Poetry

What was the poem Obituary by the Indian author AK Ramanujan about?

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2017-07-14 03:32:56

"Obituary" written by A.K. Ramanujan

reminiscences his father's death, and the merit and meaning in the

speakers' family-life. The opening lines enumerate the list of

things the father left behind as legacy: his table heaped with

newspapers full of dust, debts and daughters. The speaker carps

that the father left them only with trials and tribulations. The

newspapers are just stale pieces of past-news, and the father of

his own has not contributed much in terms of creativity or

productivity.

Daughters are considering as a source of burden in India, not

lesser than debts. Parents are entrusted with the responsibility of

"marrying them off" with adequate dowry to suit their status. In a

conversational tone reminiscent of Philip Larkin, he talks about

the Grandson named after the father, who had the incorrigible habit

of urinating in bed. This highlights that the poet's father left

behind nothing but only memories in the form of debris. He claims

that the Grandson was named after his father "by chance" literally

meaning luckily'; however, signifying the opposite. Added to the

legacy is a dilapidated house.

The poet mentions that the decrepit house leant on the coconut

tree through their growing years. The deterioration in their

quality of life is apparent, from the metaphor of the house.

Furthermore, it may also signify that the family had to live a

parasitic life borrowing from others (the way the house leans on

the coconut tree).The poet utters that his father being 'the

burning type' burnt properly at the cremation. The phrase may

connote the features of the father, his physicality being dried and

parched. It may also refer to his wry temperament. Further, it

verges on the meaning that the person was a chain smoker, if we

observe the following lines:

he burned properly

at the cremation

as before, easily

and at both ends,

His eyes appeared as coins in the funeral pyre, and were not any

different and came across as they always did. This amounts to the

fact that they did not have any feeling in them even while he was

alive. They are coin-like in their metallic stare. Again, a

persons, eye balls reflect whatever he looks at. Perhaps the

speaker indicated that his father's eyes were always on money. He

also left some half-burnt spinal discs that were half-burnt that

the priest advised the children to pick 'gingerly" or carefully and

immerse in the Thriven, the confluence of the three rivers where

the bones of the dead are immersed as per the Hindu rites. No

conspicuous or insignificant tombstone was erected for the dead

person bearing dates of his birth and death. Therefore, neither was

his birth of much consequence nor was his death. He is deemed so

incapable, that even his birth is a Caesarean one for which, he did

not have to put in much effort. His death also came easily to him

in the form of heart failure at the fruit market.

All he gained in his life worth mentioning is that he managed to

get two lines of obituary inserted in some newspaper in Madras. The

paper was sold to hawker, who in turn sold it to a grocer from whom

the poet occasionally bought provisions. This underlines the

triviality of whatever the father has achieved. The poet states

that earlier on, he used to read the papers, which had groceries

like those that salt and jaggery wrapped up in it. However,

nowadays he does it for the reason that some day he may succeed in

finding those lines relating to his father's obituary. Thus, the

poet attempts to discover some meaning of his father's existence in

his life: this is the significance of the quest in the end.


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