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
If only to baffle!
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