The Patriot By Nissim Ezekiel Summary and Question Answers

The Patriot By Nissim Ezekiel

Gifted poet nurturing English-language verse in India

The gifted poet Nissim Ezekiel, who died at 79, was the father of the post independence Indian poetry. A prolific dramatist, critic, broadcaster and social commentator, he was professor of English and reader of American literature at Mumbai (formerly Bombay) University in the 1990s, and secretary of the Indian division of the foreign authors’ organisation PEN. Ezekiel belongs to the tiny Marathi-speaking Bene Israel Jewish community of Mumbai, which never encountered anti-Semitism. He was a volunteer at the American-Jewish charity in Bombay.

His botany professor father and school principal mother raised Ezekiel in a secular setting. Even as a schoolboy, he favoured TS Eliot, WB Yeats, Ezra Pound and Rainer Maria Rilke to the floridity of Indian English verses, and when he started his literary career at the end of the 1940s, his introduction of formal English was controversial due to his affiliation with colonialism. Yet he “naturalised the language to the Indian condition and breathed life into the Indian English poetic heritage,” wrote the Bangladeshi academic Kaiser Haq.

Ezekiel ‘s poetry described love, isolation, desire, imagination and political pomp, human foibles, and the “kindred clamour” of urban dissonance. He mirrored the post-war revolution of England (Philip Larkin, DJ Enright and Ted Hughes) but honed a distinct, satirical voice, switching from a rigid metre to a free verse.

Over the course of his career, his attitude too changed. The young man, “who shopped around for dreams”, demanded truth and lambasted corruption. By the 1970s, he accepted “the ordinariness of most events”; laughed at “lofty expectations totally deflated”; and acknowledged “The darkness has its secrets/ which light does not know.”

After 1965, he also began embracing India’s English vernacular, and teased its idiosyncrasies in Poster Poems and in The Professor. In the latter he wrote: “Visit please my humble residence also./ I am living just on opposite house’s backside.”

Ezekiel took a first-class MA in literature at Mumbai University in 1947. After a brief dose of radical politics, he sailed to London the following year, studied philosophy at Birkbeck College and enjoyed “debauched affairs”. His decrepit digs were immortalized in his debut poetry collection, Time To Change (1952).

That same year, Ezekiel worked his way home as a deck-scrubber aboard a cargo ship carrying arms to Indochina. The Illustrated Weekly of India made him an assistant editor in 1953, and published his poetry – and, for 10 years, he also broadcast on arts and literature for All-India Radio.

Ezekiel once described India as too large for anyone to be at home in all of it. However, after tenures as visiting professor at Leeds University (1964) and Chicago (1967), plus lecture tours and conferences, he always gravitated back to his native city. Though a natural outsider, he still felt Indian, albeit “incurably critical and sceptical”. As he wrote in Background, Casually: “Others choose to give themselves/ In some remote and backward place./ My backward place is where I am.”

Throughout his career, Ezekiel continued to publish as a poet, bringing out many collections and some plays. He also translated poetry from Marathi in 1976, and coedited a fiction and poetry anthology, Another India (1990).

He acted as a mentor to younger poets, such as Dom Moraes, Adil Jussawalla and Gieve Patel. Many of his poems, such as The Night Of The Scorpion, and that supreme antidote to jingoism, Ezekiel received the Sahitya Akademi cultural award in 1983 and the Padma-Shri, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1988. His wife Daisy, whom he married in 1952, but from whom he was separated, survives him, as do his son Elkana and daughters Kalpana and Kavita. · Nissim Ezekiel, poet and scholar, born December 24 1924; died January 9 2004.

Summary of the Poem

‘The Patriot’ is one of a group of poem termed ‘very Indian English Poem”. It is a lively humorous poem of forty-six lines. It reflects Ezekiel’s painstaking study of Indian speech habits and mental attitude. In this poem, Ezekiel deliberately employs inappropriate language to suggest that such a language is typical Indian English. He also gives the speaker amusing mental attitudes and thought patterns which, according to him, Indians are supposed to have.

The speaker here speaks to a visitor. He proclaims that he stands for peace and non-violence. He does not understand why people fight all the time and do not follow the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He believes that ancient Indian wisdom is absolutely correct. He says that he feels very sad to see that modern generation neglects this wisdom of ancient India. His heart is broken to see that modern generation is running after fashion and things made in foreign countries. The speaker says that he reads. The ‘Times of India’ to improve his English. It is highly ironical that inspite of his reading newspaper to improve English he frequently breaks the rules of English and most of the time use inappropriate language. He says that he read in news that a rogue throws stone at Indirabehn. He thinks that rogue must belong to the category of undisciplined students. The young boys and girls need to be patient. Then he suddenly makes a shift from present political situation to a glass of lassi. He asks if anybody else wants lassi. Then he shifts and starts telling the merits of lassi. He says that it is good for digestion. It is better than wine. Then he immediately makes it clear that he has never tasted wine. He is ‘a teetotaler’. Then again he makes a shift and focusses his attention on the previous topic of present political situation. He proclaims himself to be a lover of peace. He is worried about the attitude of Pakistan and China towards India. He says that both are not behaving properly. He says that he feels sad to see all this. Now he starts talking about brotherhood. He says that all men are brothers in India also whether they are Gujrati or Maharastrian or any Hindi speaking person. Different people in India have different funny habit. In spite of difference in habits, they tolerate each other. The speaker is sure about Ram Rajya to come. Now the listeners are perhaps bored, and are about to go. The speaker tells him that he is always welcome.

He always enjoys his company.

Explain with Reference to the Context:

Stanza – 1

Reference to Context

The lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical constructions to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

The speaker says that he believes in peace and non-violence. He does not understand why people fight all the time and do not follow the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He believes that the ancient India wisdom is absolutely correct. He says that he feels very sad to see that modern generation neglects this wisdom of ancient India. He says that young Indian generation runs after fashion and things made in foreign.

Stanza 2

Reference to Context

The lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical language to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

The speaker says that he reads newspaper daily. He reads ‘The Times of India’ to improve his English. The other day he read in the paper that some rogue threw a stone at Indira behn. He thinks that this rogue must belong to the category of undisciplined students.

Stanza 3

Reference to Context

These lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem, Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical language to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

In these lines the speaker imitates the famous speech of Antony in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ without knowing that he is speaking to Indians not Romans. He says that friends listen to me, things are growing better. New things are coming to life and these are regeneration, remuneration, contraception. The young boys and girls must have patience. You need not be restless because things are growing better. The juxtapositions of words like regeneration and contraception is typically humourous.

Stanza 4

Reference to Context

The lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical language to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

In these lines the speaker praises Indian drink-lassi made from milk and curd. He says that lassi with a little salt added in it is very lovely drink. It is very good for digestion. He says that lassi is better a drink than wine. However, the speaker immediately makes it clear that he has never tested wine. He is ‘total teetotaler, completely total’. He considers wine to be only for drunkards. Phrases like ‘completely total’ is typical of the Indian speakers.

Stanza 5

Reference to Context

The lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem, Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical language to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

In these lines, the speaker asks his listeners about their views on the topic of world peace. He is worried about the attitude of Pakistan and China towards India. He says that both are not behaving properly. Their attitudes makes the speaker very sad. His heart is broken because nobody is thinking about the idea of world peace. These lines show the way of thinking of Indian people.

Stanza 6

Reference to Context

These lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical language to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

In these lines the speaker proclaims that all men are brothers. In India, he believes that all men whether they are Gujaraties or Maharashtrains or Hindi speaking brothers. He says that in India people have different habits, and sometimes they are funny. He says that inspite of their funny habits, he tolerates others and others tolerate him. The speaker is fully convinced that one day Ram Rajya will surely come.

Stanza 7

Reference to Context

These lines quoted above have been taken from Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘The Patriot’. It is a humorous poem of forty-six lines. Through this poem, Ezekiel satirizes the typical speech habits of Indian speaker of English. He deliberately uses inappropriate and ungrammatical language to suggest that such language is ‘very Indian English’. He also makes fun of mental attitudes and thought patterns of Indian people.

Explanation

The speaker has been talking to some people. Perhaps bored by the speaker, they start to leave him. Addressing them, the speaker asks if the listeners are going away. The speaker hopes that they will visit him again. The speaker would welcome them at any day on anytime. The speaker says that he does not believe in ceremonies, he will always enjoy their company. These lines also show the mental attitude of Indian people. Use of ‘ceremonies’ instead of formality is also typical to Indian Speakers of English.

Questions -Answer (Short Type)

Q. 1. Comment on the infringement of the rules of grammar and syntax in the ‘The Patriot’?

Ans:- The speaker in the poem is a typical Indian. This poem, infact, is a comment on the speech pattern of Indian people. In the whole poem the speaker uses Babu English or Pidgin English. He does not care about the rules of grammar and syntax. For example, he uses Present progressive tense for Present Indefinite Tense. The following lines best illustrate this point.

” I am standing for a peace and non-violence”

” I am simply not understating “

“It is making me very sad, I am telling you”

“I am not believing in Ceremony”

“He also makes some other grammatical mistakes like absence of articles. For example, “Why world is fighting fighting”, “why all people of world” etc. Here he does not use article ‘the’ before ‘world’. He also repeats words. For example: ‘fighting fighting. According to rules, the use is inapropriate.

Q. 2. Make a list of words which create a typical Indian flavour.

Ans.: In this poem ”The Patriot’ Ezekiel uses many words that create a typical Indian flavour. The idea behind using these words is to make fun of the typical speech habits of Indian speaker of English. These words are the following : ‘fighting fighting’, ‘100% or 200% correct’, ‘goonda fellow’, ‘student unrest fellow’, ‘be patiently’, ‘Indian behaviour’, ‘Lassi’, ‘ total teetotaller’, ‘Gujaraties’, ‘Hindiwallahs’, ‘Ram Rajya’, ‘you are going’, ‘believing in ceremony’ etc.

Q.3. What is the implication of the expression:

‘Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception’?

Ans.: The idea behind using these words: ‘Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception’ is to make fun of speech pattern of Indian people. All these words indicate the fondness of Indians’ for pompous words. Because the situation in which the speaker uses these words hardly has any relevance. These lines very well show the mental attitude of a half literate class of Indians.

Q.4. Give examples of alliteration in the poem.

Ans.: Alliteration is repetition of the same sound. It is a poetic device and adds to the richness. Some of the examples of the alliteration in the poem are following :

i) Fighting fighting ii) Fashion and foreign things iii) One glass lassi iv) Little salt lovely drink

v) Total teetotaller, completely total vi) Student unrest fellow vii) Ram Rajya is surely coming.

Q.5. What features of Pidgin English are suggested in ‘The Patriot’.

Ans.: ‘Pidgin English’ is a variety of English which has evolved as English came in language contact with other language. The features of Pidgin English mentioned in the poem are many. First is the use of Present Progressive in the place of Simple Present. The following example illustrates this feature very well: ‘I am standing for peace and non-violence’. In this line ‘standing’ is used instead of ‘stand’. Some other examples of this type of mistake are ‘understanding’, ‘believing’, ‘neglecting’, ‘telling’, ‘making’ ‘neglecting’. The other is the use of the words such as ‘goonda fellow’, ‘student unrest fellow’. Repetition of word is also a feature of Pidgin English for example ‘fightingfighting’. Omission of ‘of’ is also an example of Pidgin English. Instead of using ‘one glass of lassi’ the writer uses ‘one glass lassi’.

Question-Answer (Essay Type)

Q.1. Comment on the ironic mode of ‘The Patriot’.

Ans.: ‘The Patriot’ written by Nissim Ezekiel is a remarkable poem. In this poem, the poet has given an ironical description of typical speech habits of Indian speakers of English. Ezekiel is of the view that in India most of the people use Babu English or Pidgin English. To stress his view he himself, in this poem, uses this type of English language. The speaker in this poem is talking to some other person. He is talking in English. But English he uses is not appropriate. He adds many Hindi words while speaking. This variety is known as Pidgin English. It is highly ironical that he reads ‘The Time of India’ daily to improve his English language, yet he breaks the rules of English very frequently. He does not care about grammar and syntax. He uses present progressive tense in place of Present Indefinite. For example he says, ‘I am standing for peace and non-violence.’ The verb ‘to stand’ does not take a progressive tense. He also uses some other verbs in this manner. These are -understanding, ‘neglecting’, ‘making’, ‘behaving’, telling’. He also makes some other grammatical mistakes like absence of articles. For example in this line: ‘Why world is fighting fighting’. He did not use the definite article ‘the’ before ‘world’. Indians in their language are fond of repeating. But this is not done in English. But the speaker of this poem uses this repetitive style. For example: ‘fighting – fighting’. It is also a characteristic of Indianized English that they often omit ‘of’, while speaking. The speaker in this poem said: ‘one glass lassi’ instead of saying ‘one glass of lassi’. These ironic depictions of Indianism continues throughout the poem. The speaker, while speaking, also add some Hindi words in English like ‘goonda’. At some places he uses Present Tense for Past Tense situation. He says ‘other days I am reading in newspaper, instead of ‘was reading’. It is also highly ironical that the speaker juxtaposes very high sounding words like ‘Regeneration’ ‘Remuneration’, ‘Contraception’. He also make ‘Remuneration’ as important as ‘contraception’ and regeneration. Thus, he ironically mixes trivial with significant. He calls himself love of peace and non-violence and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He believes the ancient Indian wisdom to be absolutely correct. He is also concerned about modern generation which neglects Indian wisdom. It is highly ironical that while talking about these serious issues he suddenly makes a shift to the topic of lassi. Thus, we can say that the poet uses a number of ironical situations and words.

Q.2. What impression do you form of the character of the patriot on the basis of your reading of the poem.

Ans.: ‘The Patriot’ is one of a group of poems termed ‘very Indian English Poem’. Here the protagonist is presented as a typical Indian who speaks Indian English. He tries to prove himself a true patriot by saying that he loves everything that is Indian. He says that he believes in peace and non-violence. He calls himself a true follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He has deep faith in the ancient Indian culture. He believes that ancient Indian wisdom is absolutely correct. Like every Indian he has a high opinion for Indian drink ‘lassi’. He advocates brotherhood. He says that all Indians are brothers, it does not matter if we belong to different regions. Like every Indian he also talks about the matter of world peace. He is concerned about the behaviour of Pakistan and China towards India. He is a peace lover and believes in brotherhood. Like every Indian, he is sure that one day Ram Rajya will come. His Indianess is very well evident in the use of English. He speaks English in Indian manner. He does not bother himself about correctness. He applies many rules of Indian languages in English. He also adds some Hindi words while speaking English. He reads ‘The Times of India’ daily to improve his English. Yet he does not care about the rules of English language. He uses present for past and progressive for simple present. He also boasts of his knowledge. He speaks a famous line from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ but the line does not suit the present context. To cover it up he uses some high sounding words like: ‘Regeneration’ ‘Remuneration’ ‘Contraception’. These lines hardly carry any relevance. The final picture appears in our minds that he is a representative of the half-literate class of India.

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