Grammar For You

Vignette



An Approach to ICSE English provides a platform to contribute, discuss and comment on the various issues related to the study and practice of English for the students and teachers of ICSE syllabus. Even with its focussed nature, An Approach to ICSE English will be beneficial to everyone involved in the learning the niceties of the English language.

Showing posts with label A River A K Ramanujan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A River A K Ramanujan. Show all posts

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Poetry Study Aid: A River: A.K.Ramanujan


A River 
 A.K. Ramanujan
The poem A River by A.K. Ramanujan is a tour de force of impressive potency and insightful philosophy and yet a poem characterised by its graceful lucidity and finely honed criticism. Through the poem A River, the poet raises the question of an artist’s commitment to the society.
In this poem, the poet has compared and contrasted the mind-set of the old poets and those of the new poets to human misery. Both the poets are apathetic to human sorrow and suffering. Their poetry does not mirror the miseries of the human beings; on the other hand they are concerned with the themes that are far away from the stark reality before them. They write about the beauty of the river in full flood completely ignoring the devastation and human tragedy wreaked by this beastly force.
In this poem, the poet refers to the river Vaikai which flows through the city of Madurai. Madurai, reputed for its rich cultural and spiritual heritage, is a well known city in Tamil Nadu. In the poem A River the poet presents two strikingly contrasting pictures of the river: a vivid picture of the river in the summer season and the river in its full flow when the floods arrive with devastating fury.
In the summer, the river is almost barren and arid. Only a very thin stream of water flows revealing the sand ribs on the bed of the river. There is also the picture of the river in the monsoon season, flooded and with its immense destructive power yet startlingly beautiful in its majestic flow.
Both the old and the new poets have celebrated the beauty of the flooded river but they were not alive to or sympathetic with human suffering caused by the monstrous flood.
The poet-visitor, a modern poet probably Ramanujan himself, visits Madurai when the Vaikai is in flood. He was extremely shaken by the dismal scene of utter destruction caused by the river to life and property all around. He is even more stunned by the insensitive attitude and the complete unconcern of the city poets, both old and new, towards this tragic situation of human suffering and fatality. He was distraught that they ‘sang only of the floods’ when they should have rather tried to alleviate the people of their miserable state. Being a realist himself, he takes a dig at these city poets for dodging reality and attempting to flee into a made-up world of fantasy and fancy.
The poem A River illustrates many significant features of Ramanujan’s poetry, such as his adept linking of the past and the present so as to introduce the idea of continuity, his effortless depiction of the typical Indian surroundings. The use of wit, irony and humour, and dramatic imagery is distinctive of his style.

Question 1
In Madurai,
city of temples and poets,
who sang of cities and temples,
every summer
a river dries to a trickle
in the sand,
baring the sand ribs,
straw and women's hair
clogging the watergates
at the rusty bars
under the bridges with patches
of repair all over them
1.     Which river is mentioned in the extract? What is Madurai reputed for? What was the subject of the poets of Madurai?
The river Vaikai which flows through the ancient city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu is mentioned in the extract. Madurai is famous for its spiritual, literary and cultural heritage; its magnificent city with its numerous impressive temples built by the kings that ruled Madurai in the past.
The poets of Madurai, its minstrels, wrote and sang eulogies of its marvelous temples and its magnificent cites. In a way these eulogies can be deemed as eulogies of the kings who built these temples and cities and patronized the literati. 
2.     What do the images of the river drying to a trickle and the sand ribs suggest?
The river drying to a trickle conveys the scorching heat of summer that dries up everything and makes life unbearably miserable with the accompanying famine and starvation.
The dried river exposes the sand dunes at the bottom of the river and they bring to our mind the skeletal rib cages of a starved human being.
Both the images bring out the ugly aspect of the dried up river that brings drought, which in turn causes gruesome misery and starvation.  Human suffering caused by the drought is suggested by the river drying to a trickle exposing the bone-dry expanse of the sand dunes.
3.     What do the straw and women's hair do? What do they signify?
The straw and women's hair choke or block the watergates under the bridges which have patches of repair all over them.
The three images -of the straw and women's hair and the bridges in disrepair -together create a scenario of filth and wretchedness which the flowing river has masked. However, the dry river bares and exposes the ugliness that lies underneath.
The poet may be suggesting the attempt of the poets to hide or callously ignore the stark and harsh social reality by writing poems of cities and temples.