The Season of the Plains (Shahid Ali)

Introduction

“The Season of the Plains” brings alive the pangs of separation experienced by people who are living away from their homeland. Absence of a particular season in exile acts as a trigger for longing and nostalgia. Shahid Ali lived most of his adult life outside his homeland, Kashmir and passed away in the USA. This brings an intensely personal feeling into the poem.

Summary and explanations

The poet’s mother, having actually been born in Lucknow and married in Kashmir, misses her past life in her hometown. She especially misses the monsoon season which does not occur in Kashmir. She keeps listening to the Banaras thumri-singers who sing of longing and separation. The monsoon is a season of relief and enjoyment for children who drench themselves in the rain after the scorching summer heat. But for lovers, who have to hide their love from the conservative and censuring society, the rain intensifies their feeling of separation. The poet becomes curious whether his mother longed for somebody, especially during the monsoon, in her hometown. His mother says nothing to this except humming a lover’s lament.

• soaking their utter summer: Children drench themselves in the rain because it brings relief from summer‘s scorching heat.

• their love forbidden: The lovers are not allowed to disclose their love because they live in a conservative society which forbids such relationships.

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Point of view

The poem is written from the point of view of an exile. It vehemently advocates that separation from homeland and separation in love are both deeply felt and cause agony that cannot be expressed.

Tone

The tone is nostalgic and melancholic as the poem deals with separation and longing. The tone is reinforced by the imagery of the incense stick.

Devices/techniques

Allusion: ‘Siddheshwari and Rasoolan’, ‘the invisible blue god’, ‘Heer and Ranjha’.

Visual imagery: ‘blue god’, ‘soft necks of ash’.

The Season of the Plains By Shahid Ali

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