Freedom by Jayanta Mahapatra

Freedom by Jayanta Mahapatra

At times, as I watch,
it seems as though my country’s body
floats down somewhere on the river.

Here, old widows and dying men
cherish their freedom,
bowing time after time in obstinate prayers.

Left alone, I grow into
a half-disembodied bamboo,
its lower part sunk
into itself on the bank.

While children scream
with this desire for freedom
to transform the world
without even laying hands on it.

In my blindness, at times I fear
I’d wander back to either of them.
In order for me not to lose face,
it is necessary for me to be alone.

Not to meet the woman and her child
in that remote village in the hills
who never had even a little rice
for their one daily meal these fifty years.

And not to see the uncaught, bloodied light
of sunsets cling to the tall white columns
of Parliament House.

In the new temple man has built nearby,
the priest is the one who knows freedom,
while God hides in the dark like an alien.

And each day I keep looking for the light
shadows find excuses to keep.

Trying to find the only freedom I know,
the freedom of the body when it’s alone.

The freedom of the silent shale, the moonless coal,
the beds of streams of the sleeping god.

I keep the ashes away,
try not to wear them on my forehead.

About the author: Jayanta Mahaputra

Jayanta Mahapatra(1928) is an Indian English poet. He is the first Indian poet to win Sahitya Akademi award for English poetry. He laid the foundation of Indian English poetry along with A.K.Ramanujan and R.Parthasarathy. His other works include, ‘Relationships’ (poetry volume), and ‘Door of Paper: Essay and Memoirs’ (Short story anthology).

Know more about him at:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayanta_Mahapatra

Summary of ‘Freedom’ by Jayanta Mahapatra

The poet sees ashes of dead body float down the river of his country. He is like a half disembodied bamboo, the lower part stuck in the bank. He watches them attain freedom as their ashes flow. The old widows and old men find freedom after death but the young generation thrives to find the freedom to change the world yet they cannot. The poet wonders of being either of them but prefers to be alone. The political system nor the religious system saves the people. God lives in darkness and only the priest benefits from being a mediator between God and the people. The Gods remain slaves, the priest and politicians rule and find luxury while others are dying of hunger. A lady and her child do not have anything to eat since Indian Independence. They do not even have one meal a day, but we have built temples. The poet concludes that freedom is found only after death and that he wouldn’t be part of any religion. He says that only the coal and shale know freedom, the body and the soul have to be separated to find freedom.

Analysis of ‘Freedom’ by Jayanta Mahapatra

The poem ‘Freedom’ portrays the Indian belief system about death as freedom from the body. Freedom is the leitmotif in the poem.

The poem ‘Freedom’ is written in the first-person point of view. It consists of 12 stanzas and has no definite structure. It perhaps resembles the trouble of the author’s mind in finding freedom even after fifty years of Indian Independence.

Themes of the poem. ‘Freedom’ include freedom, death and patriotism. It talks about how India is still dependent on the rulers, even after Indian Independence. There several symbols of politics and religion touched upon to show that the poet is referring to India.

At times, as I watch,
it seems as though my country’s body
floats down somewhere on the river.

The poet watches the bodies(dead bodies) float down the river. This refers to the Hindu tradition, where a body is cremated and ashes are let into the river.

Left alone, I grow into
a half-disembodied bamboo,
its lower part sunk
into itself on the bank.

The poet feels like he is a body-less bamboo that has its lower part stuck in the earth on the bank. It perhaps could refer to the people of the country destroying it – biting hands that feed you. It could also refer to the ashes that flow down the river and end up on the banks from a dead cremated body.

Here, old widows and dying men
cherish their freedom,
bowing time after time in obstinate prayers.

Here, meaning on the banks of the river, only old widows and dying men cherish their freedom by praying to God though it is hopeless. This sounds a bit ironical, how could dying or dead people cherish freedom? Perhaps, the author is saying that freedom is only cherished once a person is dead. And only after their obstinate or stubborn prayers.

While children scream
with this desire for freedom
to transform the world
without even laying hands on it.

The children crave for freedom so that they can change the world. The young generation in India desire freedom but they are unable to transform the country.

In my blindness, at times I fear
I’d wander back to either of them.
In order for me not to lose face,
it is necessary for me to be alone.

The poet wanders that even if he is part of the young or old generations he cannot face them. Because it is necessary for him to remain alone.

Not to meet the woman and her child
in that remote village in the hills
who never had even a little rice
for their one daily meal these fifty years.

The poet talks about a woman and her child and how their economically poor condition has lead them to not even a meal a day since Indian independence. This makes us question why those people would fight for freedom when they can’t even earn their daily bread.

And not to see the uncaught, bloodied light
of sunsets cling to the tall white columns
of Parliament House.

Now, he touches on the political aspects of India, and how people are ignorant to it as they are more concerned to fight for their bread.

In the new temple man has built nearby,
the priest is the one who knows freedom,
while God hides in the dark like an alien.

The priest in the man-made temple nearby is the only one who knows about freedom. He is the only one who can communicate with God. They enjoy the power freedom by being the mediator between God and the people. God, who is supposed to be free lives in the dark like an alien-unknown.

And each day I keep looking for the light
shadows find excuses to keep.

The celebration of freedom has several obstacles and death is the only way to true freedom. As the poet keeps looking for a light, the shadows betray him.

Trying to find the only freedom I know,
the freedom of the body when it’s alone.

Now, through this stanza, we can assume that the poet means that by being ‘alone’ the poetry means ‘death’. The only freedom the poet knows of is that when a body is left alone or dead. When the ashes float down the river the body finds freedom.

The freedom of the silent shale, the moonless coal,
the beds of streams of the sleeping god.

Here, the poet refers to rocks and river, only they have true freedom as they remain dead.

I keep the ashes away,
try not to wear them on my forehead.

The poet does not wear the ashes on the forehead and tries to keep them away. Here, the poem might also refer to religion, that he would not be a priest and wear ashes on his forehead. The ashes may refer to the ashes of dead people too, that he fears death.

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Mercy Hapsiba

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Anonymous
Anonymous
16 days ago

Nicely written!

Christina Weidlich Klaus holger
Christina Weidlich Klaus holger
16 days ago

Super👌👌👌👌