Monday, 3 September 2012

Grandfather – a poem by: Jayanta Mahapatra – Analysis

“The yellowed diary’s notes whisper in vernacular.
They sound the forgotten posture,
the cramped cry that forces me to hear that voice.”

 Jayanta Mahapatra’s poem is a touching work, a poem almost autobiographical in nature as it deals with the delicate topic of religious conversion. Her grandfather’s diary is a sort of memoir that recounts how he turned his back to his religion and his ancestors due to the primitive motivation of hunger. Hunger was the compelling force that during Orissa’s famine of 1866 caused this man to give up and embrace Christianity.

“How old were you? Hunted you turned coward and ran,
the real animal in you plunging through your bone.
You left your family behind, the buried things,
the precious clod that praised the quality of a god.”

 It is unsettling to say the least that a man is forced into conversion due to hunger. There is a certain inhumanity in it and you wonder how can religion be so dross and materialistic to count the number of convertees with promises of food rather than seeing people crying for food in their bellies? The tongue of the diary is in vernacular and through language the diary conveys the cry of a man who was forced into doing something that must have caused him extreme pain and self-reproach.  

“the cracked fallow earth, ate into the laughter of your flesh.
For you it was the hardest question of all.
Dead, empty tress stood by the dragging river,
past your weakened body, flailing against your sleep.”

 When one looks at the tile of the poem there is an expectation raised that perhaps it is some sentimental song of love for someone passed by. Instead, the song is of one who has died long ago and the poet is deciphering things long past but yet terribly relevant. What one can clearly see is the politics of the world that does not care for the cries of people. The imagery of the poem is what makes it as moving as it is: Did you hear the young tamarind leaves rustle/ in the cold mean nights of your belly?

“The imperishable that swung your broken body,
turned it inside out? What did faith matter?
What Hindu world so ancient and true for you to hold?
Uneasily you dreamed toward the centre of your web.”

What does religion or faith matter in the end if the body itself is unable to get even basic necessities? In fact, what is religion indeed? It seems to have been transformed into a mere worship of God leaving aside the fact that people are starving and falling on the wayside. There is a certain inhumanity that can be seen throughout the poem. Her grandfather does manage to save his life through conversion but his heart is forever burdened by the deed he has done when it is he himself who is the victim. Neither his own religion nor the one he adopts is able to do the basic thing any religion should i.e. provide comfort.  


  1. You have no idea who Jayanta Mahapatra is! It is 'he' not 'she'. Get your facts clear.

  2. some lines are different... so i cant understand it ....
    and yes/... it is 'HE' not 'SHE'

  3. First of all, Jayanta Mahapatra is male. Secondly, Grandfather is much more than you described. Sorry, No offence!

  4. you have taken the right order to analyse a poem in a simple way which be understood by all but here, there is some infirmation about the poem which is to be discussed nicely n should take care about the authors as well.... a good effort