The Patriot

-- Nissim Ezekiel

 I am standing for peace and non-violence.

 Why world is fighting fighting                          

 Why all people of world

 Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,

 I am simply not understanding.

 Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,

 I should say even 200% correct,

 But modern generation is neglecting-

 Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.


 Other day I'm reading newspaper

 (Every day I'm reading Times of India

 To improve my English Language)

 How one goonda fellow

 Threw stone at Indirabehn.

 Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.

 Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)

 Lend me the ears.

 Everything is coming -

 Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.

 Be patiently, brothers and sisters.


 You want one glass lassi?

 Very good for digestion.

 With little salt, lovely drink,

 Better than wine;

 Not that I am ever tasting the wine.

 I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,

 But I say

 Wine is for the drunkards only.


 What you think of prospects of world peace?

 Pakistan behaving like this,

 China behaving like that,

 It is making me really sad, I am telling you.

 Really, most harassing me.

 All men are brothers, no?

 In India also

 Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs

 All brothers -

 Though some are having funny habits.

 Still, you tolerate me,

 I tolerate you,

 One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.

 You are going?

 But you will visit again

 Any time, any day,

 I am not believing in ceremony

 Always I am enjoying your company.

Rarely has a poem been as popularly misunderstood as Nissim Ezekiel’s “The patriot”. Despite recognizing the funny language used, the narrative voice has been equated with the poet’s intention, as if his weakness for the language and his ‘purist’ notion of Indian nationalism are shared and sympathized by the poet himself.

What is worth noting is that the narrator is a character sharply distinguished from the poet. He is more akin to the speaker of a dramatic monologue, his listener being a skeptic, who despite being cajoled with a glass of ‘lassi’, finally manages to escape, obviously unconvinced of the narrator’s political philosophy.

Written in half-baked Indian English, Nissim Ezekiel’s “The Patriot” is a wry view of patriotism mixed with some fairly sarcastic political commentary. It appears to have been written around the time of the infamous Emergency in 1977 (which was invoked by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - to suppress her political rivals, according to some).

That particular Indira regime was marked by lots of corruption, a '20 point program' for regeneration, the forced sterilization of people (to implement a 'one family, one child' rule mooted by her power hungry and vicious son Sanjay Gandhi)...

Last modified: Tuesday, 10 August 2021, 1:11 AM