The Patriot by Nissim Ezekiel by Bijay Kant Dubey SignUp
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The Patriot by Nissim Ezekiel
by Bijay Kant Dubey Bookmark and Share

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting -
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.

The Patriot is one of those poems of Nissim Ezekiel which remind us of the use and application of wit, humour and irony, fun, pun and caricature as he does in his other poems in Background Casually, Goodbye Party For Miss Pushpa T.S., The Railway Clerk, The Professor and so on other than Marriage, Enterprise and Philosophy where the moral sense is so strong writing with a didactic purpose to instruct and impart. But in the poems dealing with the sense of humour and irony, he has tried to take up conversational English as the medium of his expression as Kipling has, Khushwant Singh too has. Here the patriot is not the Irish ragged man as the patriot of Lady Gregory in The Rising of The Moon one-act play nor the loyal Irish sergeant working for the British who too is not less than in duty and loyalties.

Let us see who is loyal to whom and working under whose obligation? Whose allegiance where is it? What it colonial, post-colonial. How the pre-Gandhian, the post-Gandhian stages? How was the freedom struggle and who fought for whom?

If he was a freedom fighter for us, he was but a rebel, a revolutionary in the eyes of the British. A Gandhian shisya, he was no doubt a follower of Gandhi and Gandhian principles rather than knowing other political gurus morally so sound.

So a Gandhian patriot, freedom fighter, an Indian patriot, freedom fighter here is the point of deliberation and the poet has chosen him for delving deeply into the freedom stories. If to see it differently, Gandhian politics too is not less than a spectacle so theatrical to be staged and enacted. Gandhian drama is no less than a romance where the followers and the old man with the danda and the charkha enacted it well. Something was definitely serious and something was definitely amusing. Let us see in the age of post-truth evaluation. Let us see the poem colonizing and de-colonizing the spirit. Let us read it from the insider and the outsider points of view as Nissim Ezekiel too was not an Indian, but an alien insider, a Jew living in India just like the British.

Who is what fighter time will say that. When they fought for freedom, the time had been of theirs. But when India became free, India switched it from Gandhi to Nehru and the power was transferred. Gandhi too did not take the responsibility of leading the nation, left it into the hands of Nehru willing to sit on chair from the beginning. It fell into our duty to take the nation as we liked it to re-build.

The Patriot is a portrait of an Indian patriot, a freedom fighter, a Gandhian follower into the footsteps of Gandhi, a Ram-bhakta hanuman, one going by the Gandhian principles as shown thorough the emblem, the replica, Gandhiji ke tin bandar, bura mat dekho, bur mat kaho, bura mat suno.

In the poem The Patriot we see the criticism of Gandhi, Gandhism and Gandhian followers. What do the critics say, the critics of Gandhi say it in his life-time, how do they say it now too as everything is not in praise. Kabir too talks of keeping a critic stationed in a cottage specially built and thatched for him in the courtyard of his house. Do not be upset with. Let us see what does a humorist also say it about? The humorist too has a say and style of his own as we cannot glue to ideals and values all the time. Can we remain serious for all the time? Jokes, humours, laughters and comics too have warmth of their own. We need to laugh too, we need to be happy sometimes offloading the load and taxation of day-to-day life, shrugging off the monotony and drudgery as we feel it in common life.

Do the look-alike people not give the poses and postures of Gandhi on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti? Some children too part like little Gandhijis with the dhoti, lathi and specs. And from Gandhi we have found it Gandhigiri as a modern idiom. So, the matter keeps turning around in this way or that way. If we go by Sudhir Kakar, he will definitely psycho-analyse Gandhi and his relations going by Freud and Jung. Orwell too has talked of him critically s well as logically the secret of his gat milk.

The Gandhian mass of that time was but a superstitious mass, a casteist mass believing in karma-dharma, Rahu-Kertu and fate-lines totally new to logic and reasoning and the India they lived in was a slumbering nation. Superstitions used to do the rounds combined with racism, ethnic divide, casteism, fatalism, inaction, lethargy, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, underclothing, food problem, living below the poverty line. Pundits, astrologers and palmists, oracle-hearers, soothsayers and fortune-tellers pleased them all.

Side by side it is also a fact that Nissim Ezekiel is but an alien insider and he has seen India just as a foreigner sees India, but all the foreigners are not alike too. A Jew he went by his urbanity and modernity and from modern city-living he viewed it all. He was conservative and orthodox as he came not to feel it India, ancient Indian wisdom and thought so heartily and remained a minority man unto the end in some respect although he taught us to be modern and up-to-date.

Do the sculptors not make the busts and torsos of Gandhi? They too study it well before carving, chiselling the sculptures. Do the costume-directors not think of cloth and dressing before giving a look to the troupes? Everyone has got an art of own. Had the British been otherwise, they would have eliminated Gandhi, but they too used to love and like him whatever say we about their suppression and oppression. India too was a White man’s burden is nothing to be shrugged off and denied; its poverty and backwardness as it had regressed during the medieval age while on the other hand they also liked it not to settle here and to accept it as their own motherland.

The patriot says it in the poem that he is all for Gandhism, Gandhian principles and philosophy. He abides by the precepts and lessons given by him; what the master has about non-violence, peace and truth, ahimsha, shantih and satya and he cannot understand why are there so much troubles in the world, why does the world keep fighting in between, what the causes of enmity and tussle. Why do they not look into the matter, come to the table and settle it amicably as per the Gandhian philosophy and politics? Why do they not derive from him as his is ancient wisdom what he has from Indian thought and tradition. Indian wisdom is hundred percent correct. What to say about hundred, it is even more than, two hundred percent correct. But the modern generation is completely unaware of that as they like to go matter the European manner and style, fashion and clothing avoiding the native, swadeshi and khadi things, neglecting Bhartiyata. Take it my example, I keep reading the Times of India daily as for to improve my English, the patriot puts it before. Why do they not do it? When will their English be strong? What he knows it, the present generation knows it not. The patriot is also sorry to say how someone has hurled a stone on Indira Behan. Is it correct to hurl? This is not the proper way of showing discontent. They are but miscreants, rogues; goons and goondaism is not the all. We too understand it that the age is changing, the times are also not so. They are in the need of job and employment. Student unrest must be redressed. Generation, regeneration, these are bound to go by and we cannot check the flux of time. In order to be cool and healthy, we must take lassi rather than wine which but many have become addicted to which is but a perverse habit we have lapsed into. We must abstain from. Wine is for the drunkards, not for the common people. We are all one, the Maharashtrians, the Gujaratis and the Hindiwallahs. We are brothers and sisters, as you might heard, mere bhayion aur behano, a leader addressing with all that in the likewise manner. Why do China and Pakistan behave like this? Why are they so disturbing? This is just by the way he said all that. There is nothing to worry. The funny things must be said in the funniest way and he has all that just by the way. When will the Ram Rajya come? This is the last wish to see. When will the heaven come upon the earth and the men be executing their works sinlessly? Will he able to live up to see or not, God knows it, the Almighty, who is above and over us can say it all.

The Patriot is a caricature of Indian English as well as the patriot the protagonist or spokesman under our discussion. How do we speak English as ours is Hindustani English, how do we tag and join to express with inadequate vocabulary and syntax. We labour for an expression as English is not our tongue.

The patriot is not a rugged Irish freedom fighter, but an Indian Gandhian in his attire and with a danda striding from Dandi March to the attending of the Round Table Conference, but later on drawing pension too for being a fighter and one will naturally if one grows old and runs out of time. How long will philosophy and principle keep serving one if one is in old age and harness?

The man who is not a Gandhi critic, a Gandhist or a lover of Gandhian way and art of living may not take to the criticism of it. The poem entitled The Patriot is as such if we sit to evaluate and assess it in the right perspective it is but a poem of Gandhi and Gandhism, Gandhian studies and Gandhian philosophy. The point may be it that Nissim a modern boy has tried to understand Gandhism in his modern way following the ironical, jocular technique. Only the pure Gandhists will explain Gandhi this too cannot be. The poet here through the freedom fighter, the patriot is saying the things of his heart and mind, making it a criticism of the followers. Did Subhas Chandra Bose not differ with Gandhi? Subhas was a Shakta as he was from whereas Gandhi adhered to the Vaishnava tradition and believe you it or not, the diet too plays a role in giving to temperament. It was a mistake of Gandhi he sided with Nehru rather than Bose. But Bose too was of the rebellious temperament whereas Gandhi was simple and lowly. One may question definitely after going through the whole panorama whether there leaders before Gandhi. One doubt if Gandhism was a drama, even though not, it seemed to be to some extent, the call given and the people following in large numbers, taking to as the Bible’s words. Sometimes we do not like it the overacting of Gandhi, the inspector came, asked to write and the teacher told him to copy from, but he did not which but does not appeal to as one should show one too much. On this point we may question, why did you make the teacher trapped and held guilty? Why did Gandhi not study it well before coming to class? The dichotomy to feel, was Gandhi a politician or was he a saint, what was he? Was it not pagletgiri to stay half-clothed during the winter shivering with cold, a gimmick in itself? But in pagletgiri lies its Gandhigiri, the tenacity to do it anyhow; the power of endurance and sustenance very important for survival strategies and struggle for existence.

Frankly speaking, I too had the chances of meeting and sharing with the freedom fighters, but could not adjust with them, the old trendy Indian thoughts. Some of them were really Gandhians, but many of them illiterate and foolish, stubborn and obstinate. Needless to say a few of them appeared to be hypocritical and pontifical. But some of them were no doubt gentle and noble.

Is Gandhism for the Gandhian scholars or for all? Anybody can give opinion on it as I think it so. Let them also see who want to criticize him, make a fresh evaluation of his. What is in a name? What in the image iconic or rudimentary? The iconography of Gandhi, how to idolize it, Gandhi as in a book of biography and life stories; Gandhi in the autobiography? Gandhi was not Gandhi, but it was the followers who made him great. Had the critics been not, could he have been Gandhi, what we see him today? Let the humorist too imitate him and emulate him. Did he not the English ways and manners of life when he was in England? Gandhi in dhoti and shawl and specs is it not all. There was a Gandhi dressed like an Englishman in the coat and the pants of the earlier stages which but we have forgotten it, the husband of Kasturba Gandhi.

What is patriotism? Who is a patriot? Does the definition of it change it too from time to time? If a freedom fighter outlives, how will the people view him? The poem is a discussion on patriotism and leader worship.

Once Gandhi used to defend the people in South Africa as a lawyer and had been connected with in many ways. Now when the statue has been removed from Ghana Univ. campus, the time too has come for our arguments instead of the fact that time keeps positioning and repositioning things whatever be our proposition or disposition.

Nissim Ezekiel too would have been aware of the strength and robust physique of the Indian patriots who would have driven the British from just with the body built from taking milk, ghee, mattha, sherbet and lassi and the Indian danda in hands. It is also a fact some of them very rural, blunt and litigant beyond doubt. Suppose if give you wine to him you might have to take a danda which Nissim knows it not. The poet speaks about Indira behn but we are not sure of what sort of sister is it Miss Pushpa whom he is going to bid goodbye and to see her off at the airport.

Let us see how the patriot not, but Nissim Ezekiel in the disguise of him begins the dialogue:

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,

The conversation replete with Indianness makes us burst into laughter and we cannot hold ourselves from laughing. We smile to read the lines and hear the patriot speaking. This is how the Indians talk; how they speak in English laboriously.

Let us see what the patriot feels about the modern generation:

But modern generation is neglecting -
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indira behn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.

The patriot shows it that he can even go through the Times of India. One should not take him otherwise. He is even now trying his best to improve his English. But what it pains him most is this that one goonda fellow has thrown stone at Indira behn which he should not have. But who is this Indira Gandhi? She is but the daughter of Nehru whom Gandhi used to love and like most as his political heir.

Friends, countrymen, comrades and Romans whoever be you, one must heed to him and try to see his experience of serving the nation as he can feel the pulse of the nation and the world:

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.

The patriot addresses as my dear brothers and sisters and advises to be patient and bearing upon with:

Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.

He will never counsel to take wine. It is better to take lassi, sherbet and milk. If one does not get cow milk, one may goat milk as Gandhi used to take and this the secret of his strength.

Take the example of his as he abstains from everything and is a teetotaller:


I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.

Wine, alcohol, liquor are only for the drunkards and drunkenness is at the root of all evils. Where is the current generation going to? If they fall into bad habits, what will they do? If they take fast foods, how will their body develop?

Apart from a patriot, he too thinks of world politics as he might have heard during the Gandhian period about the Great Wars and other European nations, even going beyond the saat samudras in idea:

What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.

But the activities of China and Pakistan disturb him most. It saddens him when he sees them invading or attacking or engaged in warfare:

India is of all, all are but brothers and sisters, be they the Hindiwallahs, Banglawallahs or any other so on:

All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,

Instead of regional and provincial differences seen in terms of food, costume, living, manner, speaking, gesture, look and accent, the things must be tolerated and sorted out cordially.

The Gandhian or Indian dream of Ram Rajya he has not forgotten it:


One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.

When will the Ram Rajya dawn upon? Where is it? Is it not a utopia? Whenever he finds time to meet him, he can the patriot as there is nothing that to stay withdrawn and secluded from. He is ever ready to counsel and advise if one feels to get it from; ever ready to share his experiences and feelings. The listener is welcome to meet and his doors are open for him, any time, any day he may visit him. He does not believe in ceremonious meetings just meant for the freedom fighters and patriots to meet them on the dais. The patriot likes to enjoy the company rather than anything and what else to do with too.

It will better if we go through the two stanzas of ‘The Patriot’ written by Robert Browning:

Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
Nought man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.


There's nobody on the house-tops now —
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles' Gate — or, better yet,
By the very scaffold's foot, I throw.

But the patriot of Robert Browning taking a U-turn and that too through a dramatic monologue deplores for the bravery shown as because nothing stays it here and everything is but circumstantial, occasional and situational and opinions keep varying from time to time and none can say it what will it remain what.

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18-Jul-2020
More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey
 
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