Rice by Chemmanam Chacko


Chemmanam Chacko is a brilliant satirist who has waged numerous battles against the establishment through his sarcastic and mocking works. He argues, ‘Sociopolitical sphere is much meek and limited compared with earlier times. Society has changed and with it, have the mass sensibilities.’ This poem ‘Rice’ is a parody on farmers forced to move from food crops to cash crops as the market for food crops collapsed.

The poem Rice was originally written in Malayalam and was translated into English by Prof. Ayyappa Panicker. The poem alludes to contemporary agricultural changes in our country and its diminishing importance as commercial crops and their associated benefits gain traction. In this poem, the poet returns to his country with a degree in husk toys. However, he is surprised to discover cash crops growing in the paddy fields.

Summary of Rice

Chemmanam Chacko’s Rice is a thought-provoking poem. After earning his PhD, the poet returns from North India. He dislikes North Indian cuisine and wishes to eat rice once he reaches Kerala. When he returns home, he expects to see his father hard at work in the fields. According to the poet, everyone will be busy in the field because it will be planting season. He wishes the train will move faster so he could meet everyone and eat rice more quickly.

He notices that everything has changed when he returns to his village. Rubber trees have been planted in place of rice trees around the city. Along with the rubber trees, there are arecanut palms and dealwood trees. When he returns home, he finds his father working on the rubber sheet manufacturing machine. He is taken aback that his father has no reservations about converting from rice plants to rubber. According to his father, rice growing is inconvenient and less lucrative than other crops. Due to the fact that the government distributes rice to those who lack paddy fields, nobody wishes to plant rice. When the poet’s brother comes with the government-supplied food, he discovers that they are made of wheat rather than rice. A plane flies above the poet’s residence. He imagines that the chief minister is making his way to the Centre to request additional wheat. Due to the fact that the state no longer cultivates food crops, the authorities must rely on grains from other states and the federal government.

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Analysis of Rice Poem

Chemmanam Chacko wrote the poem “Rice” in Malayalam and Prof. K. Ayyappa Paniker translated it into English. The poet describes his anticipation of what may occur when he returns to his residence after four years in the first part of the poem. The poet begins by stating that he is returning to his own state of Kerala after spending four years conducting studies in North India. He gained attention after demonstrating that toys could be made from the husk. He is currently travelling by rail. He is looking forward to having “a meal of athikira rice” because he is tired of chapaties. Now the poet depicts his father, “little brother,” and mother, as well as their reactions upon his arrival at his home. His father will be dressed in a “handloom dhoti” soiled with “yellow mud” in his fantasy. He would be overjoyed that water is being brought in via the Varanganal canal. The poet expects his father will notice him from afar and will loudly inquire, “And when did you start from there?” from behind the house’s field. According to the poet, the land is being ploughed by oxen and farmers because it is “planting season.”

When his younger brother sees the poet, he cheerfully runs towards him, carrying “tender saplings” of paddy that must be planted in the rice field. “Mother, brother’s arrived!” exclaims his younger sibling.

The poet then imagines himself having to travel through the paddy field in order to reach his house, which is adjacent to it. In his fantasy, he is cautiously strolling along the “dyke” in order to avoid damaging “the baskets of seed.” His mother will separate rice soup from rice while he is on his way home. With all of this in mind, he want to travel the greatest distance possible to his home.

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The poet observes the changes that occur when he returns to his own land in the second section. The bus eventually comes to a halt. The poet exits the bus in a cheerful manner. However, much to his surprise, a lot has changed. When he departed, all that remained were “palm-thatched houses.” There are no more “palm-thatched houses.” Additionally, there are “rubber plants” that are twice his height scattered around the area. These “rubber plants” are in substitution of paddy kinds “modan and vellaran.” He is now perplexed as to whether he choose the incorrect course.

The poet has now approached the house’s vicinity. A paddy field stood adjacent to his house four years ago. As a result, he anticipates being able to hear the yells of ploughing labourers. Regrettably, he is deafened by such cries. He is surprised. He discovers “arecanut palms” in that field, much to his dismay. Additionally, both banks of the canal include “dealwood trees.” The poet finally enters his home. On the “southern wing” of his house, he observes his father. His father is witnessing a man who is repairing the machine that produces rubber sheets. His father informs him that he has moved from rice agriculture to commercial plantation due to the lack of earnings. Paddy cultivation is practised by a small number of persons. Apart from that, the government distributes rice to citizens under the guise of rationing.

The poet’s younger brother appears at that point. The poet wishes to “have a full meal of athikira rice” upon seeing his brother. However, he is astounded to learn that his younger brother has recently purchased family rations. While observing these changes, the poet hears the sound of an aeroplane, which he refers to as the “ship of the sky.” He speculates that Kerala’s Chief Minister may have visited the “Centre” to request additional grains for Keralites. He now believes the Chief Minister is overlooking the cash crops that have decimated Kerala’s paddy production. As the poem concludes, the poet cynically inquires whether the Center will also provide him with husk for the purpose of making toys.

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