Full version Small Scale Reflections Of A Great House

Small Scale Reflections Of A Great House

This print version free essay Small Scale Reflections Of A Great House.

Category: English

Autor: reviewessays 22 February 2011

Words: 997 | Pages: 4

Ramanujan’s poem, ‘Small Scale Reflections on a Great House’, with it’s antithetical title is a catalogue of memories combining comedy and pathos while bringing out the truth that life is a journey comprising o joy, sorrow, success, failure, good times and bad times all stored in one’s memories

The poem begins with the poet stating that the house retains everything that comes in. “Sometimes I think that nothing that ever comes into this house goes out.” Trivial things that would come in would only “lose themselves among other things lost long ago among other things lost long ago.” Giving the impression that the big house was filled with lost objects into which other lost objects would merge. A hint of irony is seem when the poet speaks of borrowed library books that were never read which are long over due and still remain in the house. He mentions little eggs that have been laid in ledgers by insects in the “old man’s office room” where silverfish “breed dynasties among” succulent legal parchments dating back to the Victorian era which speaks of how old the house really us

The poet mentions servants, who went on to stay in the house for generations and whose children too did the same, the phonograph that was never sold as well hereditary diseases such as “epilepsies in the blood” that were passed on in each generation and never quite left the house. With tongue-in-cheek humour, the poet scoffs at “son in laws who forget their mothers” as they have become so comfortable in their wife’s home and being inept, do petty tasks around the house like “check accounts or teach arithmetic to nieces.”

The poet then mentions how other south Indian women would come to the house as wives to sons ‘from houses open on one side to rising sons on another to the setting,” a characteristic feature of homes in southern India where women are “accustomed to wait and to yield to monsoons in the mountains’ calendar.” This draws up vivid imagery of typical a south Indian home where the coming of the monsoons, which are by far the most important season, is eagerly anticipated as relief from the summer heat.

The poet also recalls how things that would leave the house would eventually “come back processed and often with long bills attached,” This is followed by a historical reference to the above mentioned commercial metaphor to when “hooped bales of cotton” were “shipped off to invisible Manchester” which was then processed in mills and returned to India as cloth. As another example of things returning to the house, the poet speaks of letter mailed that would travel across India but would finally return to the sender “with many redirections to wrong addresses and red marks” earned in various towns and cities.

He recollects how ideas would behave like rumours, “once casually mentioned somewhere they would come back to the door as prodigies born to prodigal fathers” as they had evolved to such an extent that one could barely recognize it, “with eyes that vaguely look like our own.” He recollects his Uncle telling him of Plotinus, a philosopher who believed in the concept of Neo-Platonism and of Alexander who grew richer and more powerful with each invasion but finally did turn homeward. Similarly the ideas too were exaggerated as it was passed on, but finally did make it back home to its source

The poet remarks how nothing would stay out of the great house. He recollects how a “beggar once came with a violin to croak out a prostitute song” which then their cook, who was other wise taciturn, picked up the tune of and would constantly sing in their back yard. How “daughters who got married to short lived idiots” would eventually return when their marriages ended, as well as the son who had run away “would come back in their grandchildren” who still upheld the traditions and culture that had hitherto existed. They would “recite Sanskrit to approving old men” or “bring betel nuts for visiting uncles” who in turn would tell them stories of their fathers who they had never seen or as generations had been doing, would “bring Ganges water in a copper pot for the last of the dying ancestor’s rattle in the throat.” As in Hindu culture, the waters of the river Ganga are considered sacred and pure.

But this isn’t all that has come to the great house. The poet says “that though many times from everywhere” in the past, people and things have come in, “recently only twice” has death visited the house. “once in nineteen forty three” when the body of one of the family members fighting in the Sahara during WWII was returned “half gnawed by desert foxes” and more recently somewhere in the north a nephew who held a rank in the army had died in an encounter which was reported merely as “an incident on the border” showing how death is reduced to something so impersonal as an ‘incident.’ The body was bought home by plane, train and later a military truck. The family was in a genial mood and completely unprepared for it, as the telegram informing them of the death hadn’t reached when the body arrived “on a perfectly good chatty afternoon.” The poem ends abruptly as tragedy shatters the relaxed atmosphere like a shutter falling, cutting off the aftermath of the tragic event. The poem ends on an antithesis, as something as dark as death is contrasted to a bright day.

Ramanujan’s poem is filled with numerous memories of his childhood that give a distinct picture of life in those days. Even the smallest of details enhances the description of any event or object albeit a trivial one. The powerful hold the old family house has on him can be clearly seen as he reminisces about the minor incidents in his life while growing up that have remained with him even years later clearly showing the impact it had on him