Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa TS

our dear sister
is departing for foreign
in two three days,
we are meeting today
to wish her bon voyage.

You are all knowing, friends,
what sweetness is in Miss Pushpa.
I don’t mean only external sweetness
but internal sweetness.
Miss Pushpa is smiling and smiling
even for no reason
but simply because she is feeling.

Miss Pushpa is coming
from very high family.
Her father was renowned advocate
in Bulsar or Surat,
I am not remembering now which place.

Surat? Ah, yes,
once only I stayed in Surat
with family members
of my uncle’s very old friend,
his wife was cooking nicely…
that was long time ago.

Coming back to Miss Pushpa
she is most popular lady
with men also and ladies also.
Whenever I asked her to do anything,
she was saying, ‘Just now only
I will do it.’ That is showing
good spirit. I am always
appreciating the good spirit.
Pushpa Miss is never saying no.
Whatever I or anybody is asking
she is always saying yes,
and today she is going
to improve her prospect
and we are wishing her bon voyage.

Now I ask other speakers to speak
and afterwards Miss Pushpa
will do summing up.

– Nissim Ezekiel

Submitted by:

Tia, who says “A colleague showed me this poem, I think for Indians in general it needs no explanation as to what Ezekiel is doing!”


I like a number of Ezekiel poems, and one of the things common to most of them is how he manages to pick out a convincingly Indian-sounding voice when writing in English. Sometimes he does a bang-up job of using the right phrase, at other times it sounds clunky, or not quite right somehow.

On a personal note, I’ve been guilty of this exact phenomenon on occasion, except that I transliterate from English into Tamil, and then realise after the fact just how wrong it sounds. It’s getting better, but I can sympathise, commiserate, what have you, with the narrative voice.

You can hear the poem being read out loud here. We’ve run other poems by Ezekiel. You can read a short bio of Nissim Ezekiel here and a longer obituary piece here.

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  1. Ravi

    Hm, I don’t like this poem all that much. I studied it as a part of my English literature course and then as now, I consider it a horrible example of the gloating way Indians (and many foreigners who write travelogues on the country) who are fluent in English regard people who aren’t. It strikes me as very patronising.

    On the other hand, I think this is a brilliant poem by Nissim E. It has a very pulpish title but just reads so well. Let me know what you think. I’m 100% sure you’ve read this before seeing as you are much more of a poetry fan than I am.


    I remember the night my mother
    was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
    of steady rain had driven him
    to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

    Parting with his poison – flash
    of diabolic tail in the dark room –
    he risked the rain again.

    The peasants came like swarms of flies
    and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
    to paralyse the Evil One.

    With candles and with lanterns
    throwing giant scorpion shadows
    on the mud-baked walls
    they searched for him: he was not found.
    They clicked their tongues.
    With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.

    May he sit still, they said
    May the sins of your previous birth
    be burned away tonight, they said.
    May your suffering decrease
    the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
    May the sum of all evil
    balanced in this unreal world

    against the sum of good
    become diminished by your pain.
    May the poison purify your flesh

    of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
    they said, and they sat around
    on the floor with my mother in the centre,
    the peace of understanding on each face.
    More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
    more insects, and the endless rain.
    My mother twisted through and through,
    groaning on a mat.
    My father, sceptic, rationalist,
    trying every curse and blessing,
    powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
    He even poured a little paraffin
    upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
    I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
    I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
    After twenty hours
    it lost its sting.

    My mother only said
    Thank God the scorpion picked on me
    And spared my children.

    Posted August 4, 2011 at 15:26 | Permalink | Reply
  2. Madhu

    Hey, Ravi. I can see how this poem might seem patronizing, and I can’t say if it was meant to be. What I’d like to believe is that he’s gently helping us laugh about ourselves, but also acknowledge that this is who we are. Everyone knows someone like this, yes? And I think so long as you get the point across, it’s okay. It might niggle at me on occasion because I’m a closet grammar/language fiend, but I also *know* what my Tamil and Hindi sound like, so who am I to judge? I might be trilingual, but not comfortably and interchangeably… It’s more fun to say you love a language and savour nuances and beauty than it is to be super-critical and sit in judgement on everyone speaking it. Besides which, I think when it comes to languages, the accent is the most easily come by – the structure not so much, because it’s as much patterns of putting ideas together in a sentence as it is anything else. I find linguistics very interesting, especially as it ties in to neurology.
    Back to Ezekiel – I read this poem in school. I think they shouldn’t force-feed poetry in school, it has such a deleterious effect. I couldn’t read it for the longest time without a mental image of English class. Reading it as an adult, I won’t say I *love* it, but some of the imagery is very vivid, and the turns of phrase very well done. He’s someone that is a great example of how you can make English relevant to and speak for people who’re not latte-sipping city-dwellers.

    Posted August 4, 2011 at 15:50 | Permalink | Reply

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