Summary / Analysis of the poem

The poem “Snakes” by Ramanujan points out the touching reality of modern society, the reality of insensibility and indifference. The Poor do not hesitate to encounter danger. No doubt, by providing entertainment or pastime to the wealthy, snake-charmers take some risk only to extinguish the family’s hunger.

Here it appears that their lives are for the sake of snakes :

“The snake-man wreathes their writhing round his neck
for father’s smiling money.”

Another reference to snakes, flies and frogs has been made. The poet brings out the confused relationship between the snakes and the family. The snakes are “like some terrible aunt.” He conceives it as ophite whenever his sister twists her hair. As a boy, the poet gets no rest from the fear of snakes until they are killed.

frogs can hop upon this sausage rope flies in the sun will mob the look in his eyes, and I can walk through the woods.”

The poet is placid and lepid that tiny creatures such as frog can now jump on the serpent that is just like a “sausage chain” and flies can mob the look in his eyes. Here you will see another reaction to the snake from his parents and the poet. His mother gives her milk; his father pays the snake-charmer cheerfully, but the poet screams at her sight. The poet adroitly describes the

“The twirls of their hisses rise like the tiny dust-cones on slow noon roads Winding through the farmers’ feet. Black lorgnettes are etched on their hoods, ridiculous, alien, like some terrible aunt, a crest among tiles and scales that moult with the darkening half of every moon.”

The poem presents an image, a complex of feelings, distilled memories and events which are not elaborated or commented upon. But as it begins in the present ‘now’ of museums of book stacks which contrast with rural India and family life, the poem celebrates the liberation from the fears of the past, ‘ghosts’ from which Ramanujan now feels safe.”

“Snakes” is one of the best poems of Ramanujam. The poem starts with an emphatic note of suspense, “No, it decs not happen when I walk through the wood.” This happens when he walks through museums or libraries. It’s a definition of a snake that induces fear in the minds of all. Snakes take refuge in museums, bookshelves, glass shelves, etc., The poet says that the book of the yellow vein, the yellow amber, would remind him of snakes, the shelf that is arranged in geometric lines would remind him of snakes. Ramanujam may be distracted by his own ability in explaining it is seen in the seemingly meaningless yet riveted detail of “the yellow vein in the yellow amber” or “the book with gold on its spine.” The yellow and gold amber and the curves with the imagination dream of snakes.

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The Poet compares the snakes’ sporadic hissing to the little dust clouds that emerge along a dusty path. They have just the way the snacks do, the essence of winding around one’s feet. The hoods, the sweets, reveal a kind of style that resembles the black engraved lorgnettes. Just the same, it looks crazy. It’s akin to the horrible aunt who’s proud of her names. The scales of the snake are placed with the moon’s alarm. He describes the actual incident to them. A snake-man brought a basket full of cobras to the poet’s house one day. Jet out is the snakes and the person watches them more on the surface. Their bodies are wheat-brown with rings all over in red. The manner they move on the floor looks like a strange alphabet written here and there. The poet’s mother nourishes the snakes with milk saucers. The engraved pattern on the brass reappears as they suck the milk. In order to impress the poet’s father, the snake man then wears them on his neck. The latter gives him money.

The poet has a sister who reaches the ground with her long hair. He notes that she has her hair wrapped in braids. She treats them with great care and decorates them with tassels. These braids look very much like snakes, and the scales on the body mimic the waves themselves. Both have the essence of shining beautifully. The poet is also reminded of snakes in other works as he looks at his sister’s braids. He is so scared that he is impatiently waiting to see his hair cut and neatly dried up.

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Then, as the poet walks along the forest road, he suddenly feels as if he is walking on a slippery surface. The poet narrates the incident. It’s a snake, twitching in agony. The bluish nodes mimic a lotus stalk that was plucked lately, its body is green white. Until it is gone, he steps on it; he is now assured and not afraid. He expects the frogs, without fear of being eaten, to jump over the sausage string. Flies will come around the part of the snake’s eye, and he has grown at all himself.

The portrayal of the Market scene in Ramanujan’s Snakes.

In this poem, A. K. Ramanujam brings out the market scene. He feels inspired to see the oranges on the market in the area. In wicker baskets, they are carried. The oranges fill the holes in intricate patterns worn within these baskets. The fruits are in different colours. Some are still green, others are overripe in a hollow with a pot of fungi-ash; some others are saffron-coloured; some are pupated and velvet-sinned. The inner first of fingers held quite loosely resembles some of the fruits. In the part of a great old man who is termed by the poet as ‘Grandpa’s grip’, it is compared to the loosening skin and deteriorating nerves.

The poet looks at the tiny branch that once acted as an extension and finds that the orange tree is intact. The human umbilical cord is identified as the same. When the tree had fed the young bud, the strength came from the root part of the tree. At this mature stage, the fruit has come out and the tree retains it even now. There is no connexion between the fruit and the tree now. The fruit makes its way into the basket by itself. In turn, the fruits in the tree will produce thousands of oranges for each seed of a tree. The loop goes on like this and it is a process that never ends. As is typical of Ramanujam, there is no true conclusion.

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Solved Questions and Answers:

Q. What does the poet portray in snakes?

Ans. “Snakes” points out the touching truth, the truth of insensibility and indifference of modern society. The poor do not hesitate to face danger. No doubt, snake-charmers take any risk only to extinguish the starvation of the family by providing entertainment or pastime to the rich.

Q. How has the hissing of the snakes been compared?

Ans. The Poet compares the intermittent hissing of the snakes to the little clouds of dust that arise one walks along a dusty road. They have the nature of winding through one’s feet exactly the way the snacks do.

Q. What does the orange tree denote?

Ans. The orange tree is described as the human umbilical cord. The tree once nourished the young bud, the power coming from the root part of the tree. The fruit has come out at this mature stage and the tree holds it even now.

Q. What kind of image does the poet present?

Ans. The poem presents an image, a complex of feelings, distilled memories and events which are not elaborated or commented upon. But as it begins in the present ‘now’ of museums of book stacks which contrast with rural India and family life,

Q. Why there is no conclusion in the poem?

Ans. The tree once nourished the young bud, the power coming from the root part of the tree. The fruit has come out at this mature stage and the tree holds it even now. There is now no connection between the fruit and the tree. The fruit itself finds its way into the basket. The fruits in the tree every seed of the tree can produce thousands of oranges in turn. The cycle goes on like this and it is a never-ending process. Therefore there is no real conclusion.

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