IN INDIA by Nissim Ezekiel

Always, in the sun’s eye,
Here among the beggars,
Hawkers, pavement sleepers,
Hutment dwellers, slums,
Dead souls of men and gods,
Burnt-out mothers, frightened
Virgins, wasted child
And tortured animal,
All in noisy silence
Suffering the place and time,
I ride my elephant of thought,
A Cezanne slung around my neck.

The Roman Catholic Goan boys
The whitewashed Anglo-Indian boys
The musclebound Islamic boys
Were earnest in their prayers.

They copied, bullied, stole in pairs
They bragged about their love affairs
They carved the tables broke the chairs
But never missed their prayers.

The Roman Catholic Goan boys
Confessed their solitary joys
Confessed their games with-heeled toys
And hastened to the prayers.

The Anglo-Indian gentlemen
Drank whiskey in some Jewish den
With Muslims slowly creeping in
Before or after prayers.

To celebrate the year’s end:
men in grey or black,
women, bosom semi-bare,
twenty-three of us in all,
six nations represented.

The wives of India sit apart,
They do not drink,
they do not talk,
of course, they do not kiss.
The men are quite at home
among the foreign styles
(what fun the flirting is!);
I myself, decorously,
press a thigh or two in sly innocence.
The party is a great success.

The someone says: we can’t
enjoy it, somehow, don’t you think?
The atmosphere corrupt,
and look at our wooden wives …
I take him out to get some air.

This, she said to herself,
As she sat at table
With the English boss,
Is it. This is the promise:
The long evenings
In the large apartment
With cold beer and Western music,
Lucid talk of art and literature,
And of all “the changes India needs”,
At the second meeting
In the large apartment.

After cold beer and the music on,
She sat in disarray.

The struggle had been hard
And not altogether successful,
Certainly the blouse
Would not be used again,
But with true British courtesy
He lent her a safety pin
Before she took the elevator down.

Also, read the summary of the poem In India by Nissim Ezekiel.

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