Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gieve Patel ; the Belated Link

Can poetry make things happen? After reading the poems of Gieve Patel one will be in no doubt as to the power of poetry to make things happen . The output of this most unpretentious of Indo-English poets may be small , but it is a highly significant one . He is the belated link between Romantic traditrion representd by Sarojini Naidu and Modernist tradition represented by Nissim Ezekiel .

Gieve Patel loves to dwell in his inner world and depict his feelings with the utmost sincerity and sensitivity . He has no use for gaudy ornaments . His poetry is marked by sparseness of similes and metaphors . At the same time it has the power to disturb you , make you ponder and open your reluctant eyes to to see the seamy side of life . He is at home when he is describing people who live in hunger and deprivation . 

I consider NARGOL the most representative poem of Gieve Patel . In this part of the world where there are more beggars than stars in heaven ,the poet's experience is everybody's experience !Pesky beggars importuning for money is a common sight in India . In the opening stanza of the poem , the poet describes his feeling of relief when he does not encounter tne beggar-woman . But the thought of the beggar-woman was not far from the poet's mind . :

At the back of my mind
Behind greetings, dog-licksand deeping
Safety I continued to look for you .

He cannot help feeling that the beggar-woman is physically following his elbow . with her necklace pendulant as her skin and her cringing smile pointing at her disease . Her importunity only begets resistance in him . He sends her away , trotting out excuses like " I hane no money " and You meet me later " . The poet is not exactly lacking in charity bur her obstinacy  only creates an equal and opposite reaction in him . Are  there not occasions in life when we hehave  like petty beggars despite our high social stature ? For the poet"giving" is "giving in " ! He chooses to be a winner  by not giving in to a  beggar-woman's importunity . 

Let her follow let her drone 
Sooner or later she will give up 
Let herself recede 

The poet does not get riddance from the annoying beggar-woman . If she spares him  in the street , it is only to re-appear in the privacy of his home !. The poet is unable to concentrate on his book as the woman is trying to catch his eyes "between page-turns" . The oft-repeated  phrase " I will give you later"  finally does the trick . Why should the beggar-woman pick on him ? Is it need or some private battle? 

The mystery of it all is cleared in the concluding part of the poem . The poet vainly hopes that his pact with the woman will give him riddance from her for a year ! 

My strolls are to myself again 
The sea is reached with ease 
Reading is simplified 

It was not to be a win-win pact , after all ! The battle between the poet and the beggar-woman is indeed an unequal one . The poet is destinrd to be the loser . He loses to a power that never admits battle . Meanness may be a defence for people like the poet . , but not for the beggar-woman . Surrender is the poet's option! The beggar-woman may be dead , but she may re-appear and disturb him because she is the symbol of the deprived and the dispossessed  who are on the trail of the wealthy . 

She is dead , I thought 
And after relief , the thought 
she'll reappear
If only to baffle!

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