The poem “A River” is written by ‘A. K. Ramanujan’ is a great Indian English poet, professor, translator, playwright, and scholar. He wrote in both English and Kannada. He was awarded “Padma Shri” in 1976 and the “Sahitya Akademi” Award posthumously in 1999 for his literary works. Ramanujan published two volumes of Poems ‘The Striders’ and ‘The Relation’. The Poem “A River” appeared in ‘The Striders’ in 1966.
About A. K. Ramanujan
A.K. Ramanujan was a great Indian Poet, translator, and scholar of Indian Literature and linguistics. He was born in Mysore, Karnataka, to a Brahmin family that loved and encouraged learning. He was fluent in many languages including English, Kannada, and Tamil. Ramanujan was also awarded “Sahitya Akademi Award” posthumously in 1999 for “The Collected Poems”. His notable works include The Stories, Second Sight, A River, and Relations.
A River Poem Summary
“A River” poem is about a riven “Vaikai” which flows through the city of Madurai, which is situated in Tamil Nadu. It is a holy city, full of temples and poets. The poets of ancient times, as well as modern times, have written poems on this city and its temples. They have also written about the river and floods. ‘Ramanujan’ first talks about the beauty of the river and then tell how it killed people. The poem is divided into four stanzas and each stanza has a different line length.
In the first stanza poet says Madurai is the city of temples and many poets write about the beauty of the city, its temples, and its river which dries up making the sand visible. In the summer the water flows in small streams. As the water flows in small streams, the sand looks like the ‘ribs of humans’. In addition to the sand, there are straws and woman’s hair under the bridges – having rusting bars which obstruct the free flow of water. There are also wet stones which are shining and look like sleeping crocodiles and those which are dry seem to be like water buffaloes without hair relaxing in the sun.
However other poets have written only about two seasons that is summer and raining for describing their beauty. They have not brought to their verses what loss has been inflicted on the people because of the rainy seasons.
In the second stanza, the poet says that he has seen that incident when there was a flood. It also carried off three village houses, a pregnant woman, and a couple of cows which were named Gopi and Brinda. Poet further says, in the new poet and the old poets, no one ever talked about the pregnant woman.
The poet imagines that the twins were kicking at the while to escape but couldn’t and were ultimately drowned to death with their mother. The other poets never brought this tragic incident into their poems.
In the last stanza, according to the poet, the river is poetic and can be romanticized only once in a year, and then in just half an hour, it takes away 3 houses, a couple of cows, and a pregnant woman who was expecting twins having fair bodies and also was thinking of having diapers of different colours. So as to distinguish between them.
The last stanza thus compares the contrasts of the writing of the poet himself and another poet of his age. All the other poets try to praise the beauty of the river and on the other hand, the poet himself makes a balance between the beauty and the losses inflicted on the people by it.
Thus, the poem “A River” shows the insensitive attitude and the complete unconcern of the city poets, both the old and new, towards the tragic situation of human suffering and fatality.