. This woman was a detail 15 

I saw her first 

From out the corner of my eye 

Behind the car, I braked and swerved 

My wife clucking annoyance, and parked elsewhere. 

There she lay 20 

Flat on her back, her elbows propped her up: 

Dressed shabbily but not a beggar. 

From time to time she moved and scraped 

A little backwards: dressed shabbily 

But not a beggar. .. 25 

Three hours later between the trifle 

And brandy, I found the hard 

Centre of my vague unease. 

I had seen such movements before 

In puppies whipped to death, in mangled cats, 30 

Men hit by trucks and crawling blind 

Across the road to some imagined shelter: 

I had seen those slow 

Witless movements before: her back was broken. 

Iran; 35 



74 Gathered Grace 

Obeying as we always do 

Some law of more than necessary love 

Always too late. 

When I reached the front gate she was gone. 

Taken away, I thought, strangers have helped 40 

She could not have moved far unhelped... 

Facing the winter stars 

Suddenly bright, 

Suddenly apprehensive for my wife alone 

And sleeping, I turned upstairs and ran. 45 

Counted my possessions and was relieved 

To find them there. Counted my life 

And found it limited but good. 

Turning the sheets I slipped beside my wife, 

Half asleep she understood 50 

My need for reassurance and comforted my pride. 

Before I slept I said a prayer for my wife 

Having accounted all, but not accounted God 

Who pauses to disrupt 

With something much like love, the smallest life. 55 

Next morning was the first cold day with hot 

Winter breakfast on the plate. 

I wore my three-piece suit, we talked and ate 

Relieved at having found the usual things to say. 

Turning towards the car I saw the crowd 60 

Two hundred yards behind and walked that way 

Knowing what I would find. 

She lay there as I looked and mind 

Outstripped its midweek calm: 

This was Thursday. And that red horror there, 65 

The back indeed was broken but there was more: 

The flesh had torn, smashed, pulped, retreated, to expose 

The hidden and interior bone. 

That calm unnerving whiteness was untouched whilst in the red 

Hies moved in sw&rms. 70 

What madman 
Demon husband, raging lover, or what claws 



KJ). Katrak 75 

Of hell or powers of love had done this; 

From what great heights dropped her 

And left her at my doorstep to be found 75 

By me, neglected, and from there to crawl 

Blindly towards the mothering sea before she died: 

I would not know. 

But my reflex was instant: 

Doors shut in my mind. 80 

Wipe the mouth, adjust the tie: 
Call the police I said 
Fighting panic at my own 
Disproportionate sense of loss: 

Fighting to keep together 85 

All that I knew: the house, the small 

Patrimony of land, the lawn where winter flowers had grown. 
But knew this once for all: the only flesh 

With which one may identify 90 

Death, is one's own 

n 

Colaba Causeway 

Here at the Southern limit of the city, 

The poor, the beaten and the meek: 

Involuntary images of pity: 

Fill my eyes and will not let me weep 

Beggar and peddlar, and old jew, 5 

Turn the heart to whining again: 

Encountered in the familiar view. 

But I have grown remote from pain 

Walking the street with casual eyes, 

And I have grown remote from love; 10 

White skirted girls bring no surprise, 

Walking this street, I only move 

Till from across the road a running urchin 

Shouting and full with his nine years age 

Skittles a stone that strikes me on the shin 15 

And all my poise 'behnchod' dissolves in rage. 



16 



KEKI N. DARUWALL A 

(b. 1937) 



Keki N. Dantwalla was born in Lahore in 1937. He had his early 
education in Ludhiana. Later he took a post-graduate degree in English 
literature from the Panjab University. He joined the Indian Police 
Service in 1958 and now lives in Delhi. His first collection of poems 
Under Orion appeared in 1970. Apparitions in April published in 1971 
received the Uttar Pradesh State Award. Crossing of Rivers appeared in 
1976. The latest collection of his poems is The Keeper of the Dead 
(1982). Daruwalla was selected for the Central Sahitya Akademi Award 
for the best writing in English in 1984. 

Daruwalla has been a regular contributor to several journals, both 
Indian and foreign. His poems have appeared in Antioch Review (Ohio), 
Trace (California), Poet Lore (Boston), Trans-Atlantic Review 
(London) and Opinion (Bombay). His poems have also appeared in 
several anthologies of Indo- Anglian poetry and are always favourably 
received. 

In addition to poems, Daruwalla has also published a collection of 
short stories entitled Sword and Abyss (1979), 

Daruwalla claims that his poetry is rooted in the rural landscape of 
India. In spite of its bitter satiric tone, Daruwalla's poetry evokes a 
sympathetic response in the Indian reader because of its intensely 
Indian quality. It is in the background of this all-inclusive Indian ethos 
that Daruwalla delineates the agonised psyche of the Indian intellectual. 
The tension in Daruwalla's poetry arises from its measured progress 
from earthy sentiments to sophisticated urban expression. He believes 
that content is more important in poetry than form, that poetry is 
exploratory and an 'aid to come to terms with one's own interior world*. 
Daruwalla says, "Writing a poem is like a clot going out of the blood/* 
In short, according to him, poetry is *therapeutic* 

Though man's existential pain is the major theme in most of his 
poems, Daruwalla is capable of both pathos and stern humour as seen in 
Apothecary and On the Contrariness of Dreams. 



KekiN.Daruwalla 77 

I 
Hawk 



I saw the wild hawk-king this morning 

riding an ascending wind 

as he drilled sky. 

The land beneath him was filmed with salt: 

grass-seed, insect, bird 5 

nothing could thrive here. But he was lost 

in the momentum of his own gyre, 

a frustrated parricide on the kill. 

The fuse of his hate was burning still. 

But in the evening he hovered above 10 

the groves, a speck of barbed passion. 

Crow, mynah and pigeon roosted here 

while parakeets flew raucously by. 

And then he ran amuck, 

a rapist in the harem of the sky. 15 

As he went up with a pigeon 

skewered to his heel-talon 

he scanned the other birds, marking out their fate, 

the ones he would scoop up next, 

those black dregs in the cup of his hate! 20 



The tamed one is worse, for he is touched by man. 

When snared in the woods 

his eyelids are sewn with silk 

as he is broken to the hood. 

He is momentarily blinded, starved. 25 

Then the scar over his vision is perforated. 

Morsels of vision are fed to his eyes 

as he is unblinded stitch by relenting stitch. 

Slowly the world re-forms: 

mud walls, trees burgeon. 30 

His eye travels like the eye of the storm. 



78 Gathered Grace 

Discovering his eye 

and the earth and sky 

with it, he leaps from earth to ether. 

Now the sky is his eyrie. 35 

He ferocious floats on splayed wings; 

then plummets like a flare, 

smoking, and a gust of feathers 

proclaims that he has struck. 

The tamed one is worse, for he is touched by man 40 

Hawking is turned to a ritual, the predator's 

passion honed to an art; 

as they feed the hawk by carving the breast 

Of the quarry bird and gouging out his heart 



They have flushed him out of the tall grasses, 45 

the hare, hunted now 

in pairs by mother hawk and son. 

They can't kill him in one fell swoop. 

But each time the talons cart away 

a patch of ripped fur. 50 

He diminishes, one talon-morsel at a time. 

He is stunned by the squall of wings above. 

His heart is a burning stable 

packed with whinnying horses. 

His blood writes stories on the scuffed grass! 55 

His movements are a scribble on the page of death. 



I wouldn't know when I was stolen from the eyrie 

I can't remember when I was ensnared. 

I only know the leather disc 

which blots out the world 60 

and the eyelids which burn with thwarted vision 

Then the perforations, and yet 

the blue iris of heaven does not come through. 

I can think of a patch of blue sky 

when shown a blue slide. 65 

But I am learning how to spot the ones 



Keki N. Daruwalla 79 

crying for the right to dream, the right to flesh, 

the right to sleep with their own wives 

I have placed them. I am sniffing 

the air currents, deciding when to pounce. 70 

I will hover like a black prophesy 

weaving its moth-soft cocoon of death. 

I shall drive down 

with the compulsive thrust of gravity, 

trained for havoc, 

my eyes focused on them 75 

like the sights of a gun. 

During the big drought which is surely going to come 
the doves will look up for clouds, and it will rain hawks. 

n 

Easy and Difficult Animals 

You have no problems such as mine 
you do not cower 
from your own thoughts 

it doesn't frighten you 
the iron edge awaking from its rust 
the crawl of oxidised dreams 

in lonely hours. 5 

Where do you get your insights from 
and your simple words? 
teaching our daughter that day you said 

some dreams are animals 

some dreams are birds 
The moonface was either 

turned towards light 

or away from it 

dark fruit/incandescent fruit 10 

Your distinctions were a knife 
that went cutting to the root 
You divided in two 
this animal delirium that we call 'life* 
into *easy animalsY*difficult animals 9 15 



80 Gathered Grace 

All that moved on legs 

flew on wings 

crawled on the belly 

inhaled through fins 
hedgehog and weasel and polecat 
all that went to the taxidermist 
gizzard and buzzard and bat 

you lumped together as 'easy animals* 20 

and pitched against this menagerie 
one solitary cry 
that one * difficult animal' 
that was I 

HI 
Apothecary 

A solemn mask on a liquored-up face 

looks incongruous. Why not rip it off? 

That's better! Sit down, man! Smile once again! 

You don't have to stand there 

and cough discreetly and shuffle about 5 

You haven't come here to condole! All is well 

in my house thank Allah for it who keeps 

the obituary-scribe from the door. 

Yes, yes, I understand, the death of a patient 

is also a death in our family 10 

a part of me dies with him. 

But this boy from Sarai Khwaja complained 

of an ear-ache. Fd not seen him before. 

Some ear-drops I gave him and forgot about it 

till that ekka stood at my door in the evening. 15 

*He*s thrashing around like fish ... a stomache-ache.. 

he just can't hear it,-.' 

* An intestinal knot may be/ I said, and when 
I reached the village he was already dead, 
his mother looking at me as if I had knifed him. 

For this week past I face an empty room, swatting flies. 20 

All my patients come from Sarai Khwaja, 



Keki N. Darvwalla 8 1 

Sarai Mir, Allhadadpur, Kusum Khore. 

Five miles on ox-cart and mule-back they came 

but now they shun me as if instead 

of powders I dole out cholera and pox! 25 

If a man comes to his lawyer for advice 

and is murdered on his way back 

will his clients abandon him? Never! 

But a Hakim turns leper! They won't even read 

thvfatiha on my grave! 30 

There is no logic to it, it's just there. 

As there is no logic to a child 

with an ear-ache in the morning 

dying by evening of a stomach ailment. 

Faith is all very fine. It is one thing to say, 'All this 

is the acquiescence of clay to the will of the Lord*, 

and drain your philosophy with a nightcap, 

and quite another to face a hangover and 

an empty clinic in the morning. 

My uncle is paralysed Allah is merciful 40 

or what would he have said to this 

my only patient in fifteen days dead! 

What does the pedestrian think of it, 

Hakim Rizwan-ul-Haq 

son of Irfan-ul-Haq 45 

Hakim-ul-Mulk, Physician Royal to the 

Nizam of Hyderabad reduced to this? 

I know what you are thinking of: 

the cars lined on the kerb outside 

patients spilling out into the streets 50 

from that homeo clinic across. 

He is a widower and keeps 

two good-looking compounders. 

He tackles a serious case by ramming home 

penicillin in the thigh 55 

and a suppository in the rear* 

Homeo clinic you call it! 

You said something, did you, 



82 Gathered Grace 

Brother-healer did you say? Hippocrates? 

A homeopath keeps two handsome 60 

adolescents as his compounders. 

Now where does Hippocrates get into the act? 

He promises his clientele prophylactic doses 

against typhus, measles, chicken pox f flu. 

There isn't a plague in the slimy bogs of hell 65 

which Doctor Chandiram, gold-medallist, can't stave off 

with one of those powders of his! 

Pardon me, for I got carried away. 

We all pad the hook with the bait, Allah downwards. 

What is paradise, but a promissory note 70 

found in the holy book itself? And if you probe 

under the skin what does it promise us 

for being humble and truthful, and turning 

towards Kaaba five times a day, 

weeping in Moharram and fasting in Ramadan? 75 

What does it promise us except 

that flea-ridden bags that we are 

we will end up as splendid corpses? 



17 



DOM MORAES 

(b. 1938) 



Dom Moraes was born in 1938 in Bombay. He belonged to a Roman 
Catholic family which came from Goa. His father was the famous 
journalist and author Frank Moraes. Dom stayed in India till he was 
sixteen and then went to Oxford (1955). Before he left for England he 
had inspiring contacts with several Indian writers and artists like Nissim 
Ezekiel and Mulk Raj Anand. In England he met Stephen Spender, 
Auden and EJM Forster. Moraes's genius as a poet developed under 
such influences. 

Dom Moraes's first book of poems A Beginning was published in 
England in 1957. The book drew significant praise from English critics 
and Moraes was awarded the Hawthornden Prize at the age of eighteen. 
His second book of verse Poems came out in 1960. Another collection 
of poems John Nobody was published in 1965. During the period from 
1959 to 1965 he apparently suffered a decline in poetic power and so, on 
the advice of Auden, engaged himself in translation work and produced 
The Brass Serpent, a translation of the Hebrew poet T. CarmL Moraes's 
collected poems under the title Poems 1955-1965 was published in 
America in 1966. 

Dom Moraes has also written several prose works like From East to 
West (1971), A Matter of People (1974), Voices for Life (1975), The 
Open Eyes (1976) and Mrs, Gandhi (1980). In 1960 he published a 
travel book Gone Away and in 1968 his autobiography My Son's Father 
was published. 

Though Moraes was bora a Roman Catholic, very early in life he 
turned away from religion. Like other Indo-Anglian poets, he went 
through the emotional strain of being caught between his Indian birth 
and an intellectual sympathy with English language and culture. He 
draws on his Indian and English experiences and his mind seems to be 
haunted by contrasting visions of love and death, religion and violence, 



84 Gathered Grace 

life and destruction. Apart from his poetic technique and verbal skill, 
his poetry is characterised mainly by two elements dream and 
reality and often his poetry is stained by a note of despak and 
pessimism. 

Moraes draws upon local legends and myths and employs macabre 
symbols and metaphors. He was struck by the contrast between disorder 
and chaos in human existence and the order and interdependence in the 
non-human world. His poetry expresses this acutely agonised sense of 
contrast through its ordered pattern of symbols and metaphors. The 
sophisticated awareness that makes Moraes say * We suffer and are not? 
made beautiful* is the source of his poetry. 



Dom Moraes 85 



Sailing to England 

Fallen into a dream, I could not rise, 

I am in love, and long to be unhappy. 

Something within me raised her from the sea: 

A delicate sad face, and stones for eyes. 4 

Something within me mumbles words and grieves 

For three swept out, while inland watchers groaned, 

Humped, elbows jerking in a skein of waves 

Like giant women knitting. One was drowned. 8 

He could not swim and so he had to sink 

And only floated after having died, 

Clutching some weeds, and tolerant of the tide: 

A happy traveller on a sea of ink. 12 

I blot his eyes: waves rustle in the breeze. 

Perhaps he's thinking. The moon will rise in blood 

Trawling her whisper across the;sprawling seas 

To rouse him, if he thinks. But if he's dead? 16 

He must forget his death, I'll tell him so: 

'It's nearly time for lunch', I'll tell him, 'change: 

*Be careful: grin a bit: avoid her eyes: 

'Later go settle in the upstairs lounge 20 

* And laugh as if you ground stones in your teeth, 

'Watching the sea: or simply sit alone: 

'Or choose the wise alternative to death: 

*A nap to while away the afternoon'. 24 

II 

At Seven O'Clock 

The masseur from Ceylon, whose balding head 

Gives him a curious look of tenderness, 

Uncurls his long crushed hands above my bed 

As though he were about to preach or bless. 4 



86 Gathered Grace 

His poulterer's fingers pluck my queasy skin, 

Shuffle along my side, and reach the thigh, 

I note however that he keeps his thin 

Fastidious nostrils safely turned away. 8 

But sometimes the antarctic eyes glance down, 

And the lids drop to hood a scornful flash: 

A deep ironic knowledge of the thin 

Or gross (but always ugly) human flesh. 12 

Hernia, goitre and the flowering boil 

Lie bare beneath his hands, for ever bare. 

His fingers touch the skin: they reach the soul. 

I know him in the morning for a seer. 16 

Within my mind he is reborn as Christ: 

For each blind dawn he kneads my prostrate thighs, 

Thumps on my buttocks with his fist 

And breathes, Arise. 20 



18 



GIE VE PATEL 

(b. 1940) 



Gieve Patel was born in Bombay in 1940. A medical practitioner by 
profession he is also a poet and painter. He was educated at St. Xavier's 
school and Grant Medical College. He is a frequent contributor to 
journals like The Illustrated Weekly of India. His poems have been 
included in New Poetry in India (1974) and Young Commonwealth 
Poets '65. His first collection of poems was published in 1966 under the 
title Poems. In 1977 he published a second volume of poems, Do You 
Withstand, Body. 

Patel's output as a poet is very small, but his voice is original and 
compelling. The themes in his poetry are mainly related to the 
agonising experience of becoming and being a man in a distracted 
society. Thus his poems are meditative comments on the Indian scene 
and experiences. Several of his poems are angry reactions to human 
neglect and suffering he encounters in his immediate environment He 
analyses every phenomenon with clinical fastidiousness and aloofness, 
with a touch of irony. This is seen in Post-Mortem, a poem that sums up 
with rare sensitivity the whole process of post-mortem ironically 
leaving out the cause of death alone. Thus every probe he makes 
clarifies the mystery of our existence. 

Patel believes that a clear, logical and true poem changes 
something including the poet himself. The justification for a poem is the 
change that it brings about in the reader as well as in the poet In his 
mature poetry Patel is concerned with the human situation of violence 
and suffering. His sympathies are with the oppressed, with anyone who 
is denied the right to live. The repressed wrath against the human 
condition finds an outlet in his poetry in the form of indulgence in 
images of violence against the human body. Poems like Post-Mortem, 
How do you Withstand, Body and 0, My very Own Cadaver are 
examples of this preoccupation with the trails of violence. Patel reacts 



88 Gathered Grace 

cautiously to the Hindu ethos that surrounds him as in Naryal Purnima. 
A note of irony and understatement pervades this poem and the cultural 
inanity of the Hindu households is brought out through a searching 
probe into human attitudes that control their rituals. 

Patel's poems are couched in matter-of-fact language and he avoids 
complicated imagery and symbols. 



Gieve Patel 89 



On Killing a Tree 

It takes much time to kill a tree, 

Not a simple jab of the knife 

Will do it. It has grown 

Slowly consuming the earth, 

Rising out of it, feeding 5 

Upon its crust, absorbing 

Years of sunlight, air, water, 

And out of its leprous hide 

Sprouting leaves. 

So hack and chop 10 

But this alone won't do it 

Not so much pain will do it 

The bleeding bark will heal 

And from close to the ground 

Will rise curled green twigs, 1 5 

Miniature boughs 

Which if unchecked will expand again 

To former size 

No, 

The root is to be pulled out 20 

Out of the anchoring earth; 

It is to be roped, tied, 

And pulled out snapped out 

Or pulled out entirely, 

Out from the earth-cave, 25 

And the strength of the tree exposed, 

The source, white and wet, 

The most sensitive, hidden 

For years inside the earth. 

Then the matter 30 

Of scorching and choking 
In sun and air, 
Browning, hardening, 
Twisting, withering, 

And then it is done 35 



90 Gathered Grace 

n 

Commerce 

I force initially simplicity of commerce, 

A rupee note changes hands. 

His tongue is loosened, and squatting by me, 

Straightening the groundspread, his 

Offered hospitality, he talks. 5 

I anticipate defeat, feel cheated from the start 

These, as usual, will be external gestures. 

As always, what is unexpressed will roll 

Darkly behind his eyes and click shut. 

Yet I listen again. 10 

Unmistakable the difference. 

It is he searching me out. 

Enquiries after my job or family 

Not a screen this time for the quietly guarded. 

I would seek to escape the challenge he poses. 15 

Simple enough his look. Wife and child 

At the rear of the hut penetrate 

The darkness cocoon, endorse 

The man's enquiries. This 

May well happen again, I tell myself. 20 

Permitting my mouth I might spark into speech. 

What then, Sir Poet, of political choices? 



19 



ADIL JUSSAWALLA 

(b. 1940) 



Adil Jussawalla was born in 1940, He was educated at Oxford, Between 
1965 and 1970 he taught at a language school in London* He has 
travelled widely in England and other European countries and published 
poems both in India and abroad His first collection of poems. Land's 
End was published in 1962 and the second collection Missing Person in 
1975. He edited an anthology New Writing in India in the Penguin series 
in 1974. Now he lives in India 

Like Nissim Ezekiel, Jussawalla claims that he began writing in 
English because he did not have mastery in any other language. He 
belongs to the Parsi community (a Refugee community' as he calls it) 
which had given up Persian without adopting another language as its 
own. So as a Parsi, Jussawalla had to use a language that is not his own. 
Justifying the use of English Jussawalla writes, "A poet must know what 
he's about and what his medium's about If he knows these two things 
well enough he can do what he likes with language even turn it right 
round and stand it on its head and get away with it" 

Though Jussawalla has no sentimental concern for things Indian, 
his poetry exhibits a definite Indian awareness. He uses powerful 
imagery to evoke a mood or emotion. His poems, generally, have a taut 
structure of word and association and he exhibits a disciplined 
fastidiousness in balancing images and experiences. His poems in 
Land's End cover a large area of experiences like nature, time, man- 
woman relationship and the poet's social concerns. Jussawalla is 
particularly good in his short lyrics. In Missing Person the predominant 
theme is that of alienation. Through the central metaphor of the missing 
person, Jussawalla explores self and society. 

In New Writing in India Jussawalla characterised Indian writing as 
a reflection of the inability of the Indian bourgeoisie to find a dynamic 
role for itself in a changing society. Jussawalla himself represents this 



92 Gathered Grace 

predicament as pointed out by a critic "Jussalwalla is one of the few 
Indian writers in English who have sought to give full expression to the 
predicament and failure of the middle class intellectual who is aware of 
the burden of the past but wants to play some role in changing the course 
of history in his own immediate political and social context. His poetry 
is inevitably the poetry of alienation.** 



Adil Jussawalla 93 



The Waiters 

Blacker than wine from the loaded grapes of France, 

Blacker than mud their Tamil minds recall, 

Dark skins serving dishes to the sallow 

Sweat more night than grapesblood has; all 

The long summers that abjured, for chance 5 

Of better prospects, change, a sun of contrast, 

Stick in a language their clients won't allow. 

Must button up their manners with the past 

Grow expert on the epicure's stuffed heart; 

Polite of speech, punctilious, guarded, kind. 10 

As guardians of good taste, the waiters know 

The soiled and cluttered kitchens of the mind; 

The rancid oils where sweeter dishes start, 

Cooked, like a pick-up's words, the soot-black roof 

Behind our pasted smiles; their darkness grew 15 

To insight in their day; they stand aloof. 

But slacken in their Service after eleven. 

Guarding the days unending appetites, 

Grow shifty-eyed, avoid our munching faces; 

The spit and polish of our eating rites. 20 

Then closing time; they dream of a foodless heaven, 

Shrug off their coats like priestly cloaks of pity, 

Day's ministry complete; slip to their sleeping places 

In the throat of the feasted, pink-faced city. 

II 

Approaching Santa Cruz 

Loud benedictions of the silver popes, 

A cross to themselves, above 

A union of homes as live as a disease. 

Still, though the earth be stunk and populous, 

We're told it f s not: our Papa's put his nose 5 

Down on cleaner ground. Scon to receive 

Its due, the circling heart, encircled, sees 



94 Gathered Grace 

The various ways of dying that are home. 

'Dying is all the country's living for', 

A doctor says. 'We've lost all hope, all pride'. 10 

I peer below. The poor, invisible, 

Show me my place; that, in the air, 

With the scavenger birds, I ride. 

Economists enclosed in History's 

Chinese boxes, citing Chairman Mao, 15 

Know how a people nourished on decay 

Disintegrate or crash in civil war. 

Contrarily, the Indian diplomat, 

Flying with me, is confident the poor 

Will stay just as they are. 20 

Birth 

Pyramids the future with more birth. 

Our only desert, space; to leave the green 

Burgeoning to black, the human pall, 

The free 25 

Couples in their chains around the earth. 

I take a second look. We turn, 

Grazing the hills and catch a glimpse of sea. 

We are now approaching Santa Cruz: all 

Arguments are endless now and I 30 

Feel the guts tighten and all my senses shake. 

The heart, stirring to trouble in its clenched 

Claw, shrivelled inside the casing of a cage 

Forever steel and foreign, swoops to take 

Freedom for what it is. The slums sweep 35 

Up to our wheels and wings and nothing's free 

But singing while the benedictions pour 

Out of a closing sky. And this is home, 

Watched by a boy as still as a shut door, 

Holding a mass of breadcrumbs like a stone. 40 



20 



GAURI DESHPANDE 

(b. 1942) 



Gauri Deshpande was born in 1942 and was educated in Pune. After 
obtaining her Ph.D. in English, she taught for some time in Fergusson 
College and in the University of Pune. Now she lives in Bombay. She 
writes novels and short stories in Marathi and poetry in English. She 
worked for some time as a sub-editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India 
and later as an assistant to the editor of Opinion. Apart from publishing 
three collections of poems, she has written a political biography of 
Gokhale, Her poetry collections are Between Births (1968), Lost Love 
(1970) and Beyond the Slaughterhouse (1972). She has also edited An 
Anthology oflndo-English Poetry. 

The two important themes in Gauri Deshpande's poetry are love 
and death. Her expression is simple and direct and she avoids 
complicated imagery. Shejloes not make use of myths and traditional 
symbols as several other Indo- Anglian poets do and never sticks to the 
traditional stanza pattern or rhyme scheme. Her positive strength as a 
poet is her powerful emotion and sincerity of expression. Even simple 
daily occurrences and experiences evoke highly emotional responses in 
her and her poems are personalised expressions of these simple and 
powerful emotions. The simplicity and limited range of her themes, the 
directness of expression and the sense of humanity and sympathy that 
pervades her outlook enable the reader to experience a rapport with her. 



96 Gathered Grace 



A Lunch on the Train 

Since I cannot bring myself to hand over 

All that money for a first-class fare 

Must resign myself to bear 

Witness to my fellow-travellers* 5 

Strange habits. 

Next to me a group of three 

Whose intricate relations to each other 

I puzzle over, deciding finally upon 

The strange solution of a husband 

And two wives. 10 

The woman in front of me, a mere girl f 

Too young to have been a mother of three 

Is struggling vainly to feed one, control 

The other, and the third is abandoned 

From the weary care. 15 

Near the window, a seat I covet, 

A man long of nose and abstracted gaze 

A tiered tiffin-box on his knee 

Is waiting with patience, apparently 

Just for lunch. 20 

Catty-corner from him a youth 

Trying disdainfully to read a book 

And protect his carefully shined boots 

From the various expectorations 

Of his small neighbours. 25 

Half way through the journey it's lunch time. 

On cue the tiffin on the right is opened 

And eaten, shielded fastidiously from 

Hungry eyes in the front; in no time 

Re-closed, in repose. 30 

The two wives then opening many boxes 

Bring out feasts of sweets and fruits: 

It's a long process feeding his large appetite 

And their own tiny birdlike. 

They accomplish it, self-congratulate 35 

When from one a paan is accepted 



Gauri Deshpande 97 

From the other a clove; then they watch 

Him lean back and sleep. 

The hungry mouths have watched him too, 

Whose mother had not enough thought 40 

Or money, to provide their lunch on the train. 

The youth is on a diet of mere knowledge 

And it's my turn 

The sandwiches wax-papered in my bag 

Throb and grow enormous like a crime, 45 

Finally desperate, I compromise, 

Buy bananas in a bunch, 

And distributing them to the foodless four 

Force myself to eat the remaining one; 

It shouldn't look too like charity, 50 

Salve conscience, if not hunger. 

n 

Migraine 

At first you say, if I lie here, eyes 

closed, not moving at all, 

it will go away. Surely I can beat it. 

It's only a twinge headache. 

It laughs* Showing just a tawny tail 5 

the beast awaits, making you think, hopeful, 

of aspros, codeins and cool drinks. 

Then smiling slowly it shows itself. 

Placing its paws carefully about your temple, 

begins to press. You rage and pretend you're dead. 10 

But it's clever, goes on until, tears streaming 

from pain-destroyed face, mouthing 

long, inarticulate screams your body 

heaves up its very guts and you lie 

reduced to a sweat-drenched, shivering, 15 

whimpering lump of agony, smelling of sickness 

and vomit, humiliation. 

Dizzily dragging yourself on pulpy haunches 

you collapse on the white tiles below 

the basin, half-blind with pain it is the only 20 



98 Gathered Grace 

reality. What help now? Not love, 

not medicine, not gods and ancestors. None. 

Only your total humility and surrender 

to this fact of pain. 

It will retreat in the night for a month or two, 25 

You can resume human disguise till its next advent 

and masquerade as a person, sane, intelligent, 

loved and desirable. 

Till the next time then. 



21 



PRITISH NANDY 
(b. 1948) 



Born in 1948, Pritish Nandy is today one of the youngest and most 
prolific Indian poets writing in English. He is a precocious poet and has 
received several awards including the Padma Shri. He had lived in 
Calcutta for many years working in an advertising firm until he moved 
to Bombay a few years ago as the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of 
India. 

Nandy has nine books of translations to his credit He has also 
edited several anthologies. Among his original works the most 
important ones are Of Gods and Olives (1967), On Either Side of 
Arrogance (1968), Masks to be Interpreted in terms of Messages (1970), 
Madness is the Second Stroke (1971), Riding the Midnight River (1975), 
A Stranger Called I (1976), The Nowhere Man (1977) and Pritish 
Nandy, 30 (1978). His Collected Poems was published in 1973. 

Nandy is a controversial poet both in the choice of themes and in 
their treatment. He is a daring and ambitious experimenter who 
exercises disconcerting images and intriguing metaphors. That is why 
Mulk Raj Anand calls him 'the harbinger of the new Indian 
consciousness in his honesty of expression and compelling originality 
of language* . He handles the English language with great sensitivity and 
naturalness. Nandy is a poet of love and contemporary social ethos. He 
believes that, in spite of using English as the medium, Indo Anglian 
poets should seek their roots in Indian culture and tradition. 

Nandy *s love poetry encompasses past, present and future and has a 
sense of urgency and infinite passion. Like Whitman, the poet extols the 
soul as well as the body. Nandy has assimilated the rich tradition of love 
poetry from Jayadeva to Tagore and is influenced by the songs of 
Mirabai which he has translated. 

The other major theme in Nandy's poetry is his experience of 



100 Gathered Grace 

anguish and loneliness in the context of modern living. The political 
turmoil, violence, deprivation and social unrest find utterance in his 
poetry through powerf ul images and metaphors. To him politics is an 
integral part of human existence and is inextricably wedded to personal 
aspirations of love, liberty and peace. So in his political poems like 
those on Calcutta, there is violent tension due to the juxtaposition of 
terror, cruelty and death on the one hand and the urge to counter these 
negatives through the exploration of love on the other. 

Though Nandy writes in free verse, most of his love poems are 
prose-poems. His language and vocabulary have attained an exotic 
grandeur that expresses the tensions and anxieties we live with i&day. 
Nandy has achieved in his poetry a 'breakthrough of the new 
consciousness*. 



Pritish Nandy 101 

I 
Calcutta If You Must Exile Me 

Calcutta if you must exile me wound my lips before I go 

only words remain and the gentle touch of your finger on my 
lips Calcutta burn my eyes before I go into the night 

the headless corpse in a Dhakuria bylane the battered youth his brains 

blown out and the silent vigil that takes you to Pataldanga Lane 
where they will gun you down without vengeance or hate 

Calcutta if you must exile me burn my eyes before I go 

they will pull you down from the Ochterlony Monument and torture 

each 

broken rib beneath your upthrust breasts they will tear the anguish 
from your sullen eyes and thrust the bayonet between your thighs 

Calcutta they will tear you apart Jarasandha-like 

they will tie your hands on either side and hang you from a worldless 
cross and when your silence protests they will execute all the words 
that you met and synchronised Calcutta they will burn you at the stake 

Calcutta flex the vengeance in your thighs and burn silently in the 
despair of flesh 

if you feel like suicide take a rickshaw to Sonagachhi and share the 
sullen pride in the eyes of women who have wilfully died 

wait for me outside the Ujjala theatre and I will bring you the blood 
of that armless leper who went mad before hunger and death met in 
his wounds 

I will show you the fatigue of that woman who died near Chitpur out 
of sheer boredom and the cages of Burrabazar where passion hides 
in the wrinkles of virgins who have aged waiting for a sexless 
war that never came 

only obscene lust remains in their eyes after time has wintered 
their exacting thighs 

and I will show you the hawker who died with Calcutta in his eyes 
Calcutta if you must exile me destroy my sanity before I go 



102 Gathered Grace 

II 

Love 

The third time is always the most difficult Or so I have been told. 

The first time you do not know. Your innocence is your strength. The 
second time you are hurt and thus prepared. But the third time, my 
friend, is when you are quite totally unaware. And, therefore, so 
completely vulnerable. 

And it was on the third time that she entered my poetry. 

But words cannot live your life for you. A fact we all come to realise, 
sooner or later. But because I am a poet it took me a little longer to come 
to terms with this truth. 

So, when life took over, one dusklit autumn night, I caught her by her 
hair and dragged her to the edge of the forest, where I left her to the 
mercy of the rain, the silence and endless memories. 

For it was friday, when words catch up with their masters. 



NOTES 



Henry Louis Vivian Derozio 

I 
The Harp of India 

This is a patriotic sonnet The poet bemoans the fall of India from the 
high pedestal of fame and glory to her present condition of shame and 
servitude. 

The metaphor of the harp is maintained effectively throughout the 
poem. 

Harp is a musical instrument having several strings of graded 
length to be played by plucking on them. 

Line 



1. withered bough : 

3. Thy music once was sweet 

6-7. Neglected... desert plain : 



many... mine 



12-14. but if... strain 



symbolically suggests the 

bough of history 

You had a glorious history or 

civilisation 

The lines suggest the desolate 

condition of India deprived of 

her past glory and greatness. 

The 7th line echoes Shelley's 

Ozymandias. 

The several poets and artists of 

ancient India 

the poet's readiness to sing in 

praise of India or to serve her 

cause is revealed here. 



II 



To the Pupils of the Hindu College 

Derozio worked as an Assistant Master in Hindu College, Calcutta, 
from 1 828 to 183 1 . He was a most popular teacher loved and respected 
by his students. In turn he also had great affection and love for them. 



104 Gathered Grace 

Outside the college, several students attended his Academic 
Association and were impressed by the young master's scholarship and 
progressive views. The sonnet is a tribute to his students and reveals 
Derozio's deep concern for their welfare. Incidentally, it is also a 
confession of what Derozio thought as the duty of a teacher. 

Line 

1. Expanding... flowers : The imagery of the blossoming 

flowers suggests the expansion 
of the pupils* minds under the 
impact of learning. 

5. like the... hours : The development of the young 

minds is compared to the 
flexing of the wings by the 
birds in summer mornings 

9. new perceptions : The new learning and the new 

outlook the pupils received 

13. chaplets : wreaths 

III 
Chorus of Brahmins 

Chorus of Brahmins forms the 8th section of the first Canto of The 
Fakeer ofJungheera* the longest narrative poem of Derozio. The poem 
describes the strange vicissitudes in the life of an unlucky brahmin 
widow, Nuleeni. She is about to commit suttee on the funeral pyre of her 
husband. At that moment, her former Muslim lover and at present the 
leader of a gang of outlaws, appears on the scene, rescues her and takes 
her away to the rock of Jungheera in the river. In the ensuing battle the 
Fakeer is killed. Nuleeni rashes to the battlefield on the river bank and 
clasping the body of the dead lover, dies. 

Chorus of Brahmins describes the bustling activity just before the 
suttee. The religious rituals preceding suttee are mentioned. The chorus 
assumes the form of a hymn with its musical tone, flowery and colourful 
imagery and psychotic flashes. 

Line 

1. flowerets : small flowers or petals 

2. cymbal : a hollow plate-like musical 



Notes 105 

instrument of brass, beaten 
together in pairs. Often used in 
Hindu religious rituals. 

5. balm, myrrh : perfumes 

27. lave : bathe, wash 

IV 
A Walk by Moonlight 

The poem was written a year before Derozio's death. It shows a greater 
maturity of thought and sensitivity to Nature's mysteries. It expresses 
an overwhelming spiritual experience the poet had once while walking 
in a moonlit night A mysterious sense palpable only to the inner self 
disturbs the poet and he suddenly realises the mystic unity that exists in 
the diversity of the universe. Like Wordsworth, he feels a sense of 
kinship with other creatures of nature. 

Line 

15. tend : attract 

22. peers : equals 

3 1 Who robes for them of : Who (the moon) weaves for 

silver weaves them robes of silver 

34. hymning : singing in praise 

35. minstrelsy : art of a minstrel, i.e., music or 

singing. 

V 

Morning After a Storm 

The poem consists of two sonnets describing the placid beauty of Nature 
after the ravages of a storm in the night. The sonnets present a contrast 
between the stormy night and the calm morning. There is an awareness 
on the part of the poet of the twin aspects of Nature her all-consuming 
power of destruction and her sustaining power of beauty. The travails of 
the human spirit in a world of sin and suffering until it achieves eternal 
peace in the sunlight of God's grace is the hidden theme of the poem. 

Line 

1. elements : forces of nature 

7. hamlet : village 



106 Gathered Grace 

12-13, Cloud.., dream : These lines impart a sinister 

meaning to the havoc caused 
by the storm 

13. the fantastic figures : the frightening shapes clouds 

assume during a violent storm 
are referred to as fantastic 
ghostly figures let loose by the 
power of Nature 

II 

4. How leapt., sight : The line echoes Wordsworth's 

famous lines, *My heart leaps 
up, when I behold A rainbow in 
the sky*. 

6. rosy wreath : wreath made of roses 

7. wreck-strewn : strewn with the wreck of last 

night's storm. 



Kasiprasad Ghose 

I 
The Farewell Song 

The poem is a rich tribute to the motherland, India. The beauty and 
sublimity of India is eulogised. The majestic scenic beauty of the land is 
described in romantic terms; religious and mythical associations are 
invoked and a general sense of admiration for the motherland is 
revealed. The poem was written probably on the eve of the poet's 
departure for England. 



Line 

2, vale 

4. flowerets 

7, ripplets 

9, the queen of silent night 

17. lave 

23 . bards of mighty fame 



valley 

small flowers 

small ripples 

the moon 

bathe, wash 

famous poets of ancient India 



Notes 



107 



II 
The Moon in September 

The poet is enthralled by the moonlit splendour of a September night 
The enchantment created by the lunar beams is described in sensuous 
terms. Romantic and mythical associations are infused into the 
description so as to give a pleasingly weird impression of the magical 
night 

Line 

1. rustling breeze 



4. 
10. 
11. 
15-17. 



The rose... its stalk 

shroud 

sheen 

Full right... demons fell 



breeze that passes through the 

trees making a rustling noise 

symbolises withering love 

veil 

light 

The poet alludes to the Hindu 

myth which says that the devas 

(gods), after obtaining the pot 

of nectar by stirring the ocean 

of milk, hid it on the moon 

fearing that the asuras 

(demons) might, otherwise, 

steal it. 

The impact of the moon's 

beauty on the human soul is 

purifying. Of Wordsworth's 

faith in the healing power of 

Nature. 

Ill 
To a Dead Crow 

The poem is apparently a lament over the death of a crow. However, it 
has a more profound theme death. Musing over the death of the crow, 
the poet gradually passes on to a consciousness of his own death. The 
crow which disturbs our sweet slumber in early mornings with its 
discordant notes is often considered a nuisance. However, here it is 
presented with the halo of sympathy and beauty. 



21-22. 



Its gentleness... calm 
control 



108 Gathered Grace 

Line 

1. minstrel : singer 

10. gloom : darkness 

15. offals of my meal : the leftover of my meal 

26. dart : arrow 

38. earthly bondage : earthly life which is considered 

a bondage. 

3 
Michael Madhusudan Dutt 



My Thoughts, My Dreams 

This is an excellent love lyric. Every aspect of Nature's beauty reminds 
the poet of his beloved who is now separated from him. A tone of 
pensiveness permeates the poem. However, the constancy of love is 
reiterated through several images and concepts. 

Line 

2, Though absent... near : suggests that the poet is now 

separated from his beloved. 

7. The star of eve : The evening star, Venus 

13. placid : still, calm 

19. hours of glee : hours of joy 

21 . Thy soul... hills : constancy of love is suggested. 

II 
Oft Like a Sad Imprisoned Bird 

The sonnet expresses the poet's intense fascination for the West India, 
in spite of her natural charms and dear associations, does not give him 
satisfaction. He feels like a sad imprisoned bird and longs for liberty. 
Western civilization with its love of liberty, love of virtue and passion 
for science fascinates the poet He seems to be aware of the humiliating 
condition of his own country under foreign rule. 

Line 



3. green robed meads 

4. climes 

10. guerdon meet 



meadows of green colour 
climates, refers to other lands 
suitable reward. 



Notes 109 

4 
Toru Dutt 

I 

Lakshman 

This is one of the poems from Ancient Ballads and Legends of 
Hindustan. It is not properly a ballad but a dramatic dialogue or 
colloquy. The theme is derived from thvRamayana. Sita, deeply moved 
by the beauty of a golden deer roaming about the hermitage, pleads with 
her husband to get it for her. Rama goes in pursuit of the deer in spite of 
the forebodings expressed by Lakshman who guesses that the golden 
deer is Maricha in disguise sent by Ravana. After a long pursuit of the 
deer Rama sends an arrow which fells Maricha. While dying he cries 
out in Rama's voice for help. Hearing the agonised cry, Sita mistakes it 
for Rama's voice. Tom Dutt's poem begins at this point. Sita urges 
Lakshman to rash to help Rama. However, Lakshman is unmoved as he 
has been instructed by Rama not to leave the hermitage and to give 
protection to Sita. Moreover, Lakshman knows that Rama is fortified 
against death and is invincible. 

Toru Dutt has chosen a critical moment from the Ramayana story 
and then developed it into a poetic dialogue between Sita and Lakshman 
revealing the complex character of Sita and the steadfastness of 
Lakshman. Toru shows great psychological insight, imagination and 
restraint in narrating the incident 

Line 

1. Hark : listen 

3. succour : help 

6, Environ him : surround him 

8. magic bound : as if under the influence of 

some magic or spell 
12. Evil hangs over us : An ironic statement. Sita seems 

to have some forebodings 

about the events to come. 
25. Videhan Queen : Sita, daughter of the king of 

Videha 
28. dastard tear : tear caused by base fear 



110 



Gathered Grace 



29. demonian birth 
35. Sun-staring eagles 

40. in hooded pride 

52. Not of such metal is he 
made! 

55. He has a work, he can- 
not die 

74. Dazzles... the sun 



75. Reft 

76. dun 

80. Is there.,, hide? 

87. A fair partition! 

96. trow 

1 19. lacerate 

123. meed 

143. balk 

153. sylvan gods 

1 75 . Hoarsfe the vulture 
screamed 



being born as a demon or 

rakshasa 

eagles that fly so high that they 

appear to be looking at the sun 

from close quarters. 

showing the outspread hood in 

pride. 

Lakshman suggests the divine 

origin of Rama and assures Sita 

that there is nothing to fear. 

Lakshman hints at the divine 

purpose of Rama's birth the 

destruction of Ravana and 

other rakshasas. 

Sita sarcastically suggests that 

Lakshman has only reflected 

glory and greatness of Rama 

bereft, without 

dull, grey-brown colour 

Sita attributes evil motive to 

Lakshman. 

A fair division! A sarcastic and 

ironic remark. 

trust, believe 

cause pain and sorrow 

reward 

thwart, defeat 

gods of the forest 

The vulture cries out loudly 

when Lakshman departs for the 

woods in search of Rama. The 

vulture* s cry is an ill omen. 



II 
Sita 



Sita is the shortest ballad written by Torn Dutt. It presents Sita in the 
hermitage of Valmiki after she was rejected by Rama. Toru recollects 



Notes 1 1 1 

the scene of Sita's life of suffering from her memories of the stories told 
by her mother. Thus there is a delicate autobiographical strain in the 
poem which makes it very personal and enhances the ingrained pathos 
of the scene described. 

Line 

3. pries : enters 

11. the poet-anchorite : the poet saint Valmiki who 

composed the Ramayana. Sita 
lived with her children in 
Valmiki 's hermitage. 



14. amain 

15. lay 

22. erst 



with full speed 

song 

erstwhile 



III 
Our Casuarina Tree 

Our Casuarina Tree is described as *the most remarkable poem ever 
written in English by a foreigner' (EJ. Thompson). 

The poem may be seen as a poetic invocation of a casuarina tree in 
the garden of the poet. The tree is described in detail and it soon 
develops into a beautiful symbol linking the poet's pensive youth and 
joyous childhood. Toru invests the tree with symbolic and weird 
qualities. It is a vision encompassing the poet's past and present and 
even reminding her of her motherland whenever she is in foreign 
countries. 

*The first stanza is an objective description of the tree; the second 
relates the tree to Tom's own impressions of it at different times; the 
third links up the tree with Toru's memories of her lost brother and 
sister; the fourth humanises the tree, for its lament is a human 
recordation of pain and regret; and the last stanza wills as it were the 
immortality of the tree** (K.R. Srinivasa lyengar)* 

Our Casuarina Tree has a few similarities with Wordsworth's 
poem Yew Trees. It might be that Wordsworth's poem had an impact on 
Toru's mind and was fresh in her memory when she composed Our 
Casuarina Tree. 

The poem is written in eleven-line stanzas with the rhyme scheme 



112 



Gathered Grace 



abba f cddc, eee, probably an adaptation of the ten-line stanzas of 
Keats's odes. 



Line 
1-2. 



2. 



6. 

11. 
12. 
19. 
21. 
30. 

31. 
32. 
37. 
45-46. 

46-47. 
50. 



Like a huge python. 
...the rugged trunk 



The rugged trunk 

indented 

The giant wears the scarf 

darkling 
casement 
wend 
hoar tree 
dirge-like murmur 

shingle beach 
eerie 

water-wraith 
Therefore... unto thy 
honour 
beloved... repose 

like those in Borrowdale 



The imagery is probably 

suggested by Wordsworth's 

lines in Yew Trees, 

"Huge trunks! and each 

particular trunk a growth 

Of intertwisted fibres 

serpentine 

Up-coiling, and inveterately 

convolved" 

(Yew Trees- 11.16-18) 

The rough main stem of the 

tree. 

marked 

The giant tree wears the 

creeper like a scarf around it 

in the dark 

window 

go 

ancient tree 

a murmur that resembles a 

mourning song 

beach covered with pebbles 

strange 

the spectre of the sea 

Therefore, I would gladly 

dedicate a song in your honour. 

the reference is to the poet's 

sister Aru and brother Abju 

The reference is to the trees in 

Borrowdale about which 

Wordsworth Speaks in his 

poem Yew Trees. Borrowdale 

is a beautiful valley in the Lake 

District where Wordsworth 

saw four trees of 'huge trunks*. 



Notes 



113 



52-53. Fear, Trembling Hope... 
...Time, the Shadow; 



55. May Love*.. Oblivion's 
curse 



"...those fraternal four of 

Borrowdale, 

Joined in one solemn and 

capacious grove; 

Huge Trunks!../' 

(Yew Trees -1 1.1446) 

This is a partial quotation from 

Wordsworth *s Kew Trees. 

Wordsworth wrote: 

"...Fear and trembling Hope, 

Silence and Foresight; Death 

the Skeleton 

And Time the Shadow;...** 

(Few Trees -11, 26-28) 

It is the hope of the poet that 

love would make the tree 

immortal and save it from the 

curse of oblivion. 



IV 



Sonnet: The Lotus 

The sonnet is a lyric version of a legend about the birth of lotus. The 
legend says that Flora, the goddess of flowers and plants, created the 
lotus combining the beauty of the rase and the lily in order to end the 
dispute between them for supremacy. 



Line 
1. 
4. 
6. 



8. 
13. 



Flora 

Bards of power 

her Juno mien 



Psyche 
dyed 



goddess of flowers and plants 

famous poets 

Juno was the wife of Jupiter, 

the supreme god. Lily flower 

and the beautiful appearance of 

Juno. 

the soul 

coloured 



114 



Gathered Grace 



The Tree of Life 

This is believed to be the last poem of Toru Dutt written probably from 
her death-bed. The poem records a rare mystic experience she had while 
she lay attended by her father. The vision of the tree of life with silver 
and golden leaves beside which there stood an angel is effectively 
presented. 

The poem suggests Toru's forebodings about her death and 
yearning for immortality. 

Line 



8. And every pulse 

kept time? 

11. Illimitable 

20. Shimmering in radiance 

22. sprays 

37. watching patient 

38. close-prest 



every pulse was rhythmical in 

tune with the passing of time. 

boundless and infinite 

shining in all brilliance 

twigs 

watching patiently 

pressed closely 



Manmohan Chose 

I 

London 

The poem expresses a passion for London where the poet spent a few 
years of his life. It is a rarefied emotional reaction to the charms of the 
great city rather than a description of its tumultuous life. London is a 
good example of the poet's ability to emotionalise concrete 
experiences. 

Line 



1 . sweetest country 

4. espouses 

5-6. Oh, the rush... London 

8. entranced 

9. sated 
13-14. And a sense... 

with mine 



England 

presents 

The poet's intense involvement 

in London life is suggested 

as if under some spell 

satiated, fully satisfied 

a sense of mystic relationship 

with humanity is suggested 



Notes 



115 



20-21. How sweet., 
forest of life! 
23 . Beautiful boughs 



humility and self-effacement 
of the poet are expressed here, 
beautiful branches; however, 
here it means beautiful trees. 



II 



The Rider on the White Horse 

It is a poem of love and death and the central strain is an awareness of 
anguish. It was written after the untimely death of the poet's wife. The 
poet visualises the arrival of Death, the rider on the white horse, along 
the path of his life's journey to take her away from him. The first three 
stanzas are an extremely delicate and touching expression of the poet's 
love and solicitude for his wife and the last four bring out the anguish 
caused by her death. The crisp, irregular lines indicate the gnawing 
anguish of the poet 



Line 

3* Roughly the storm 

7. cloaked 

1 0. Heavy our way did lag 

17. smothered 

29. laggard 

39. a white horse bestrode 

43. Pluto's consistory 



44. Charon's shallop 

5 1 . Give me to weather 

52, corse 



the storm of life is suggested 

protected 

we lagged behind 

suppressed 

lagging (adj.) 

sat riding on a white horse 

Pluto is the god of the 

underworld Consistory is a 

place of assembly. The line 

suggests the underworld 

dominated by the powers of 

Death 

the boat of Charon 

Charon is the boatman who 

takes the souls across the river 

styx to the underworld. 

Give me so that I may protect 

her, give shelter to her. 

corpse 



1 16 Gathered Grace 

III 
The Dewdrop 

This is one of the poems written in commemoration of the poet's wife. 
Her untimely death in 1918 left the poet thoroughly shattered and he 
never recovered from the wound and emptiness caused by this tragedy. 
The Dewdrop was written about a fortnight after this tragedy. The poet's 
daughter Lotika Ghose recollects the circumstances: "For about a 
fortnight he remained stunned and apathetic to all that happened around 
him. Then one evening as his daughters were sitting disconsolate and 
silent on the steps of the house and twilight deepened around them, their 
father came out and joined them. The apathy was broken and his voice 
sounded happy as he told them he had written a poem on their mother. 
Eagerly they turned to him, for they knew that in the wrecked state of 
his health two slender threads had bound their father to life, their mother 
and the need to care for her and his poetry. One had been snapped and if 
the other weakened what hope was there? Soon they heard their father's 
melodious voice reciting the lines of the now well known poem, The 
Dewdrop*" 

Line 

1. laves : bathes, washes 

6. souk of dreams : unfulfilled dreams 

unflowered 

12. her love that encasketed : her love that contained all as a 

all casket holds precious jewellery 

or pearls 

18, rill : a small brook. 

6 
Sri Aurobindo 

I 
The Tiger and the Deer 

This is a metaphysical lyric in which the reader may discover more than 
one level of meaning. Written in free quantitative verse, the poem is 
suffused with philosophical and symbolic undertones. It presents in 
strikingly realistic terms the tiger, the burning terror of the forest. It tells 
us how an unsuspecting deer is suddenly mauled to death by the tiger, 



Ill Notes 



'the pitiless splendour* of the forest. The contrast is between the 'mild 
harmless beauty* (the deer) and the 'strong cruel beauty' (the tiger). 
However, the contrast also brings to light the possibility of the 
extinction of the tiger and the survival of the deer in a future age. The 
tiger symbolises Death or Destruction whereas the deer symbolises the 
Principle of Life and Beauty. The poet hints at the possibility of Peace 
and Harmony surviving Terror and Death. 

Sri Aurobindo seems to suggest that might is self-destructive and 
the 'slain survives the slayer*. He upholds the principle that even the 
mightiest force on earth cannot annihilate the good and the noble and 
the beautiful for ever. Here lies another symbolic extension of the 
meaning of the poem giving it a patriotic and nationalistic colour. The 
tiger might as well symbolise the British with all their weapons of 
oppression and the deer might symbolise India with her heritage of 
culture and human values. 



Line 
1. 



1-2. 



3. 
4. 



5. 
7. 



8. 
10. 



Brilliant 
crouching 

slouching 
Brilliant,, murder 



pitiless splendour 

But the great., crouched 



death leaped 

And it fell,, woodland 



the mild harmless beauty 
the strong cruel beauty 
the mammoth 



The tiger is brilliant because of 

its striped colours 

lying close to the ground ready 

to jump on the prey 

drooping or bending very low 

The lines give a realistic and 

terrible picture of the tiger 

which combines beauty and 

death in it 

the tiger 

The repetition of the words 

suggests the cautious but cruel 

manner the tiger waits for its 

prey 

death in the form of the tiger 

A sentimental note is 

introduced by referring to the 

mate of the deer 

the deer 

the tiger 

a species of elephant now 

extinct, believed to have 

existed in the central Asian 



Gathered Grace 

plains millions of years ago. A 
symbol of strength and terror, 

12-13. The mighty... slayer : These clinching lines express 

the poet's faith in the 
resurgence of Peace and 
Harmony in spite of the 
presence of Terror and Death 
in the world. Misdirected 
Might is self-destructive. The 
killed survive the killer. The 
poet suggests the capacity of 
the Spirit; evil destroys itself 
and the good triumphs. 

II 
The Blue Bird 

T in the poem is identified as Soul which is a part of the Divine. Blue is 
the colour associated with the Divine. The poet conceives the soul as a 
blue bird. The poem tries to summarise the celestial attributes of the 
Soul, its divine splendour and glory. The poem is an attempt to express 
the intangible splendour of the Soul in terms of the tangible sense of 
words. 

Line 

1. in his blue : in His (God's) celestial abode, 

Heaven which is supposed to 
be blue 

4. seraph : angel 

5-8. I rise... ecstasy : The soul's divine role as a link 

between heaven and earth is 
suggested. Even the possibility 
of rebirth of the soul is implied. 



6. griefless sky 

8. Fire-seeds of ecstasy 

9. pinions 

13. ruby eyes 

14. perched 

18. My mind... still 



heaven 

Soul is the source of all human 

joy 

wings 

ruby-like eyes or red eyes 

sat 

Suggests the immensity of the 



Notes 1 19 

Soul, its perfection and 
tranquillity 

19. My song... ait My song is the artistic 

expression of the mystic joy. 

Ill 
A Dream of Surreal Science 

The poem is an intelligent satire on the claim of modern science that it 
can explain everything, even the mystery of genius. The poet suggests 
that any attempt to explain genius in biological terms (glands, 
hormones, thyroid) is stupid. Genius stands beyond logical explanations 
and one has to resist the temptation to resort to intellectual and scientific 
analysis. The poet seems to say that genius is the manifestation of the 
Divine. Science with its limited insight would one day lead the world to 
total destruction. 

The poem was written in 1939, six years before an atom bomb was 
dropped on Hiroshima. Since 1945 the world has been in the shadow of 
a nuclear war and today there is a great awareness about the danger of 
total destruction lurking behind nuclear preparations by world powers. 
But Sri Aurobindo foresaw this danger even before the first atomic 
holocaust and expressed his anxiety in a telling manner in the last two 
lines of the poem. 

The poet visualises a kind of 'surreal dream* in which several 
unusual scenes appear. The sting of the satire is in the assumption that 
genius is merely a manipulation of the biological traits in man. 

Line 

1-2. One dreamed... : The first dream is that of a 

immortality gland writing Shakespeare's 

Hamlet and achieving 
immortality. 

2. Mermaid : Mermaid tavern frequented by 

Shakespeare where he used to 
meet and argue with 
contemporary writers 

3-4. A committee... Odyssey : The second dream is that of 

* hormones* composing 

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey 



120 



Gathered Grace 



3 . A committee of hormones : 



Agean 
5-8. A thyroid... right 



5. thyroid 

meditating almost nude 

6. Bo-tree 



8. the Wheel 

eightfold path 

9-12. A brain... until 



9. by a disordered 

stomach driven 

1L St Helena 



12. wagged on 
13-14. A scientist... shout 



note the bitter sarcasm. 

Hormones are an internal 

secretion in the body 

Agean sea 

The third dream is that of the 

Buddha meditating under the 

Bo-tree and later enlightening 

the world with his teaching of 

the Eightfold Path 

a ductless gland in the neck 

a satiric reference to the habit 

of so-called yogis 

Bodhi tree, the tree under 

which the Buddha meditated 

and gained Enlightenment 

the symbol of the Buddhist 

Order 

The eight teachings of the 

Buddha directed towards the 

annihilation of * Desire* leading 

to Nirvana 

The fourth dream is about 

Napoleon who ravaged Europe 

causing untold misery 

the pathological condition of 
the dictator is referred to 
The island where Napoleon 
was imprisoned by the British 
and where he died 
moved on 

This is a futuristic dream or 
vision in which the scientist 
plays with atoms and destroys 
the whole world. The all- 
powerful scientist would one 
day destroy the world even 
before God gets time to halt the 



Notes 121 

process of destruction. The 
poem ends with the 
nightmarish vision of the world 
being destroyed by an 
accidental nuclear explosion. 

7 
Sarojini Naidu 

I 
Palanquin-bearers 

In the 19th century and even during the early part of the 20th century it 
was common for noble ladies to travel in palanquins* Two or four men 
would cany the veiled palanquin. In Sarojini Naidu's poem a noble 
lady, probably newly wed, is being borne to her husband's house in a 
palanquin. The song sung by the palanquin-bearers is not about them 
but is a delicate paeon to the beauty of the bride. 

This is one of the most musical and charming lyrics of Sarojini 
Naidu. In this poem of twelve lines seven similes are used to suggest the 
beauty of the bride. The palanquin-bearers carry the bride like a pearl on 
a string. The bride is filled with the hope of happiness and the 
palanquin-bearers themselves are affected by the sweetness of that 
hope* The poem is a spontaneous expression of emotion mingled with 
music, sound and colour. A proper reading of the poem reveals its 
delicacy. 

The seven similes are found in lines 2, 3, 4 f 6, 8, 9 and 10. 
Line 

2. sways : the rise and fall of the 

movement of the palanquin- 
bearers is suggested. 

3. skims : floats silently 

5. gaily : both the bride and the 

palanquin-bearers are richly 
attired. 
9. springs : shines 

a beam on the brow of : the crest of a wave that reflects 
the tide the sunlight 



122 



Gathered Grace 



II 
Indian Dancers 

The poem is a musical rendering of the supreme joy of a dance 
experience. The rapture and voluptuousness of the beautiful dancers are 
suggested through the slow-moving rhythm of the lines. Their scent, 
smile, the rhythmical tread of their feet, their * singing and swaying and 
swinging' to the tune of keen music are brought to life through the 
slowly-winding movement of the verse. Note how the carefully chosen 
words recapture the liveliness, ecstasy and image of the dance-rhythm 
just as a sculptor would do it in stone. 

Each line contains eight feet and each foot is an anapaest Each 
quatrain has alternate rhyme. 



Line 

1. ravished 
rapture 
celestially 

2. hyacinth heavens 

3. strain 

4. cleaveth 

4. houri-like 

watches of night 

5. maze 

6. poppies of lips 

7. tremulous 

10. languish 
radiant choir 

11. jewel-girt arms 



filled with delight 

extreme joy 

in a divine manner 

blue or purple coloured sky 

tune 

cleaves, pierces 

like a houri. Houri is a nymph 

of the Mohamedan paradise. 

stars 

a network 

lips red like poppies 

trembling 

longing for love and sympathy 

group of dancers wearing 

bright dress 

arms with bands decorated 

with jewels. 



Ill 



To a Buddha Seated on a Lotus 

The mystic face of the Buddha with its divine quiet and rapture has 
always been an elusive experience for poets and artists* Sarojini's poem 
is an attempt to realise the.clivine beauty of the Master seated on a lotus. 



Notes 123 

The Buddha seated on the * lotus throne* radiating that mystic rapture 
around is the ultimate symbol of spiritual perfection and joy in a 
troubled world. While we are destined to go through *the travail and the 
heat* of unfulfilled desires, the supreme peace on the face of the Buddha 
remains a mystery to us. It eludes our understanding though captivates 
our attention. We are left with the burden of the mystery that inspires a 
'heavenward hunger* in our soul. 

The first stanza of the poem describes the Buddha in meditation, 
seated on his lotus throne. The second stanza presents a contrast 
between the noisy, unquiet and transitory human life subjected to Death 
and suffering and the peace and serenity of the Buddha. The third stanza 
describes the struggle and toil of man while the Buddha enjoys perfect 
peace and serenity. The fourth stanza says about man's perennial search 
for spiritual realisation which is never fully achieved, though the divine 
spirit is never crushed. The fifth stanza says how the soul of man is lured 
by the divine mystery, the far-off vision which beckons the soul of man. 

Line 

1. Lotus-throne : The meditating Buddha is 

always seated on a lotus. 

2. elate : raised 

3 . mystic rapture : divine joy and quiet on the face 

of the Buddha. 

5. What peace... ken : peace which cannot be 

comprehended by man, which 
is beyond his ken (sight) 

8. the tumult of our way : our troubled life 

12. Death... Life : Death-Life paradox is 

suggested. The fabric of Life is 
continuously being unwoven 
by the invisible hands of Death. 

20. inaccessible desire : unfulfilled desires that cause 

suffering. The Buddha taught 
that the prime cause of 
suffering and sorrow is desire 

24. heavenward hunger : the longing of the soul to merge 

with the Divine. 

27. mortal moments : moments of life on earth 



124 Gathered Grace 

28. Infinite : Eternity 

30. Nirvana : The ultimate stage of spiritual 

bliss where man is totally free 
from all desires, often wrongly 
equated with the Hindu 
concept of *moksha* or 
salvation. 

IV 
June Sunset 

This is one of Sarojini's finest nature lyrics. Though primarily a poet of 
the outward beauty of nature, Sarojini sometimes retires into the 
quietness and solace of nature. When she is weighed down with worldly 
care or emotional stress, she takes refuge in nature. In June Sunset the 
poet makes an attempt to discover 'true repose' and tranquillity under 
the charm of a sunset sky. 

The three stanzas of the poem reveal the three succeeding stages in 
the emotional response of the poet to the unfolding delights of a June 
sunset The poet derives great consolation from the mystic charm of the 
sunset. In the first stanza there is a desire for repose under the sunset 
sky, in the second there is an awareness of the resurgence of life around 
and in the third there is a nostalgic flashback into the bygone days of 
love. 

A sentiment of spiritual joy runs through the poem. There is a feast 
of rich colours and the spring is described with all its sensuousness 
reminding us of Keats and Tennyson. 

Line 



L haven 

2. rush-fringed 

4* true repose 

6. Diaphanous 
amber 

7, glint and whirl 

11. quail 



tamarisk 



shelter 

bordered with rushes or reeds 

true peace of mind and joy 

transparent 

yellow 

faint light that appears in a 

circling movement 

a small bird* Its cry is clear like 

a whistle 

a kind of shrub (not tamarind) 



Notes 125 

13. gentian : a plant of the genus Gentiana 

18. cactus-gold : cactus flowers of golden colour 

23. Banjara : a girl belonging to the Banjara 

(wanzari) tribe. 
25. an ancient battle of 

love and battle : The Banjara girl sings a song 

the theme of which is some 
ancient battle or love affair, cf 
Wordsworth's solitary reaper 
singing about 'old unhappy far- 
off things and battles long ago*. 



The Lotus 
(To M.K. Gandhi) 

The sonnet is addressed to M.K. Gandhi who was the poet's political 
mentor* The essential inspiration of the poem is patriotism because the 
subject of the poem, Gandhiji, was slowly emerging as a symbol of 
Indian patriotism at that time. The poet has achieved a symbolic 
identification of Gandhiji with the lotus, the flower that represents 
India's spirit of sanctity and nobility. The lotus is believed to have a 
divine origin. Gandhiji also represented the divine ethos of the nation. 
The poem invokes the ageless beauty of the lotus. The celestial 
attributes of the flower are transferred imaginatively into the spiritual 
personality of Gandhiji to make him a * mystic lotus*. 

Line 

1. Mystic Lotus : The lotus flower is believed to 

have a divine origin and mystic 
powers. Gandhiji is addressed 
as a mystic lotus. 

2. myriad-petalled : With several petals suggesting 

Gandhiji *s several spiritual 
attributes 

3. transient : weak and short-lived 

5-9. What legions... : These lines suggest the evil 

...loveliness forces of the world that try to 

destroy the divine loveliness of 



126 



Gathered Grace 



5. far-off clime 

1 0. midmost rapture 



12. Brahma's breath 



14, Coeval... Death 



the flower. The * wild-bee 
hordes with lips insatiate* may 
symbolically suggest the 
British against whom Gandhiji 
started a non-violent struggle. 
Britain 

deep joy as when one is in a 
midstream where the waters 
are deep. 

The lotus is Brahma's seat and 
so is divine. It is Brahma's 
flower. 

Brahma is one of the Hindu 
Trinity, the other two being 
Vishnu and Siva representing 
Life and Death. Brahma 
represents Creation. The 
equality Brahma enjoys with 
the other two is shared by the 
lotus because it is the seat of 
the Brahma. Thus the lotus is 
coeval with the Lords of Life 
and Death. Symbolically, 
Gandhiji is presented as the 
divine Creator of a new world. 



8 



Shiv K, Kumar 

I 
Indian Women 

A familiar Indian scene is evoked in the poem. Women waiting with 
empty pitchers at the village well is a common sight in India. This 
familiar situation is turned into an occasion to suggest the spiritual 
impoverishment of the women. The barrenness of the triple-baked 
continent* the hollowness of the pitchers and the strangeness of the 
zodiac doodlings on the sands are suggestive of the spiritual 
impoverishment, anxiety and hopelessness of the women. They wait for 



Notes 



127 



the return of their men as they wait for the filling up of their pitchers. 
The women's sexual longings and disillusionment are also suggested in 
the concluding lines. 

Line 



1 . triple-baked continent 



5. empty pitchers 

7. pleating hope in each 
braid 

8. mississippi-long hair * 

9. looking deep into the 
water's mirror 

1 1 . zodiac doodlings on the 
sands 

14-17. even the shadows... 
the hills 



the dryness and barrenness of 

the Indian landscape are 

suggested. 

symbolic of the emptiness of 

the women's lives 

pleating the hair is a diversion 

for the women. 

hair long and winding like the 

river Mississippi 

water level in the well seems to 

below. 

doodlings or scribblings on the 

sands as if drawing a zodiac 

sign. 

There is no indication when the 

men would return. There is a 

note of despair and pain in the 

closing lines. 



II 



An Encounter with Death 

The theme of the poem is the poet's experience of the death of his 
mother, an old lady of eighty-three. She dies of a heart failure even as 
she is joking with him reclining against the Mughal pillows of the divan. 
Death comes so suddenly and unexpectedly that the poet feels he is 
undone. Death snaps the mysterious bonds that have existed between 
the son and the mother. 

The poet creates a weird atmosphere by referring to the several 
mysterious forebodings before and after the death. The myth about the 
departed soul hovering round its earthly habitat for a few days more 
after its departure from the body is explored. Several weird sounds are 
mentioned imparting a sense of other-worldliness to the atmosphere. 
The poet has relied on the reader's mythical consciousness and human 



128 



Gathered Grace 



sympathies to make the encounter with death an experience that 
surprises and subdues him. 

There are five short sections in the poem. The first section refers to 
the mysterious sounds indicating the presence of death the clang of 
bluebells and the plaintive whine of the Alsatian. The second section 
shows the Mother reclining against the Mughal pillows on the divan like 
an empress. The third section presents the laughing Mother suddenly 
caught in the noose of convulsive gasps. The fourth mentions her death 
preceded by three violent yelpings of the dog. The last section is an 
attempt to feel the presence of the Mother's soul even after death. The 
weirdness of this attempt is suggested by referring to the rattling of the 
door, howling of the wind, whine of the dog and clang of the bluebells. 

The poem is an excellent exposition of the impact of a mother's 
death on the consciousness of a sensitive son whose responses are 
conditioned by age-old traditions and myths about death. 

Line 



1-6. The blue-bells.*, plain- 
tive whine 



9-1 1. my mother... an empress 



15-16. rattling like... pitcher 



19, I was undone 



22-23. For thirteen days., 
habitat 



The mysterious sounds suggest 

the presence of death. It is a 

popular belief that dogs moan 

just before a death in the 

family. 

The mother is a most dignified 

old lady, almost like an 

empress. 

Even she is not spared by 

death. 

a picturesque description of the 

weird noises produced by the 

mother in the grip of sudden 

convulsions. 

An effective and dramatic way 

of mentioning the death jbf the 

mother. 

The Hindus believe that the 

soul of the departed person 

hovers round its earthly abode 

for a few days more enabling 



Notes 129 

the living to communicate with 
it. The several rituals following 
death attain significance 
because of this belief. 
However, there is no unanimity 
about the number of days the 
soul is supposed to be 
around it may range between 
9 and 16 though here it is 
mentioned as 13. 

Ill 
Epitaph on an Indian Politician 

The poem is a daring portrayal of the Indian politician of today. With 
mordant humour and biting irony the poet presents the Indian politician 
as an opportunist in action and a hypocrite in ideas. He makes wasteful 
public speeches, wears khadar, talks socialism while encouraging his 
sons to make money in big business. The man who has been using his 
lungs and tongue for powerful harangues, ironically, dies of tongue 
cancer, that too, during the budget season when he would have had 
several opportunities to use his tongue. 

Line 

1 -2. Vasectomised... : Incapable of any fine emotions- 

beauty The Indian politician has 

become insensitive to human 
values. 
3. crossed floors : changed party loyalty or even 

group loyalty within a party 

8-9. powerful harangues... : suggests the sterility of all 
in haste political speeches 

11. homespun yarn : khadar 

12. socialising his soul : note the bitter irony 

13-14. while his sons... big : The hypocrisy of the Indian 

business politician is clearly brought 

out. 

15-16. silenced by tongue cancer : died of cancer of the tongue. 

The politician contracts tongue 
cancer, probably, by the 
overuse or misuse of his 
tongue. 



130 Gathered Grace 

17. in the Lord's year of grace: An ironic reference to the year 
1969 1969 when the Indian National 

Congress split 

9 
Nissim Ezekiel 

I 

Background, Casually 

The poem is autobiographical. It gives casually the background of the 
poet who was born and brought up in Bombay. The poem expresses the 
travails of an intelligent Jew boy of * meagre bone' living and growing 
up in a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-lingual urban society. It 
gives several details of the poet's school life; the sense of alienation he 
developed; his departure for England; return to his native city; 
marriage; jobs and the utter disgust he has developed for his own 
environment. However, the poet has no intention to quit -flie city or to 
run away from its challenges. In fact, he had made a commitment long 
ago to stay where he is. Irony and alienation combine to produce an 
inerasable impact on the reader's mind. 

Line 

1. A poet-rascal-clown : The poet makes an ironic and 

condemnatory reference to 
himself 

3. a boy of meagre bone : suggests the delicate health of 

the boy 

4-5. He never... spin : The sense of alienation begins 

so early. He is not a part of the 
mainstream of social life 
around him. 

7. A mugging Jew among : Refers to the poet's racial 

the wolves origin; he is a Bene-Israel Jew. 

A 'mug* means a simpleton. It 
also means a 'sheep'. The 
second meaning is more 
appropriate here because of the 
subsequent reference to 'the 
wolves'. 



Notes 



131 



8-9. They told,., prize 

1 3 . Their prepositions 

16-17. At home... declined 

25 . basement room 

28-30. And then... had failed 
34. scrubbed the decks 

36. How to feel it home, was 

the point 
44. I prepared for the worst. 

Married, 
48-50. My ancestors... his 

rounds 



56. The later dreams were all : 

of words 
66. The Indian landscape : 

sears my eyes 
67* I have become a part of it : 



71. commitments 
71.75. I have... I am. 



Note the irony 

knowledge of English 

Note the irony 

a dingy room at the basement 

of a building 

These lines refer to the poet's 

first sex experience. 

he engaged himself on a ship as 

a menial servant to pay for the 

passage 

The sense of alienation has 

already become strong 

Note the irony 

These lines refer to thepoet*s 
Jewish ancestor/ which is one 
of the causes of the sense of 
alienation. Bene-Israel settlers 
took to oil pressing soon after 
their arrival in India. 
The urge to write poetry began 

The sense of alienation and 
disgust is complete 
However, the poet is aware that 
he has no escape because he is 
a part of the environment he 
abhors 
choices 

This is the final choice of the 
poet to stay where he is. This is 
a sort of intellectual 
preparedness to accept the 
reality without surrendering to 
it. He continues to condemn 
the ethos of the bitter native 
city of his, but continues to live 
there as a part of it 



132 



Gathered Grace 



II 

A Morning Walk 

The poem is about the city, Bombay. It expresses the disgust and 
revulsion of the poet at the inhuman ways of the city where even a 
pleasant morning walk is impossible. The crisscrossing highways, the 
slums, the hurrying crowds, the rain, the stink and the inhumanity of the 
city compel him to look for an alternative, at least temporary, on the 
distant hill garden. The poem translates the bustle of the barbaric city 
into a gnawing pain that oppresses the poet's memory. The paralysis of 
the will and the finer emotions the Bombay man suffers from is 
succinctly suggested by a chain of metaphors. The cold and dim city is 
his purgatory. The morning walk is a walk intended to be out of the 
city's fatal grip but it ends up once again as a walk towards the city's 
festering fascinations. 

The poem is reminiscent of certain passages in T.S. Eliot's The 
Waste Land. (See the protagonist's journey to the Chapel Perilous in 
section V of The Waste Land.) 

Line 
3. 



Hill too high for him 



6. cold and dim 

7. Where only human hands 
sell cheap 

10. Alone, he waited for the 
sun, 

14, The marsh where things 
are what they seem? 

15-21. Barbaric city... crumbs 
19. purgatorial lanes 



the hill looms large as a symbol 
of disenchantment with the city 
life. 

coldness and dimness suggest 
the inhuman characteristics of 
the city. 

The emphasis is on *only*. The 
inhumanity that grips the city is 
suggested. 

probably because the skyscra- 
pers of the city block the rays 
of the rising sun. 
The decay and degeneration of 
life in the city is suggested by 
the word 'marsh*. 
A very suggestive description 
of the crowded city, 
lanes that are teeming with 
suffering lives. According to 



Notes 



133 



27. men of straw 



30, That everything would be 
the same 

36. The garden on the hill is 

cool 
42. And he belongs 



Roman Catholic belief 

purgatory is a place in which 

souls are purified of sins 

through suffering. 

men who have lost all human 

values and feelings, cf. T.S, 

Eliot's The Hollowmen 

The utter monotony and 

routineness of city life is 

suggested 

The garden is the symbol of 

hope but still unrealised 

He belongs to the city. So he 

cannot escape from its grip. 

The poet's love-hate 

relationship with the city is 

suggested. 



Ill 



Enterprise 

Enterprise is moulded out of the frustrations in a barbaric city. It is an 
allegory of the pilgrimage theme with the suggestion of futility. The 
poem speaks about a journey from the city to the hinterland by a group 
of 'exalting minds*. The journey is undertaken with the purpose of 
escaping from the monotony of the inhuman city and to gather 
experience of grace and innocence from the traditionally quiet and pure 
rural environment The group encounters several impediments on the 
way. Its initial enthusiasm soon vanishes. At the end of the journey there 
is complete disillusionment The final line 'Home is where we have to 
gather grace* stands out as the homiletic conclusion of a misdirected 
enterprise. 

There are six stanzas each of five lines with alternate rhyme 
scheme. The thematic progress in the stanzas corresponds to the 
progress of the pilgrimage from morning to evening. The first 
suggestion of serious discord comes exactly at the middle of the poem, 
the 15th line *A shadow falls on us and grows*. 

Journey or pilgrimage is a metaphor for life throughout the poem. 



134 

Line 

2. exalting minds 



5. The sun beat down to 
match our rage 
rage 

7. copious notes 



9. The way of serpents and 

of goats 



10. Three cities where a sage 
had taught 



12. desert patch 



1 3 * we lost a friend 



15. A shadow falls 



19* I tried to pray 



Gathered Grace 



noble and cultured minds. The 
group consists of city 
intellectuals 

The heat matched the enthu- 
siasm of the group 
enthusiasm 

plenty of notes. Obviously the 
pilgrims maintain a diary as is 
the fashion with intellectuals. 
An ironic reference to the 
city-dwellers* notion that the 
villages are full of serpents and 
goats. 

A reference to the village 
'godman* who claims that he 
has taught in several cities 
before he took up abode in the 
village for the spiritual benefit 
of the rural poor! 
It is the 'area of special 
difficulties* symbolic of the 
first occasion when a 
difference of opinion arises 
among the pilgrims. 
"He may have died in the 
ordeal of crossing the desert 
patch; or he may have deserted 
the group, abandoned the 
enterprise** (Nissim Ezekiel) 
It is the shadow of defeat This 
is the beginning of several 
obstacles the group has to 
encounter on the way. 
As one of the participants, the 
poet, at this stage, becomes 
totally disillusioned. So he tries 
to pray. 



Notes 



135 



22. 



23. 



A straggling crowd of 
little hope 

the thunder 



24. 
28. 

30. 



Deprived of common 
needs like soap 
The trip had darkened 
every face 



Home is where we have 
to gather grace. 



The group is already demora- 
lised by the experiences it has 
undergone 

It is the voice of illumination 
that should have guided the 
group in its arduous journey. 
Ignoring it has led the group to 
troubles. The thunder suggests 
"that which is momentous, 
spiritually important in 
comparison to the daily trivia 
of living**. 

cf T.S. Eliot's use of 'thunder' 
in The Waste Land V. 
Ezekiel uses it in its first 
meaning Da, Damyata 
which means 'subdue 
yourself. It is the failure on the 
part of the group to understand 
the message of the 'thunder* 
that finally leads to 
disillusionment. 
The group is deprived of even 
essential material comforts. 
The trip had caused only des- 
pair in every participant. A 
sense of futility comes to the 
group. 

This is the clinching line that 
sums up the futility of the 
whole enterprise. The ultimate 
irony lies in the knowledge that 
home is the place of affection 
and love. The pilgrims had not 
explored 'home* for their 
emotional needs. Instead, they 
set out in search of "grace* 
elsewhere. Hence the 
disillusionment 



1 36 Gathered Grace 

IV 
Marriage 

The theme of the poem develops through six stages love, marriage, 
joys of married life, strains in marital relationship, antagonism and 
separation and the refusal of the poetjp dwell upon the topic further. It 
is one of the ironies of life that marriage which unites the lovers 
ultimately leads to their separation. The bliss that begins with a 
touching grace of eternity gradually disappears; strains develop and 
many a time the lovers settle down to a nagging existence. The 
unresolved marital strains not only destroy the dream but also result in 
the disintegration of emotions and intellect. Through an effectively 
contrasting concept the poet suggests that the whole process which 
begins with the denial of sin (innocence) ends in the thought of murder 
(sin). However, the mystery of marriage continues to haunt and the poet 
himself is a frequent wedding guest silently and sadly witnessing 
marriages which are destined to disintegrate in due course. The 
enchantment makes victims of us all. 

Line 

2. Eternity with touching : The blissful experience of 

grace getting married. * Grace' 

suggests the spiritual 
significance of marriage 

4-5. The bride... lucky man : A mildly ironic statement 

10. Primal Fall : The original sin and fall of 

man. The sin committed by 
Adam and Eve led to their fall 
from grace. The original sin is 
the cause of man's sorrows. 

16. the mark of Cain : thought of murder. Cain was 

the first murderer. Cain, the 
son of Adam and Eve, 
murdered his brother Abel out 
of jealousy, (ref. Genesis, 
Chapter IV-xy) 

18-20. Why should I... : The poem ends in irony 

wedding guest 

20. wedding guest : ref. Coleridge's (Rime of the 



Notes 



137 



Ancient Mariner 9 Part I, Stanza 
iv) 



V 



The Railway Clerk 

This is one of the poems written in Indian English. Ezekiel has satirised 
the Indian way of speaking English in a series of poems entitled Very 
Indian Poems in Indian English. The Railway Clerk imitates the English 
speech style of an average Indian clerk, semi-educated and perpetually 
harassed. The poem is a funny but pathetic soliloquy of a miserable 
Indian railway clerk, probably working in one of those crowded offices 
in Bombay's Victoria Terminus. He is a miserable man not because he 
speaks his own brand of English but because he is weighed down with 
worries of all sorts. He is constantly pestered by his wife for more 
money; his boss harasses him by refusing leave; he does not get either 
overtime or bribe and worse still, he has to support his mother-in-law, 

In 35 lines Ezekiel has drawn the pathetic picture of a Bombay 
railway clerk in pure Indian English. The derisive laughter provoked by 
the clerk's Indian English soon subsides when we become aware of his 
sad plight. 

Line 



4-5. This year.., twice 
refused 

7, overtime 

8. My wife is always asking 
for more money 

14-18. I am never... telling you 



22. Borivli 

30. chat 

32. thinking of foreign 



suggests the harassment caused 
by the boss 

payment for overtime work 
Typical Indian English usage 

Each line contains an Indian 

English usage use of present 

continuous for simple present, 

very common with Indian 

speakers of English. 

a suburb of Bombay 

conversation 

thinking of going to foriegn 

countries 



138 Gathered Grace 

10 

Jayanta Mahapatra 
I 

Thought of the Future 

The poem narrates a boyhood experience of the poet. When he was 
thirteen years old, his father took him to a pundit (astrologer) to know 
about his future. The pundit is an inseparable part of the Indian way of 
life. Jagannath Mishra, the pundit in this poem, is a typical 
representative of the greedy, uncouth, tradition-bound, cunning pundit 
race of India. The father, who seems to have implicit faith in the pundit, 
represents the native Hindu innocence. The boy, who is destined to 
learn under a British school teacher, is caught between these two 
conflicting ethos. His thirteen years make a dividing line between past 
and future, between the murky past dominated by the pundit and the 
festive future dominated by the British school teacher. 

Line 

2. wriggly letters : twisted letters refers to the 

writing in the astrological 

texts. 

5. sandalwood's salve : sandalwood paste or ointment 

14. monsoon-month toad : the toad imagery underlines the 

character of the pundit 
30, The world changes : cf. 1.18 For the pundit the 

world does not change; 

everything is set down in his 

astrology. But for the boy it 

does change. 
34. Stewart European with : The school where the boy 

the ecclesiastics learns under European masters 

38. wooden clogs - shoes with wooden soles 

41. peddled - sold 

II 
The Bride 

The poem expresses the emotional convulsions of a bride just after her 
marriage, waiting anxiously in the bridal chamber for the arrival of the 



Notes 



139 



bridegroom. Tonight is the summit of her hopes, yet a gnawing anxiety 
corrodes her expectations. She maintains the lone vigil, attentive to the 
footfalls at the door. She is full of forebodings about the new role she 
has to play as a 'bedecked bride*. She is like a stone at touch, belled and 
is sensitive even to the feeblest of apprehensions. 

Line 



1 . fevered farewell 

2. rock-faced 

8 . a stranger" s anonymous 

care 



12-13. the taste-of~sin smiles 
on her sisters* faces 



1 6. the fabled pride of a 
dying sunset 



19. a mammoth's footfalls 



21 . common harlot's fare 

22. bedecked bride 



emotional leave-taking 
grave and unemotional 
The care provided by an 
unknown person. This refers to 
the bridegroom who is a total 
stranger to the bride till the 
time of marraige. 
The smile on the faces of the 
sisters who are, probably, 
already married. They seem to 
say *we have tasted it all\ 
Some unknown fear begins to 
gnaw her mind, 'Dying sunset* 
is a metaphor for unfulfilled 
hopes 

the sound of footfalls that 
appear like those of a 
mammoth, a prehistoric animal 
known for its huge size and 
wild nature. 'Mammoth* 
signifies the shape of wild 
apprehensions and anxiety of 
the bride. 

Lack of delicacy on the part of 
the bridegroom is suggested 
bride in her ceremonial dress. 



Ill 



The Mountain 

The mountain stands firmly fixed to the earth. The ever-present process 
of growth and decay does not affect it It is a symbol of eternity. Its 
message is that life can be still reconstructed and a new society created 



140 



Gathered Grace 



out of the ruins of the old. There is disillusionment in us. But the 
conscience of mankind has begun stirring and the evils of the world 
would be exorcised. The poem is a pointer to human failure and an 
exhortation for change. 



Line 
3. 

4. 

5. 
7. 



26. 



silence and pressure 

multiplying, adding, 
subtracting 
abyssal 
straddling sunlight 



12. mute clock 

15. slopes which do not 

ease at all 
16-17. where unfinished.., on 

the peak 



21-22. Here,... ourselves 
25 . bulk of conscience 



exorcism 



two balancing powers that 

work on the mountain 

the process of growth and 

decay. 

very deep 

sunlight that spreads across the 

earth 

Time 

slopes which are difficult to 

climb 

Though Time destroys all 

differences among us, it 

occupies a place (peak) above 

us 

indication of disillusionment 

an example of transference. 

The bulk of the mountain is 

transferred to 'conscience*. 

the ritual of expelling evil 

spritis here, reformation of 

society. 



11 



A.K. Ramanujan 

I 

The Striders 
'Strider* is the New England name for a water insect 

The main structural element in the poem is the poet's memory 
going back into his cultural moorings in India, the land of the yogis. The 
central metaphor, the strider, stands for the yogi who bears several 
unexpected similarities with the insect. Ramanujan's symbolic 



Notes 



141 



exploration into these similarities opens up new insights in the reader 
and he is persuaded to accept the ingenious identification of the two 
apparently dissimilar concepts. 

There is close resemblance between the strider and the yogi in 
several respects. Like the yogi, the strider also walks on water. Both 
have bright eyes. The yogi pays no attention to food and comfort and so 
his legs are thin; the strider also has Capillary legs*. Both the yogi and 
the strider levitate and meditate. The yogi attains the light of spiritual 
perfection and the strider sits on a 'landslide of lights*. 

The strider is presented as a mystic symbol for the yogi who has 
attained detachment from this world and is on his way along the 
illumined path (tiny strip of sky) leading to the Supreme. 

Line 



3. bubble-eyed 

5. capillary legs 

6. weightless 

7. ripple skin 

9-10. not only prophets walk 
on water 

12-15. drowns eye-deep. .. of sky 



with eyes like bubbles; bright, 
shining eyes 

very thin long legs which look 

like capillary tubes 

In the case of the yogi it 

amounts to levitation, the art of 

floating in the air with the help 

of spiritual powers, 

surface of the stream having 

ripples 

walking on water is supposed 

to be one of the mystical 

powers of a yogi. Striders also 

doit 

suggests the meditative mood. 

The strider sits concentrating 

on the 'tiny strip of sky f . In the 

case of the yogi, the *tiny strip 

of sky* is the spiritual path of 

detachment leading to 

Enlightenment 



142 



Gathered Grace 



II 
Of Mothers, among Other Things 

The source of the poem is familial memory, memory about the mother. 
The imagery in the first two lines suggests the futility of the poetic 
language in expressing the bitter memory. The poet nostalgically recalls 
through several tough and rough images the loving care of a mother. 
The mother's figure emerges mingled with the pathos of the poet's 
childhood, memory serving as a catalyst Consciousness goes back to 
resurrect a memory symbol. It is the Mother in white silk wearing 
diamond earrings, thin in appearance and with a crippled palm. The 
imagery in the last two lines serves as an objective correlative and 
makes others almost ineffective. 

The figure of the mother flexing her fingers to pick a grain of rice 
from the kitchen floor is one of the most touching homely imageries in 
all Ramanujan's poetry. 

Line 



1-3. I smell... youth 



5 . a handful of needless 

8. tack and sew 

10. tree-tasselled light 



12. pink-crinkled feet 



13-14. one talon... mouse 



The blackbone tree reminds the 
poet of his young mother 
wearing a white silk saree. The 
saree is wound on her giving a 
*twisted* appearance especi- 
ally because she is thin, 
piercing rays of reflected light 
that appears like needles 
fasten and stitch 
light that passes through the 
tree-leaves and branches 
giving them an appearance of a 
cluster of shining tassels, 
pink coloured, cramp and 
wrinkled feet Exposure to rain 
made the feet so. 
The crippled palm of the 
mother. The palm was crippled 
in a minor accident with a 
mousetrap. 



Notes 143 

14-16. Her sarees... one time : the looseness of the sarees 
win S suggests the thin, emaciated 

figure of the mother 

18-20. When I see... kitchen : A touching picture of the 
floor mother trying to pick a grain of 

rice from the kitchen floor, 
probably a crumb left behind 
by the son after his rice-meal. 

Ill 
Still Another for Mother 

The poem is based on an incident involving a woman and her husband 
on Hyde Park Street. This chance experience releases a flood of 
memory. The woman and her husband appear to have been there only to 
separate. The woman is large and buxom, the man is handsome and 
short-limbed. He left her at the doorsteps fumbling for the keys and 
walked on straight nonchalantly. The woman looks on at her husband's 
walking and the poet looks at her looking on. 

However, this experience disturbs the poet's rest, Something 
opened in the past* with repercussions on the future. Essentially, the 
poem is an attempt to retreat into the past to discover a sense of well- 
being in the image of the mother. The woman on Hyde Park Street 
opens the door of the poet's consciousness to reveal his mother's 
nineteenth century house given to his father as dowry. The house 
sanctified the marriage and later the very birth of the poet 

Line 

3. Hyde Park Street : a street in London 

she will not let me rest : The woman has kindled the 

poet's familial memories and 
caused disturbance in his mind. 

6. chintz : printed cotton 

7. eating mints *; eating chopped spearmint 

mixed with sugar or vinegar. 
: *mint* is a plant the leaves of 

which are used for eating 

11. widows' peak : the point of hair over the 

forehead 



144 Gathered Grace 

13. whisky sour : hangover of a whisky session 

16. fuzz : fine fibres 

17. wishbone shadows on the : several merry shadows reflec- 
catwalk ted on the narrow footway 

33-34. Something opened in the : Nostalgic memory about the 
past mother. The present experi- 

ence of watching the woman 
links the poet with his past, 
childhood and mother. 

37-38. nineteenth century silent : the memory about the mother 
house is inseparable from that of the 

house. The house as dowry was 
one of the stabilising links 
between mother and father. 

IV 
Snakes 

Snakes are held in awe and reverence by religious-minded Hindus. 
Hindu scriptures are replete with stories of snakes which could claim 
equality with man and gods. The snake is very much present in the 
religious consciousness of the Hindus. Ramanujan exploits this ethos in 
Snakes. The poem originates in the poet's 4 hooded memory' of the 
snakes and meanders through experiences concerning snakes and 
snakesmen. The sudden dawning of memory about snakes which 
overtakes the poet in anexpected places leads him to the recollection of 
'ritual cobras* in his ancestral home and the weird snakesman with 
cobras wound round his neck. Snakes concludes with the recapitulation 
of a night when the poet accidently trampled on a snake with his 
*clickshod heeP and left it like a sausage rope dead in the woods. Now 
the woods are safe for the poet! But are they safe for the snake? 

Line 

5-6. looking at... curves : looking at the way the books 

are arranged in rows in 
bookstacks 

14-16, The twists... fanners* : This sensitive image gives a 
feet concrete shape to the snake's 

hisses. They twirl like the dust 



Notes 



145 



17. lorgnettes (pron: lorn- 

yat') 
19-21. scales that moult... 

moon 



22. ritual cobras 



26. writing a sibilant alpha- 
bet of panic 



35-39. Sister ties... hair again 

41 . my left foot., footfall 

44. clickshod heel 

45. slushes 
47. nodes 

53. sausage rope 

53-54. frogs can hop... eyes 



55. and I can... woods 



cones that wind through the 
feet of farmers who walk on 
dusty village roads 
eye-glasses with a handle 

the reference is to the moulting 

of snakes. 'Moulting* is the 

process by which snakes cast 

off their scales 

cobras are considered to be 

auspicious. Devout Hindus 

feed them with milk as the 

poet's mother does (1.27) 

the cobras uncurl and writhe as 

if writing a language of terror. 

'Sibilant' means hissing 

sounds like those of alphabets 

V and 4 z'. 

Sister's braided knee-long hair 

evokes snake-memories in the 

poet 

utter silence of the night is 

suggested 

shoe-heel fitted with a small 

piece of iron underneath 

tramples into the mud 

lines 

now the crushed snake is like a 

sausage rope or sausage tube 

The lines suggest a sad 

contrast. The snake which has 

sent tremors through man is 

now being preyed upon by 

frogs and flies. 

Now the woods are safe for the 

poet. Probably an ironic 

statement 



146 Gathered Grace 

12 
Arun Kolatkar 

(from Jejuri) 

I 
The Bus 

This is one of the thirty-one sections from Jejuri. The theme of the 
poem is an irreverent pilgrimage to Jejuri, a place in western 
Maharashtra sanctified by the temple of Khandoba. 

The Bus expresses the sensation of the journey by a state transport 
bus to the temple town. It was a cold morning and the journey through 
the countryside becomes a sensation rather than an experience. The 
poet, with his genius for details, notes several minor fragments of 
experiences during the journey. The central image is that of movement, 
movement from darkness to light, from ignorance to awareness. The 
wind that keeps on whipping the tarpaulin, the sun that shoots at the old 
man's glasses and the bumpy ride that divides the image of your own 
face provide a strange significance to the early morning bus ride. 

Lane 

1-2. The tarpaulin... bus : This is because of the severe 

cold wind of the early morning 

7. roaring road : road along which the bus runs 

roaring 

11. an old man's nose : the old man is probably sitting 

opposite to you. In his pair of 
glasses the image of your face 
is reflected in two. 

17. eyelet : a small hole 

19-20. A sawed off ...temple : Note the poet's power of 

minute observation. 

n 

Irani Restaurant Bombay 

The poem attempts an ironic presentation of an Irani restaurant scene in 
Bombay. The squint-eyed Irani, the decomposing cake in the showcase, 
the inevitable fly, the loafer at the table, the sticky tea print on it, the cat 



Notes 



147 



under the chair, the corpse-like burnt matchstick are the components of 
a restaurant atmosphere that causes revulsion. However, there is a 
meaningful thematic progress from the decomposing cake in the 
showcase to the almost decomposed human body in the morgue through 
a series of images of beauty and ugliness, light and darkness. 

c Ezekiel's Irani Restaurant Instructions, 



Line 
1. 



2. 



cockeyed 
Shah of Iran 



decompose 



10. landscaple in a glass of 
water wobble 



1 1 . scholarly attention 

12. blank testament of the 
table 

13. an instant of mirrors 

15. two timing sleep 

19. morgue 

20. politely the corpse rises 



squint-eyed 

a sarcastic reference to the 

Irani, the owner of the 

restaurant 

the cake decomposing is an act 

parallel to the reality of the 

squint-eyed Irani. 

the reflection of the landscape 

wobbling in the water in the 

glass whenever the table or the 

glass is jerked* 

note the irony 

stray writings on the tea table 

the reflection from a group of 
mirrors 

sleep divided into two halves 
a place where dead bodies are 
kept for identification 
The upturned movement of the 
ends of a burnt matchstick 
when placed on a table is 
compared to the rising of a 
corpse from a block of ice in 
the morgue. The imagery is 
morbid. 



148 Gathered Grace 

13 

Kamala Das 
I 

A Hot Noon in Malabar 

One of the central themes in Kamala Das's poetry is her nostalgic 
memory of the family house in Malabar and the childhood experiences 
centred round it A Hot Noon in Malabar evokes the typical experience 
of a hot summer afternoon in her home. The prosperous ancestral house 
attracted several strangers every afternoon beggars, kurava girls, 
bangle-sellers. All these strangers were attracted, probably, by the 
munificence of the generous grandmother of the poet. Kamala Das has 
celebrated her ancestral home in poems like My Grandmother's House, 
Blood and Evening at the Old Nalapat House. Familial memory has a 
curative effect on the troubled mind of the poet It restores her. 
AJK. Ramanujan is another poet who exploits this theme successfully. 

Line* 

3. fortune-cards : the fortune-tellers keep a pack 

of cards on which predictions 
are written. 

4. All stained with time : discoloured due to constant use 

through a long period of time 

kurava girls : girls belonging to kurava tribe. 

Kuravas form a caste of 
'fowlers, basket-makers and 
fortune-tellers*. 

9-10. devouring rough miles : travelling long distances 
13. window-drapes : window curtains 

17-20. strangers... jungle : These lines suggest the myste- 

voices rious strangeness associated 

with the visitors. Their passion, 
wildness and mistrust are 
suggested. 

22-24. Wild feet., far away : Nostalgia becomes a gnawing 

pain and torture for the poet 
who is far away from home. 



Notes 149 

II 
The Dance of the Eunuchs 

The poem was written in the summer of 1963. The poet had an 
encounter with a group of eunuchs who insisted on dancing to celebrate 
the birth of a baby in the house of a friend of the poet's mother. The 
master of the house refused permission. So the eunuchs cursed the baby 
in anger and moved on to another house and began dancing there. The 
poet was fascinated by the dance of the eunuchs because 'they seemed 
so perverse, so unwholesome and sinister'. 

Kamala Das confesses that the poem has echoes of sympathy for 
the eunuchs who are denied the experience of love-making. She herself 
was pursuing an ill-fated love affair at that time and probably the 
passion and pain of this experience also have gone into the making of 
this poem. 

It is argued that Kamala Das has mistaken hermaphrodites for 
eunuchs. Eunuchs are castrated males. The poet appears to be aware of 
the partial womanhood of the dancers though they lack generative 
powers. This, obviously, means that the dancers are hermaphrodites. 
However, the poet prefers to call them eunuchs. 

Line 

1 . It was hot, so hot : It was summer 

4-8. Beneath the fiery... : The poet attempts an imagi- 

almostfair native transformation of the 

sexless eunuchs into passionate 

women. 

4. fiery gulmohur : gulmohur tree with red 

flowers. * Fiery* also 
emphasises the heat and 
passion of the dancers. 

5. Long braids flying : the entwined knots of hair 

flying in the wind caused by 
the movement of the dancers, 
dark eyes : a hint at the secrecy of sex 

6. They danced... they : The poet imposes on the 
bled eunuch womanly qualities. By 

vigorous dancing they are 



150 



Gathered Grace 



green 
9- 10. they sang... unborn 

11. sorry breasts 



vacant ecstasy 



13-14. like half-burnt togs from 
funeral pyres 



15-16. Even the crows... trees 



16. the children, wide-eyed 

still 
18-20. The sky... mice 



capable of menstrual flow. 

They bleed. They are on the 

way to becoming women with 

an intensity of passion. 

symbol of fertility. 

the sterility of the eunuchs* life 

is indicated 

Note the irony. They are * sorry 

breasts* because they do not 

flow with milk; they are not 

attractive. 

pretended ecstasy. The 

eunuchs are incapable of 

genuine ecstasy. 

symbolic of the decadence of 

life. The image evokes the fire 

of death and the destruction of 

life. 

Crows are vile creatures. Even 

they are surprised, probably, 

because they have not seen 

such a scene as the dance of the 

eunuchs before. 

children are an antithesis to 

eunuchs 

Nature is presented in a 

perverted form as a parallel to 

the abnormality of the dancing 

eunuchs. As a contrast to the 

"heat* at the beginning of the 

poem, now there is *rain% but 

'meagre rain* mingling with 

the smell of dust and the urine 

of lizards and mice. Thus a 

bleak picture is presented 

suggesting the perpetual 

barrenness and infertility of the 

eunuchs* life. 



Notes 

III 
The Old Playhouse 

The theme of the poem is the precariousness and incompleteness in 
man- woman relationship. This is one of the recurring themes in Kamala 
Das's poetry. Woman needs love desperately but the search ends in the 
discovery of man's monstrous ego. She has to protect her vital self from 
the threat of man's egoistic solicitude. She has to be resilient in the face 
of man's enormous self-centredness and lust Man is surrounded by 
artificiality and narrowness and he serves love only in small lethal 
doses. The woman is deprived of her joy and fulfilment. In the grip of 
such a relationship, there is no mirth or happiness in her life. Her mind 
becomes an old playhouse where no lights shine, no music plays and no 
dance is done. 

Woman's search for identity through conjugal love, man's lustful 
response to woman's quest and the devastation of the feminine self 
caused by such a relationship are suggested. The symbol of *the old 
playhouse* points to the pathos inseparable from woman's search for a 
satisfactory relationship with man. 

There are autobiographical elements in the poem. The poet, 
presumably, addresses her husband. She protests against the constraints 
put on her life. She resents the artificial comforts afforded to her; she is 
revolted by the routine of lust into which her husband has converted 
their relationship. She is dwarfed by the abominable egoism of the man 
and her life is deprived of all mirth and activity* It is simply an 'old 
playhouse* now. 

Line 

1. tame a swallow : The metaphor suggests the 

husband's efforts to dominate 
the wife. It also suggests the 
theme of the poem. 

4-5. the urge to fly... of the : The woman's desire to have a 
sky free relationship with man 

without being dominated by 
him 

7-8. but every... yourself : egoism of man 

8-12. You were pleased... : woman's desire for love is 

bitter-sweet juices converted by man into lust 



152 



Gathered Grace 



12-14. You called me wife,. 

vitamins 
16. Became a dwarf 

19-21 . Your room... shut 



22-23. The cut flowers... 
sweat 



24-25. my mind... put out 



27. Narcissus at the water's 
edge 



Man's uriromantic concept 
about wifely duties. 
Woman's identity is lost in the 
grip of man's egoism 
The oppressive unnaturalness 
of the home-atmosphere is 
suggested 

Degeneration of natural im- 
pulses into repulsive routine is 
suggested. Flowers smelling of 
human sweat is a metaphor for 
the distortion of the instinct for 
beauty and delicacy. 
The 4 old playhouse* is the 
central metaphor of the poem. 
It suggests a mind which was 
once mirthful but now barren 
and pensive. 

In Greek mythology, Narcis- 
sus, a beautiful youth, was 
enamoured of his own face 
reflected in a fountain. He died 
of despair and his name was 
given to a flower. Thus 
Narcissus is a symbol for 
egoistic self-love leading to 
self-destruction. 



IV 



Death is so Mediocre 

The poem is a meditation on life and death. At the confluence of life and 
death the past experiences appear hazy with dim outlines. Yet 
participation in life becomes an inescapable duty. Our response to life's 
demands becomes ineffective and poor as death slowly moves in. Even 
our adherence to wealth and lust, the two ruling passions in most 
people's lives, becomes a faint memory. The final rites associated with 
death and cremation appear to be vulgar. The last journey into the 'sure 
but invisible sea' is performed in silence and not even a fingerprint is 



Notes 



153 



left behind for others to identify us. The crowded earth does not suffer 
any loss by our disappearance and the several misunderstandings we 
had with society vanish along with us. The poet seems to think of death 
as a consummation of life, a slow transformation into another stage. 

Line 



1-3. Life has... my eye 

2. ritzy splendours 

4. A garbage collector 



6. morgued 



9. serviette blooms 

9-13. And, after... burglars of 
thoughts 



13. wealth and lust 



14-15. Death is so mediocre 



23 . paid marauders 



24. unbleached shroud 



26-28. that secret edge... 

invisible sea 
29. fingerprint 



the first three lines express 

disillusionment with life 

showy splendours 

One who collects garbage and 

other worthless matter. The 

metaphor indicates the 

presence of guilt 

placed as if in a morgue, a 

place where dead bodies are 

laid out for identification. The 

death-theme is suggested. 

table napkins arranged like 

flowers. 

The lines suggest an inability 

to express thoughts. The ability 

to respond to social demands is 

gone. 

For most people wealth and 

lust are the two important 

concerns in life. 

The poet plays down the 

popular notion that Death is all 

powerful. 

a satiric reference to the people 

employed to wash the dead 

body and do other rites 

connected with cremation. 

It is a custom to cover the dead 

body with unbleached cloth 

before it is taken for cremation 

the slow transition from life to 

death is implied. 

Fingerprint is used to identify 



154 Gathered Grace 

criminals. The poet is not 
going to leave behind even a 
fingerprint! Note the irony. 

32. My alliances... you : My social relationship with 

others. 

14 
R. Parthasarathy 

I 
Exile 

(i) 

This is the first poem in Under Another Sky included in Rough Passage 
as the first poem in the section 'Exile*. The poem is centred round the 
theme of growing up through experience and the desirability of man 
taking stock of himself when he approaches the age of thirty. It may be 
argued that thirty is too early an age to take stock of one*s life. 
However, the poet believes that at thirty man reaches an age when he 
cannot trust his own image in the mirror. More experience does not 
necessarily mean more knowledge and thirty is as good as any other age 
because 4 the mind will have settled* by that time and you can see 
yourself from a distance. The poem indicates a contemplative mood 
combined with a deep sense of wistfulness* 

Line 

4. At thirty the mud will : At thirty a sort of calm must 

have settled have entered man's life. He 

must have become mature and 
his experiences must have 
settled like mud particles at the 
bottom of a vessel containing 
muddy water. 

6. refuse the image : do not accept the image 

1 1 . Experience doesn't always 

make for knowledge : Identification of experience 

with knowledge is wrong 
because experience itself may 
be a series of mistakes. 



Notes 



155 



13. Do the same things over 
again 

17-19. The luminous.,, 
reached shore 



25-26. you will be alone like the 
stone benches in the park 



Man does not learn from expe- 
rience but simply repeats the 
mistakes he has done earlier. 
The metaphor is that of a river 
overflowing its banks but never 
reaching the shore because the 
flow is stopped by the pebbles 
on the shore. Excessive 
infatuation for woman retards 
the expansion of man's 
faculties. There is a suggestion 
of the poet's early infatuation 
with English and the later 
disillusionment 'whoring 
after English gods'. 
The utter disillusionment after 
experience is suggested. The 
imagery of the 'stone benches* 
is striking. A sense of 
loneliness is suggested. 



II 

Trial 

(i) 

Death and Love are juxtaposed in this poem. The poet faces Death with 
relief because it is inevitable. Man's readiness to die or otherwise has no 
relevance to the inexorable law of death. The severity of death is 
softened by the experience of love, by its 'rainbow touch*. 

Line 



4. if I were stopped and cut 

off 
8. 4 I haven't finished* 



12. Night curves 

1 3- 14. I grasp your hand in a 
rainbow of touch 



If death comes suddenly 

protesting that I have not 
finished living Reluctance 
to die. 

Slow approach of death is 
symbolically suggested 
Love comes as a relief on the 
point of death. 



156 Gathered Grace 

(ii) 

The central theme of the poem is nostalgia over childhood memories. 
The family album releases a chain of intimate memories centred round 
the child. The photo of the girl with her arms round the neck of her 
mother against the background of the Taj Mahal takes the poet back 
along the memory path to the childhood of the girl. The poem is 
remarkable for its delicacy of sentiment and picturesqueness. A note of 
sentimentality is introduced by the reference to the death of the 
'Father*. 

Line 

2. I shared your childhood : I went back to your childhood 

through the memory path. 

3-4. the unruly... Taj : A striking description of the 

photo of the girl against the 
background of Taj Mahal. 

7-8. squatting on fabulous : refers to the Taj which appears 
haunches to squat like a woman on her 

huge hips 

1 1 . the spoonfuls of English : the smattering of English learnt 

in the school. 

14. succulent folklore : interesting folklore 

19. bronzed : hardened; acquired grown-up 

features. 

2L you turned the corner in : suggests the transformation of 
a child* s steps the child into a young girl 

m 

Homecoming 
(xiii) 

The poem is a meditation on life. It begins with an attempt to bring back 
order into a disorderly life. The poet has spent forty years in disorder, 
deception, anxiety and now he spends most of the time brooding over 
the onslaught of old age. Occasionally he takes flight into the realm of 
fancy to escape from the tedium of introspection. 

Line 

1-2. This afternoon... : An attempt to bring back order 

everything in order into life. 



Notes 157 

6-14. there is no end... : A meditation on the deceptions 

complete anything indulged in by the poet in his 

lifetime. He has spent forty 
years of deception and 
disorder. 
8. live of f friends : live by cheating friends or at 

the expense of friends 
10. not batted on eyelid : never felt any prick of 

conscience 
13. I have even kept letters : I have kept my letters 

unopened for days unopened due to anxiety about 

what bad news the letters might 
contain 
16. plucking grey hair from : suggests the coming of old age 

my forehead and how it worries the poet 

17-18. Follow the smoke as it : An occasional flight into the 
were a private tour. realm of fancy. 

15 
KJX Katrak 

I 
Woman on the Beach 

Katrak* s talent to work up to a focus of excitement and terror through 
several stages of a theme is seen in Woman on the Beach. The central 
theme of the poem is an encounter with a dying woman on the beach 
who slowly crawls towards the sea before she dies. It was an early 
winter night. The poet saw the woman first behind the car, flat on her 
broken back. Next morning he saw her dead, a red horror over which 
flies moved in swarms. After an instant meditation over the possible 
cause of her tragic death, the poet succumbed to a reflex of fighting the 
sense of terror within evoked by the gory sight A death-awareness 
shaped through experience, shock and meditation overwhelmed the 
poet. 

Line 

5-6. The first., sudden winter : indicates early winter. There is 

also a remote suggestion of 
death 



158 



Gathered Grace 



15. This woman was a detail 

1 9 . clucking annoyance 

20. There she lay 



30-32. In puppies... imagined 
shelter 



37. 



some law 



47. counted my life 
64. outstripped 
67-70. The flesh had... in 

swarms 
79. reflex 



88-90. the only flesh... one f s 
own 



n 



This woman came to my view 
in all vividness and clarity 
annoyance expressed with a 
clucking sound like that of a 
hen 

Note the abrupt and straight- 
forward manner the poet 
introduces the woman. 
A gory picture of accidental 
deaths in which bodies get 
mangled and mutilated 
law of compassion found 
hidden in every human being 
an introspection 
lost 

A gory picture of the mutilated 
corpse 

reaction. A sudden reaction 
comes after the meditation 
over the cause of death. 
Only in a subjective and self- 
centred manner man can look 
at death 



Colaba Causeway 

The poem expresses the insensitivity that has gone into the soul of the 
Bombay man. Nothing stirs him. Neither the images of suffering nor the 
images of love had any effect on the Bombay man's conditioned 
consciousness. Even walking the street is a routine activity. The only 
experience that can arouse him from his poise is that of physical pain. 

The poem is in the vein of Nissim Ezekiel's Bombay poems* A 
causeway is a raised path, usually paved with stone, through a marsh or 
water. 



Line 
1-7. 



Here... familiar view 



The lines present the images of 
pity and suffering 



Notes 159 

8. But I have grown remote : I have become insensitive to 

from pain others' pain 

12. Walking this street, I only : Even walking the street is an 

move involuntary and routine 

activity 

15. skittles a stone : throws a stone like a missile. 

16. 'behnchod' : an abusive word in Hindustani 

16 
Keki N. Daruwalla 

I 
Hawk 

Hawk is a merciless meditation on the predatory nature of man. The 
ferocious bird of prey, the hawk, is presented as a forbidding symbol of 
modern man. He hovers over the world like a black prophesy weaving a 
cocoon of death. The tone is frighteningly accurate and bitter, the 
images are scribbled with the colour of death and torture, pain and 
despair. 

The poem is divided into four sections. Section I presents the hawk- 
king on the kill. The poet has observed him both in the morning and in 
the evening. He runs amuck among the other birds which are less 
aggressive and therefore more vulnerable. 

Section II is about the trained hawk, tamed by man for the purpose 
of game. In fact, the trained hawk is worse, probably because he is 
trained and tamed by man. The only difference is that the predator's 
passion is skilfully moulded into an art 

Section III depicts the scene of a hare-hunt by a 'mother hawk and 
son*. The hare is flushed out of the grass hideout and is killed through 
protracted torture, not in 'one fell swoop*. 

Section IV is an imaginative identification of the poet with the 
hawk-king. The only experience he recollects is the period of taming 
which has hardened him against all humanity. Now he has identified his 
future victims and is ready to pounce. The poem ends on a note of 
despair in the juxtaposition of Moves' and 'hawks' in the last line. 

Hawk is any bird of the falcon family, not an eagle. It is a predatory 
bird. It flies very high and its eyesight is very keen. 



160 

Line 
L 



7. 



hawk-king 



3. drilled 

6, nothing could thrive here 



gyre 



8. parricide 

13. parakeets 

raucously 

17. skewered 

taloft 

20. the cup cf his hate 

24. hood 

26. perforated 

3 1 . His eye tJhe storm 

32. Discoverin g his eye 

35. eyrie 

36* splayed wings 

37. flare 

38 . a gust of feathers 

41-44. Hacking,. . his heart 



48* in one fell sv^oop 



Gathered Grace 



king of hawks. There is an 

ironic attribution of kingly 

qualities to the hawk. Bird-man 

identification is also implied. 

pierced, went up 

suggests the barrenness of the 

land 

whirling motion 

the bird soars up with a 

whirling motion 

murder of anyone dear. 

parrots 

hoarsely, roughly 

transfixed, fastened 

claw 

the bird becomes a symbol of 

hate, cf, 1.9 

a covering for the hawk's head 

having several small holes 

the sinister power of 

penetrating vision is suggested 

Awareness of his potentiality 

for hate 

nest 

wings that are spread out 

flame 

feathers in a sudden blast of 

wind 

Hawking is imagined to be a 

horrible ritual in which a 

quarry bird is sacrificed. The 

myth of primitive religious 

practices is hinted at to impart 

a weirdness and inevitability to 

the hawk 

in one single wicked swoop 

over the hare. It is suggested 



Notes 



161 



5 1 . one talon-morsel 
53-54. His heart... horses 



58. ensnared 

59. leather disc 



66-68. But I am... wives. 



71-77. I will hover... gun. 



72. cocoon of death 

78-79. During the big drought, 
and it will rain hawks 



that the killing of the hare is 

done by intermittent attack on 

it, not at once 

a morsel of flesh hooked to the 

talon of the hawk 

This beautifully striking image 

suggests the immense torture 

the hare undergoes 

trapped 

the piece of leather that covers 

the eyes of a game-hunting 

hawk 

Hardening of the mind against 

humanity. Slow process by 

which hate grows to engulf 

humanity in its cruel hold. 

The imagery in these lines is 

suggestive of death and 

destruction cocoon of death, 

havoc, gun. 

sheath of death. It suggests a 

breeding ground for death 

The poet anticipates a 

barrenness in the life of 

humanity, *big drought* and 

predicts despairingly that the 

forces of peace and love will be 

subjugated by those of death. 

(doves and hawks) 



II 



Easy and Difficult Animals 

The poem is an imaginary monologue addressed to the poet's wife. She 
is a woman of clear distinctions. She is not weighed down by any 
confusing problems because she sees things and categorises them into 
two unmistakable groups. Her thoughts do not frighten her because she 
has already arranged them in two neat compartments. Dreams are either 
animals or birds; the moon is either dark or bright. Even the delirium 



162 Gathered Grace 

called life is divided into two neat divisions easy animals and 
difficult animals. Among easy animals she has included all animals, 
birds, fishes and reptiles. Against this crowded menagerie of easy 
animals there is only one difficult animal, man. 

Line 

2. cower : shrink in fear 

10. dark fruit/incandescent : dark side of the moon and the 
fruit bright side of the moon. The 

moon looks like a fruit 

11. Your distinctions were a : Your distinctions were sharp, 
knife decisive 

18. taxidermist : one who is engaged in 

preparing, stuffing and 
mounting skins 

19. gizzard and buzzard and : kinds of birds 
bat 

21. menagerie : a place for keeping wild 

animals. Here it refers to the 
collection of animals and birds 
mentioned in the earlier lines. 

Ill 
Apothecary 

Apothecary is a dramatic monologue in the manner of Robert 
Browning's. The speaker is Rizwan-ul-Huq, a Hakim of Hyderabad and 
the Physician Royal to the Nizam. A boy from Sarai Khwaja who 
receives treatment for an earache in the morning dies of a stomach-ache 
in the evening. This made the appthecary suspect in the eyes of the 
public. He is denounced as a fraud and a killer. While the homeo doctor 
across the road who practises allopathic remedies on the sly, attracts a 
crowd of patients, Rizwan-ul-Huq slowly withers away in his 
profession. This is in spite of his ardent faith in Allah! 

The monologue is confessional and the conflict arises out of the 
tension between the Hakim's sincerity in the profession and the reward 
society pays to him. There is a note of pathos throughout. The progress 
of the monologue is from confessional pathos through sarcasm to 
cynicism; In the oppressive and fake world of unexpected and irrational 



Notes 



163 



happenings, to be humble, truthful and faithful is of no avail. We simply 
end up as splendid corpses. There is effective counterpoising of 
disparate sentiments and visions like success and failure, reputation and 
drudgery, truthfulness and fraudulence, faith and scepticism converging 
towards a climactic realisation of the futility of all and the inevitability 
of death. 



Line 
1. 

8. 
15. 

2-. 



29. 



74. 
75. 



liquored-up face 

obituary-scribe 

ekka 

For this week... flies 



Hakim 



30. fatiha 

32-34. As there... ailment : 

37. nightcap : 

56. suppository : 

59. Hippocrates : 

69. pad the hook with the bait : 



Kaaba 
Moharam 

Ramadan 



face that exhibits signs of 

excessive drinking 

person who writes obituaries 

a small one-horse carriage 

Now patients do not come to 

him. 

He spends his time simply 

'swatting flies*. 

Physician who practises Indian 

medicine 

funeral prayer 

The utter irrationality of the 

world is mockingly suggested 

alcoholic drink taken at 

bedtime 

a medicated plug used to 

administer medicine through 

the rectum 

Greek physician who lived in 

the 4th or 5th century BC. 

Earliest among ancient 

physicians 

to make the bait look 

attractive attempt to cheat 

The Holy building in Mecca 

First month of the Muslim 

calendar 

Ramzan, the month in which 

Muslims fast 



164 



Gathered Grace 



17 

Dom Moraes 
I 

Sailing to England 

Sailing to England is a vision of love and death. The voyage invokes the 
poet's memory about his beloved and her delicate sad face rises before 
him from the sea- The episode where three people were swept out into 
the sea is referred to in a picturesque description of how they struggled 
for life in the rolling waters until one of them was drowned. The man 
who could not swim had to sink. There is a suggestion of resurrection 
from death to life in the closing stanzas. Death is conceived light- 
heartedly as if it is inconsequential like a nap in the afternoon. 

Line 



2. 
4. 



I am in love, and long to 
be unhappy 
stones for eyes 



6. 

7. 

8. 
15. 



inland watchers groaned : 

elbows jerking in a skein : 
of waves 

Like giant women knitting: 

Trawling her whisper : 
across the sprawling seas 



a paradox is suggested 'love* 

and 'unhappy* 

A common metaphor in 

Moraes's poetry. In 'Song* 

dancers have * stones for eyes*; 

in 'Bells for William 

Wordsworth* there is the line 

'His flesh had gone back into 

soil and his eyes into stones'. 

The metaphor suggests 

permanence and wholeness. It 

may have also an implication 

of magical or mysterious 

powers. 

those who stood ashore and 

watched the incident groaned. 

elbows coming up and going 

down while struggling for life 

in a mass of waves. 

a bizarre metaphor suggesting 

the figure of death. 

The imagery is that of whisper 

spreading across the vast 



Notes 165 

expanse of the sea like a trawl, 
net that is moved across the sea 
to catch fish 

23-24. Or choose... afternoon : A nap in the afternoon is 

mentioned as a wise alternative 
to death. This brings the 
traditionally invincible death 
within the volition of human 
beings. The strangeness and 
obscurity of death-experience 
is softened for us. 

II 
At Seven O* clock 

The poem speaks of an early morning experience of being massaged by 
a masseur. However, the merely physical experience of the * human 
flesh* assumes a spiritual tone when the poet recognises the reborn 
Christ in the masseur. Now his fingers touch not only the poet's skin but 
also his soul. Towards the end of the poem the masseur from Ceylon 
becomes a religious symbol. 

Two creative movements are taking place in the poem. One is the 
evolution of the ordinary masseur into a Christ-figure by an act of 
imagination of the poet and the other is the physical resurrection of the 
poet by an act of touch by the masseur. Through this interacting process 
of imagination and reality, the poet acquires some of the aspects of the 
Christ-like figure of the masseur. 

Line 

1. masseur : massagist, one who massages 

balding head : indicates that the masseur is 

elderly 

4. As though he were about : religious significance is 
to preach or bless attributed to the masseur. 

5. poulterer" s fingers : fingers like those of a 

poulterer, one who deals in 

dead fowls 

queasy : unsettled, loose 

7-8. he keeps his thin... : probably to avoid the smell of 

turned away the human flesh 



166 Gathered Grace 

9. antarctic eyes : very cold eyes 

15. His fingers touch the : The knowledge of the soul 
skin: they reach the soul through the body is suggested 

17-20. Within my mind... Arise : Masseur becomes a symbol of 

the reborn Christ 

20. breathes : conveys the idea of a new birth 

Arise : conveys the idea of blessedness 

or invocation into life. 

18 
Gieve Patel 



On Killing a Tree 

The poem is a light meditation on the process of pulling out a tree, root, 
trunk, boughs and all, from the inside of the earth and transforming it 
into brown hard wood. The tree is anchored in earth; any amount of 
hacking and chopping would not kill it totally because it has a 
bewildering way of healing the wounds on its bark and sprouting green 
twigs and leaves. It has to be pulled out entirely from the entrails of the 
earth to kill it. The sun and air would transform it into lifeless wood. 
Total severance from the earth kills the tree totally. The poem seems to 
suggest through the tree metaphor that life, pulled out of its immediate 
earthly environment, withers; it is difficult to kill deep-rooted life-truths 
and there is a self-sustaining principle underlying all living organisms. 

Line 

2. simple jab of the knife : simple thrust with the knife 

causing a cut or wound. 

3-7. It has grown... water : The principle of life that 

sustains the tree as an offshoot 
from the earth is suggested. 

8. leprous hide : rough and scaly bark of the tree 

13-18. The bleeding... former : In spite of the attempt to 

size destroy it, the tree survives. 

The self-sustaining principle of 
life is suggested. 

21. anchoring earth : the earth in which the tree is 

anchored or firmly rooted. 



Notes 167 

23. snapped out : dragged out 

29. For years inside the earth : earth is the source of life for the 

tree. The age-old relationship 
between the tree and the earth 
is also suggested. 

30-34, Then the matter... : The effect of the sun and air on 

withering, the fallen tree is that its trunk 

gradually hardens and withers. 

31. choking : compression of the tree trunk 

due to the scorching heat of the 
sun. 

II 
Commerce 

The poet's encounter with the man begins with the matter-of-factness of 
a commercial transaction. The man's interest is aroused only when a 
rupee note is given to him. He offers hospitality on the corner of the 
cloth spread on the ground and he is now ready to talk. The second stage 
is the man's attempt to search into the affairs of the poet through 
questions about his family and job. A sort of personal equation is soon 
established between the two in spite of their attempt to hide from each 
other. 

The theme of the poem is the prosaic nature of human relationship 
in the constricted environment of modern urban life where everything is 
reduced to neat commercial propositions. 

Line 

1. simplicity of commerce : a simple commercial 

transaction, i.e., giving a rupee 
note to the man 

4. groundspread : the cloth spread on the ground 

7. external gestures : perhaps it is only a show of 

hospitality. 

8-9. As always.... click shut : There is an element of 

cunningness in the relationship 
between the two men. 

13-15. Enquiries after... he : The several enquiries the man 

poses makes and the attempt of the 



168 Gathered Grace 

poet to evade them appear like 
commercial bargaining. 

18. The darkness cocoon : the darkness that envelops like 

a protective covering 

22. What then, Sir Poet, of 

political choices : note the irony. 

19 
Adil Jussawalla 

I 
The Waiters 

The poem is a sympathetic response to the plight of waiters of Tamil 
origin in Bombay's hotels and restaurants. These waiters, noted for their 
darkness, have come to the city for better prospects and change. They 
stand aloof from the phoney sophistication of the city, their buttoned up 
manners presenting a striking contrast to the * soiled and cluttered* 
culture of the city. 

The Waiters has three parts* The first part introduces the dark- 
skinned waiters who have left behind them a miserable past. The second 
part presents them as 'guardians of good taste, an inevitable part of the 
city's sophistication/ *polite of speech, punctilious, guarded, kind'. 
The third part suggests the sudden transformation of the waiters when 
the day's ministry is completed. 

The poem is full of similes and adjectives. The poet achieves a 
dramatic effect by balancing and contrasting images. The descriptive 
observations in the poem support a continuous change of the image of 
the waiters from dark-skinned drudges to refined and polite servers and 
back to a race of tired workmen stripped to their essentials and being 
swallowed by the ever-feasted city. 

Line 

1-2. Blacker than,., recall : The Tamil waiters are noted for 

their dark appearance. 
Darkness is an image 
indicating the poverty and 
drudgery of their life. 



Notes 



169 



3. sallow ; 

5-6. The long summers,... : 
sun of contrast 

7. Stick in a language their : 

clients won't allow 

10. Polite of speech, ; 

punctilious, guarded, kind 



15. pasted smiles 
15-16, their darkness... in 
their day 

20. The spit and polish of our 
eating rites 



22. Shrug off their coats like 
priestly cloaks of pity 



24. In the throat of the 

feasted pink-faced city 



pale, yellowish colour 
The waiters have renounced 
their native life for better 
prospects and change. 
The waiters are unable to speak 
the language of the clients 
Soon the waiters acquire the 
sophisticated manners 

necessary for success in their 
profession, 
insincere smiles 
soon the dark waiters develop 
insight into the dubious nature 
of the city 

For the city-dweller eating is 
an elaborate ritual carried out 
with religious fervour. Note the 
sarcasm. 

Remove their waiter's uni- 
forms. Service is mockingly 
identified as a ritual and the 
waiter's coat symbolises the 
priestly authority. 
The waiters are being swall- 
owed by the feasted and 
probably drunk (pink-faced) 
city. The image is ironic. The 
waiters who have feasted the 
city in the daytime are now 
being feasted upon by the 
inhuman city. 



II 



Approaching Santa Cruz 

The central theme of the poem is alienation. The poet approaches the 
area of alienation with a probing consciousness. The reaction of the 
exile on the point of landing at Santa Cruz airport is one of doubt, fear 
and trepidation. Now that the aeroplane is hovering over 'home*, 



170 



Gathered Grace 



arguments are useless; the exile's senses shake, guts tighten and his 
heart is gripped in the clenched claws of disillusionment. Approaching 
Santa Cruz is symbolic of the approach to the home country, diseased, 
populous, with its slums, poverty and decay and encircled heat. The 
immobile boy holding a mass of breadcrumbs whom the exile 
encounters on landing is symbolic of the home to which he returns 
reluctantly. 

The poem is an attempt to explore the aching inner landscape of the 
sensitive exile against the background of the visible outer landscape of 
the home country represented by the precincts of an airport 



Line 

3. 

4. 
8. 



9. 

12. 
30-31. 



A union of homes 



stunk and populous 

The various ways of 
dying that are home 

* Dying is all the 
country's living for* 
show me my place 
Arguments are endless* 
senses shake 



32-35. The heart., what it is 



38-40. And this is home... 
like a stone 



a conglomeration of houses 

suggesting the crowd and 

congestion in the city 

It is the exile* s notion about his 

home country 

an ironic statement about the 

living conditions in the home 

country* 

note the paradox 

sense of alienation 

An instinctive response on 

realising that the time has 

come to land. 

Through several images the 

poet brings out the sense of 

revulsion and fear caused by 

the compulsion to land. Note 

the use of the words - 'clenched 

claw*, 'shrivelled*, 'cage*, 

* steel*, * swoops*, - all 

presenting rough and hard 

images. 

The boy symbolises the 

immobile, poverty-stricken 

ethos of India from which the 

poet stands alienated. 



Notes 171 

20 
Gauri Deshpande 

I 
A Lunch on the Train 

The poem is based on an experience of travelling in a second class 
railway compartment. The exorbitant fare prevents the poet from 
travelling first class and she is thus thrown into the company of second 
class fellow-travellers. She watches their strange habits. With great 
forbearance and sympathy she narrates the lunch-time scene in the 
compartment. The strange assortment of passengers consists of a 
husband and two wives, a young mother and her three children, a long- 
nosed man with a tiffin-box on his knee, a youth in the corner trying to 
read a book and the poet herself. The lunch- time presents a contrasting 
picture. The young mother and her three children have no lunch. They 
are the foodless four. The long-nosed man eats from his tiffin-box; the 
two wives feed the 'large appetite* of the husband with sweets and fruits 
from many boxes. This scene fills the poet with a sense of guilt and her 
own sandwich packet now appears like an enormous crime. So in an 
expression of charity and humanity she buys a bunch of bananas and 
distributes them to the foodless four, at least to salve her conscience. 

Line 

6-10. Next to me... two : This group consisting of a man 

wives and two women presents some 

difficulty for the poet as she 
could not easily make out their 
relationship. So she concludes 
that it must be a strange case of 
one man having two wives. 

12, Too young to have been : The second group of four 
a mother of three persons also presents a strange 

spectacle as the mother appears 
to be too young to have three 
children. 

22. Trying disdainfully to : The 'disdain* is perhaps due to 
read a book his sense of superiority to the 

others in the compartment 



1 72 Gathered Grace 

24. expectorations : Refers to the children spitting 

here and there in the 
compartment as the mother 
does not exercise any control 
over them. 

42. The youth is on a diet : a half-ironic remark about the 
of mere knowledge youth who prefers reading to 

lunch. 

51. salve conscience : clear up conscience. 

II 
Migraine 

The theme of Migraine is the inexorable reality of pain and the 
disintegration of personality under its impact Migraine begins in timid 
doses but enlarges upon human consciousness in spite of attempts to 
stall its sting. The incipient beginning, the slow but determined growth 
and the final triumph of migraine over the body and the mind are 
suggested in the poem. 'Surrender to the fact of pain* leads to 
destruction of identity and disintegration of personality. One can 
resume one's identity only during the brief non-migraine spells. In due 
course, life of pain becomes an accepted reality and the spells of relief 
appear like briefly worn disguise or mask. 

Line 

5-6. ...showing just a tawny : Migraine is compared to a 
tail the beast awaits yellow-tailed beast which 

shows only its tiny tail first 

7. aspros, codeins and cool : These are supposed to contain 

drinks the migraine 

9. placing its paws : the animal imagery continues 

11*21. But it's clever... reality : The slow but determined 

manner migraine oveipowers 
the victim and destroys a 
person's identity is suggested. 
It is like a beast felling its prey 
through a slow process of 
torture. 

22. not medicine, not gods : Nothing can stall the pain 

and ancestors caused by migraine. Science, 



Notes 



173 



23-24. Only your... fact of pain 



26. You can resume human 
disguise 



religion and tradition fail 

before pain 

There is no choice but to 

surrender to the fact of pain in 

all humility. 

The normal human condition 

looks like a disguise because 

most of the time pain holds 

sway. 



21 



Pritish Nandy 

I 
Calcutta If You Must Exile Me 

The poem is an agonised response to the violence and cruelty that has 
ruled the city of Calcutta at the time of writing. The poet whose life is 
inextricably involved with the ethos of the great city emotionally 
identifies himself with it and articulates its agony in powerful tones. He 
does not want to leave the city in spite of the perils involved in living 
there as long as his senses and reason are intact He does not want to 
narrate the sorrow and despair of the city to others. 

The poem suggests the vital core of Calcutta's social, economic 
and political life. The several allusions to the topography of the city 
impart a sense of realism to the theme. The Jarasandha myth invests the 
theme with a sense of universalness. The sense of indignation and 
despair is made poignant with the introduction of a nostalgic strain. 

It is a political poem that deals with elemental sentiments deeper 
and more significant than those associated with politics. There is a wide 
range of passions touched upon by the poet death and despair, 
violence and cruelty, torture and deprivation, vengeance and hate, pity 
and anxiety. 



Line 

1. 

2. 
3. 



wound my lips 
burn my eyes 
the headless corpse... 
hate 



make me unable to talk 
make me unable to see 
several macabre scenes are 
mentioned. There are also 
topographic allusions. 



174 



Gathered Grace 



4. 



5. 



6. 



7. 
8. 
9. 

10. 



They will... your thighs 



Jarasandha-like 



they will tie... at the 
stake 



hang you from a 
wordless cross 
armless leper 

I will show... never 
came 

the hawker who died 
with Calcutta in his eyes 



several instances of torture and 
cruelty are highlighted. They 
were daily occurrences in the 
city. 

The myth of Jarasandha is 
invoked. According to a 
Mahabharata legend 

Jarasandha was killed by 
Bhima after a prolonged duel. 
Bhima tore him into two halves 
lengthwise on the suggestion of 
Lord Krishna. 

Two ancient forms of torture 
crucifixion and burning at the 
stake , are mentioned. 
History repeats its methods of 
torture in spite of the passing of 
time. 

*wordless* qualifies *you' 
symbolic of the sickness and 
mutilation of the city. 
The reference is to the pros- 
titutes of Burrabazar another 
symptom of the city's sickness 
The hawker represents every 
man who dies in the street. The 
'hawker* may also suggest the 
preying bird *hawk* surveying 
the whole city like a curse 
hovering over it. 



II 
Love 



The theme of this prose-lyric has three aspects love, union and 
separation. The slow process by which love grows and encompasses the 
very existence of the lover to become a part of his consciousness and 
action is suggested. But soon the love that finds expression through 



Notes 

weighted words alone leads to disillusionment. The realities of life take 
over and the dream of love is relegated. So separation comes leaving 
behind only silence and memories. 

When words catch up with their speakers, illusion crumbles and the 
bitter taste of reality strikes one silent and leaves one with endless 
memories to live on. 

Line 

1 . The first time... : The three stages of surrender to 
vulnerable the lover are mentioned 

innocence, readiness and 
vulnerability 

2. But words cannot live : Realisation about ihe hollow - 
your life for you ness of love expressed through 

fine words 

3. ...where I left her to the 

mercy of the rain : 'rain* suggests separation 

4. ...it was friday... : a day of sacrifice 



A SELECT LIST OF BOOKS FOR FURTHER 
READING 



Abidi, S.Z.H., Studies in Indo-Anglian Poetry, Bareilly, Prakash Book 

Depot, 1978. 
Chavan, Sunanda P., The Fair Voice: A Study of Indian Women Poets in 

English, New Delhi, Sterling Publishers, 1984. 
Darawalla, Keki N. (Ed.), Two Decades of Indian Poetry: 1960-1980, 

New Delhi, Vikas Publishing House, 1980. 
Dwivedi, A.N., ToruDutt, New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1974, 
Gokak, V.K. (Ed.) A Golden Treasury of Indo-Anglian Poetry, New 

Delhi, Sahitya Academy, 1970. 
, Studies in Indo-Anglian Poetry, Bombay, Sai Ratan Agency, 

1972. 
lyengar, K.R. Srinivasa, Indian Writing in English, 3rd edn., New 

Delhi, Sterling Publishers, 1983. 
, Indo-Anglian Literature Bombay, International Book House, 

1943. 
Jussawalla, Adil (Ed.), New Writing in India, Harmondsworth, 

Middlesex; Penguin Books, 1974. 
Kalinova, Elena J., Indian English Literature: A Perspective, 

Ghaziabad, Vimal Prakashan, 1983. 

Karnani, Chetm,NissimEzekiel, New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1974, 
Kohli, Devindra, KamalaDas* New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1975. 
Kulshrestha, Chirantan (Ed.), Contemporary Indian Verse: An 

Evaluation, New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, 1980. 
Lai, P. (Ed)., Modern Indian Poetry in English; An Anthology and a 

Credo, Calcutta, Writers Workshop, 1969. 
Lall, Emmanuel Narendra, The Poetry of Encounter, New Delhi, 

Sterling Publishers, 1983. 
Melwani, Murli Das, Themes in Indo-Anglian Literature, Bareilly, 

Prakash Book Depot, 1977. 



A Select list of Books for Further Reading 111 

Mohan, Ramesh (Ed), Indian Writing in English, Madras, Macmillan, 

1979, 
Mukherjee, Meenakshi (Ed.), Considerations, New Delhi, Allied 

Publishers, 1978, 
Naik, MX. (Ed.), Aspects of Indian Writing in English, Madras, 

Macmillan, 1979. 
, Dimensions of Indian English Literature, New Delhi, Sterling 

Publishers, 1984. 
, (Ed,), Indian Response to Poetry in English, Madras, Macmillan, 

1970. 
, Desai, S.K.; & Amur, S.G. (Ed.), Critical Essays on Indian 

Writing in English, Madras, Macmillan, 1977. 
Nair, K.R. Ramachandran, Three Indo-Anglian Poets, New Delhi, 

Sterling Publishers, 1987. 
Narasimhaiah, CD., The Swan and The Eagle, Simla, Indian Institute of 

Advanced Study, n.d. 
Parathasarathy, R. (Ed.), Ten Twentieth Century Poets, New Delhi, 

Oxford University Press, 1976. 
Peeradina, Saleem (Ed.), Contemporary Indian Poetry in English: An 

Assessment and Selection, Madras, Macmillan, 1972. 
Rahman, Anisur, Form and Value in the Poetry of Nissim Ezeldel, 

Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1981. 
Shahane, V.A. & Sivaramakrishnan, M. (Eds.), Indian Poetry in 

English: A Critical Assessment, New Delhi, Macmillan, 1980. 
Sharma, K.K. (Ed.), Indo-English Literature, Ghaziabad, Virnal 

Prakashan, 1977. 
Sinha, Krishna Nandan (Ed.), Indian Writing in English, New Delhi, 

Heritage Publishers, 1979. 
Sen Gupta, Padmini, Sarojini Naidu, New York, Asia Publishing 

House, 1966. 
Walsh, William (Ed.), Readings in Commonwealth Literature, London, 

Oxford University Press, 1973. 
Williams, H.W., Indo-Anglian Literature 1800-1970: A Survey, 

Bombay, Orient Longmans, 1977. 



INDEX OF TITLES 



Apothecary, 80 
Approaching Santa Cruz, 93 
At Seven O'clock, 85 

Background, Casually, 43 
Blue Bird, The, 30 
Bride, The, 51 
Bus, The, 60 

Calcutta If You Must Exile Me, 101 
Chorus of Brahmins, 2 
Colaba Causeway, 75 
Commerce, 90 

Dance of the Eunuchs, The, 63 
Death is so Mediocre, 65 
Dewdrop, The, 27 
Dream of Surreal Science, A, 31 

Easy and Difficult Animals, 79 
Encounter with Death, An, 39 
Enterprise, 46 

Epitaph on an Indian Politician, 40 
Exile - i, 69 

Farewell Song, The, 8 

Harp of India, The, 2 
Hawk, 77 

Homecoming - xiii, 71 
Hot Noon in Malabar, A, 63 

Indian Dancers, 33 
Indian Women, 39 
Irani Restaurant Bombay, 61 

June Sunset, 35 

Lakshman, 15 
London, 25 
Lotus, The, 36 



Lotus, The, Sonnet, 22 

Love, 102 

Lunch on the Train, The, 96 

Marriage, 47 

Migraine, 97 

Moon in September, The, 8 

Morning After a Storm, 6 

Morning Walk, A, 45 

Mountain, The, 52 

My Thoughts, My Dreams, 12 

Of Mothers, among Other Things, 55 
Oft Like a Sad Imprisoned Bird, 13 
Old Playhouse, The, 64 
On Killing a Tree, 89 
Our Casuarina Tree, 20 

Palanquin-bearers, 33 

Railway Clerk, The, 48 

Rider on the White Horse, The, 25 

Sailing to England, 85 

Sita, 19 

Snakes, 57 

Still Another for Mother, 56 

Striders, The, 55 

Thought of the Future, 50 

Tiger and the Deer, The, 30 

To a Buddha seated on a Lotus, 34 

To a Dead Crow, 9 

To the Pupils of the Hindu College, 2 

Tree of Life, The, 22 

Trial-i&ii,70 

Waiters, The, 93 

Walk by Moonlight, A, 3 

Woman on the Beach, 73 



INDEX OF FIRST LINES 



And search.,., 55 

And that woman,.., 56 

A poet-rascal-clown was born..., 43 

As a man approaches thirty he may..., 69 

A solemn mask on a liquored-up face..., 80 

At first you say, if I lie here, eyes, 97 

Blacker than wine from the loaded grapes of France, 93 

Brilliant, crouching, slouching, what crept through the green heart of the 

forest, 30 

Broad daylight, with a sense of weariness, 22 
Calcutta if you must exile me wound my lips before I go, 101 
Coming around the bend, we felt the head, 73 
Cross-legged, sunk in a rope-cot throughout the day, 50 
Driven from his bed by troubled sleep, 45 
Expanding like the petals of young flowers, 2 
Eyes ravished with rapture, celestially panting, what passionate bosoms 

aflaming with fire, 33 
Fallen into a Dream, I could not rise, 85 
Farewell, my lovely native land!, 8 
Farewell, sweetest country; out of my heart, you roses, 25 
Gay minstrel of the Indian Clime!, 9 
Hark, Lakshman! Hark, again that cry!, 15 
Here at the Southern limit of the city, 75 
Here shall my heart find its haven of calm, 35 
How did I lose you, sweet?, 25 
How like the breath of love the rustling breeze, 8 
I am the bird of God in His blue;, 30 
I force initially simplicity of commerce, 90 

In the bliss, they say, of the love that laves the skies and ocean and earth, 27 
In this triple-baked continent, 39 
I saw the wild hawk-king this morning, 77 
I smell upon this twisted, 55 
It isn't my fault, 48 
It started as a pilgrimage, 46 
It takes much time to kill a tree, 89 
It was hot, so hot, before the eunuchs carne, 63 
Last night - it was a lovely night, 3 



1 80 Gathered Grace 

Life has lost its clean outlines. Or else I may, 65 

Lightly, O lightly, we bear her along, 33 

Like a huge python, winding round and round, 20 

Lord Buddha, on thy lotus-throne, 34 

Loud benedictions of the silver popes, 93 

Love came to Flora asking for a flower, 22 

Lovers, when they marry, face, 47 

Mortal as I am, I face the end, 70 

My thoughts, my dreams, are all of thee, 12 

No, it does not happen, 57 

Oft like a sad imprisoned bird I sigh, 13 

mystic lotus, sacred and sublime, 36 

One dreamed and saw a gland write Hamlet, drink, 31 

Over the family album, the other night, 70 

Scatter, scatter, flowerets round, 2 

Shackled to the earth it stands, all its dead weight, 52 

She who fought her fevered farewell all night, 5 1 

Since I cannot bring myself to hand over, 96 

TTie blue-bells clanged like, 39 

the cockeyed shah of iran watches the cake, 61 

The elements were all at peace, when I, 6 

The masseur from Ceylon whose balding head, 85 

The tarpaulin flaps are buttoned down, 60 

The third time is always the most difficult. Or so, 102 

1 have been told, 102 

This afternoon I dusted my table, 71 

This is a noon for beggars with whining, 63 

Three happy children in a darkened room!, 19 

Vasectomised of all genital urges, 40 

Why hang*st thou lonely on yon withered bough?, 2 

You have no problems such as mine, 79 

You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her, 64