Hunger by Jayanta Mahapatra by Bijay Kant Dubey SignUp
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Literary Shelf Share This Page
Hunger by Jayanta Mahapatra
by Bijay Kant Dubey Bookmark and Share
  • The hunger of the belly, the hunger of the body, two types of hunger
  • How a father sells his daughter? The story of a poor life pulsating on the sea beach
  • A study in hunger, poverty, flesh and blood contact, moral depravity, perverse mentality, sexual gratification
  • What does a man need? Bread and butter, clothes and the house
  • The story of a daughter and a father and a customer

Hunger
 
It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.
The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,
trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.
I saw his white bone thrash his eyes.

I followed him across the sprawling sands,
my mind thumping in the flesh’s sling.
Hope lay perhaps in burning the house I lived in.
Silence gripped my sleeves; his body clawed at the froth
his old nets had only dragged up from the seas.

In the flickering dark his hut opened like a wound.
The wind was I, and the days and nights before.
Palm fronds scratched my skin. Inside the shack
an oil lamp splayed the hours bunched to those walls.
Over and over the sticky soot crossed the space of my mind.

I heard him say: My daughter, she’s just turned fifteen…
Feel her. I’ll be back soon, your bus leaves at nine.
The sky fell on me, and a father’s exhausted wile.
Long and lean, her years were cold as rubber.
She opened her wormy legs wide. I felt the hunger there,
the other one, the fish slithering, turning inside.

Hunger as a poem is of a different sort and people confuse with while going through the text of the poem as for who the persona is, the protagonist of the poem, who is speaking through as it mesmerizes with the writerly persona. Just in a moment we cannot know it life; the experiences of this life are very  hard so full of bitter truths and stark realities, how to put it before? Hunger, sexual perversity, moral depravity, bodily lust, starvation, food crisis, clothing problem, scanty resources, how to cope up with them is the crux of it all? These are but the stories of humanity, our society, life and living. And against the background of all these there lies a fisher-girl stranded on the seashores of her life trying to eke out a living bearing the brunt of the sea and the furies of the waves, rough weather and poor living. Travellers will come and go, but she will remain the same. Sea beaches are definitely for pleasure and freshness. Needless to say Nature refreshes us so pleasantly, but we as the human beings are most selfish and opportunistic, pleasure-seeking and enjoyment-friendly people always in the search of greener pastures and newer avenues. We keep about moving in search of hunger-fulfillment. How to quench our thirst, how to satisfy our hunger is our primary thing. But nothing to think about those living below the poverty line. Can we say about the mariners and seafarers venturing into the sea think we not? What about the fishermen and their poor families playing with sea waves and rough weather?  But what it comes to us as a surprise and awe is the proposal extended by the customer and the acceptance from the poor fisherman father unable to make a way by hurling nets into the sea and living from that to run the family. If the father signals, indicates, what can the poor teenager daughter do? But we are appalled to see what sort of customer is the visitor the poet is introducing with. Does he not feel shame at all in proposing? The father of the girl too sells her as for some money. It is a tale of poor life told during the sombre moments of life and such a thing also happens which but we cannot deny it. None can say about how the situations and circumstances of life will be in the times to come. Sometimes situations too force to yield or succumb to even though like we it or not.

Can a father sell his daughter is the question in hand? Can we think about it? But this is too a reality and it happens around us. The readers might have read The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy where the mayor had sold his wife in an inebriated state of drunkenness in the earlier stages of life which but got leaked accosting his mayorship, a fall from a height in personal life which took place and this is but the tragedy of fate and the tragedy of living. When a good family resorts to liquor-taking and lapses in, this also takes place. Sometimes situations intrigue it and sometimes fate plays an adverse role. Times and situations of life do not remain the same. But here poverty has compelled the poor fellow in allowing his daughter to have a bodily trip for pleasure and sexual gratification.

Hunger as a poem is a poem of sexual lust and gratification; moral depravity and perverse mentality.
It is a poem of sexual hunger, bodily lust in which only the passions take over to possess the body convalescing and coping with strange thirst and hunger, heat and sweating. But it also a fact that there are two types of hunger, human hunger, one is of the belly while the latter of the body.

It is really hard to believe how the flesh seems to be heavy upon when the fisherman proposes to the customer indirectly holding cheek in tongue and hinting towards his tender age daughter, marking the  loitering and intention of the intending customer. Trialing the nets and nerves, he dares to put before nodding in utter approval with the consent if he likes, he may have the pleasurable trip. The customer too alit with the fire of physical lust and hunger which but burning him inwardly is after his hunt. The word flesh here refers to man-woman relationship, bodily lust, physical satisfaction, possessive love.

It is really difficult to believe if this can happen, but it happens is a reality, a fact:

It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.
The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,

Executing his fishing job, he says all this casually and carelessly to mind or not to mind, it all dependent on the persona to take:

trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.
I saw his white bone thrash his eyes.

The customer follows him all through the sprawling sands with the mind absorbed in flesh and blood contact, attraction and repulsion story and give and take relationship. The old fisherman attempts to hurl and drag the nets, but these carry it not failing to meet up the expectation of having a good draw, catch of things.

The lustful persona follows into the footsteps his, toeing him along the sands wherever goes he:

I followed him across the sprawling sands,
my mind thumping in the flesh’s sling.

Hope, fire and silence claw at one another with the conspiracies and intrigues of their own:

Hope lay perhaps in burning the house I lived in.
Silence gripped my sleeves; his body clawed at the froth
his old nets had only dragged up from the seas.

Mark it hope to can be treacherous and may turn against what you hope for. Silence too can be bewitching and can conspire against. So is fire which can burn it all to ashes.

The unknown man, stranger, strange visitor-customer whoever be it the persona and by whatever name we know him enters into the hut by the seaside built so poorly where just an oil lamp keeps burning dimly to satisfy his hunger.  Now see the play of images and metaphors swapping their places and positions in the poem, the things happening into the layers of consciousness and the upheavals and convulsions taking place thereafter to settle to. In the flickering dark the fisherman’s hut opens like a wound and the poetic persona under hiding is perhaps the wind blowing and the days, nights as thus in the flux of time, light and darkness shifting. Palm fronds scratch the skin while making for a way into. Inside the hut the oil lamp lighting with the sticky soot crossing the space of his mind. These are the feelings going within him and he feeling purged with.

A nice play of metaphors can be marked in here:

In the flickering dark his hut opened like a wound.
The wind was I, and the days and nights before.

How the shack is, made from palm leaves and sticks, ragged and thatched can cross over the mind in askance, question:

Palm fronds scratched my skin. Inside the shack
an oil lamp splayed the hours bunched to those walls.
Over and over the sticky soot crossed the space of my mind.

Just he hears the fisherman saying, she is fifteen for to be felt and he will be back to when it is time to leave for the bus to catch. After hearing the words, the skies seem to be lurking around, crashing over understanding the exasperation and desperation of the old father somehow sustaining himself on the sea beach. Long and lean, tender for her age, she is left with to confide in.

She is just a fifteen-year-old girl, as the lines put it:

I heard him say: My daughter, she’s just turned fifteen…
Feel her. I’ll be back soon, your bus leaves at nine.

After hearing the words from her father, things appear to be otherwise:

The sky fell on me, and a father’s exhausted wile.
Long and lean, her years were cold as rubber.

The below-mentioned two lines speak of the fire which is going to be extinguished:

She opened her wormy legs wide. I felt the hunger there,
the other one, the fish slithering, turning inside.

Human passion misleads us when we seem to be grappling with the dark emotions of lust and greed to arrive at the truth found the other way when the eclipse, honeymoon is over. A slithering fish she appears to be when the things come to naught lastly with the wormy existence of her own to be torn apart and what more to tell? This poor body too has a tale of its own which but we know it not. It is so frail and weak. So is human life so poorly wrought against a backdrop of desperation, flicker of hope burning momentarily and all that aspirations taking us nowhere.

Can life be heavy upon in such a way? The stories of this poor life we know them not. We still need to know them, the life experiences lying unshared so far. If somebody wants to sustain and survive, somebody can be seen finding a way for something other than all this. The hunger of the belly and the hunger of the body, both of these are but the types of hunger which but we cannot ignore.
 

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18-Jul-2020
More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey
 
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