Everyone will agree that R. Parthasarathy is one of the greatest names in Indo-English poetry since Independence. .His collection of poems Rough Passage has a three-tier structure . In the first section Exile the poet describes his life in England where he felt like an exile uprooted from his culture . In the second part Trial Parthasarathy celebrates love and human relationships . In the third section Home-Coming he gives expression to his joy of discovery when he discovers his native roots and tries to harmonize the English language with Tamil culture.
Cultural conflict is at the heart of R.Parthasarathy's poems . As a young student he was \infatuated with England and the English language . But his life in England put an end to his anglomania !He was caught in a cultural dilemma . His poetry is the product of this cultural dilemma. The first section Exile. reveals that the poet's infatuation with the English language and culture is under strain . The more he sees alien English life . the more he becomes conscious of his Tamil roots . Parthasarathy says :"English forms part of my rational make-up , Tamil my emotional make-up ". This discovery , which must have been very painful to the poet ,is expressed in the first section . His infatuation with English has taken its toll>He has lost his Tamil identity! The poet's enlightenment is expressed in these lines of haunting beauty
"You learn roots are deep
That language is a tree, loses colour
Under another sky. "
In Trial the poet is celebrating love . In England he had non- relationships . Back in India he has formed bonds of love with his own people . Love is a reality here . A look at the family- album fills Parthasarathy with nostalgic memories.. Love gives one a sense of belonging . He realizes that there is no place like home . In the last section of the poem Home- Coming the poet is in an ecstatic mood, though his ecstasy is tinged with regret.He expresses his joy when he comes back to his cultural heritage . He says
"My tongue in English chains
I return after a generation to you "
The poet feels at home when he is amidst his own people . The poet regrets his "whoring after English gods " But an important fact to be noted here is that Parthasarathy is not perfectly at home with the present-day Tamil culture . Alas! Tamil culture is now devoid of all its former glory . The poet expresses his sorrow at the decadence in modern Tamil culture . The poet says that Western civilization has sapped the vigor and vitality of Tamil culture . Even the language of Thiruvalluvar has not been spared, its pristine beauty is irrecoverably lost !. There was a time when the Tamils flocked their temples to worship their gods and goddesses, but today they worship a new set of goddesses --"the high-breasted card-board and paper goddesses of Mount Road!" R Parthasarathy laments the present state of Vaigai river , the river that flows through the temple city of Madurai . There was a time when this majestic river symbolized the vibrant culture of the Tamils The Vaigai was like the Thames of Spenser , but today she looks like Eliot"s Thames - a symbol of decadence! ..R.Parthasarathy"s criticism of present-day Tamil culture shows that he is honest to the core as a poet , and he is not a mere mouthpiece of Tamil jingoism.
As a poet R Parthasarathy is much ahead of his times .His vehement denunciation of Westernization may not be readily appreciated by a generation dazzled by the glitter and glamour of Western civilization .He will definitely have more and more admirers when people realize that a nation dies when it loses its cultural identity and starts worshipping "wrong gods"
"These ashes are all that's left
of the flesh and brightness of youth,
My life has come full circle:I'm thirty
I must give quality to the other half,
I've forfeited the embarrassing gift
innocence in my scramble to be man."
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