by A. K. Ramanujan
Questions and Answers for the Poem included in the CHSE +2 Alternative English book ‘Approaches to English – II’.
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Questions for discussion
1. What story does the poem tell us?
Answer – The poem depicts the endearing love of an middle-aged woman to the tall Champak trees in her yard. She does not allow the trees to be felled although their flowers cause her severe migraine.
2. What is its theme?
Answer – Love for flora, love for the well-being of descendants, and spirit of sacrifice of a mother for her family are the three hallmarks of this poem.
3. When does the speaker come home in a rage and why?
Answer – She is returning from school to discover that the Champak trees in her yard have burst into a sea of blossoms when rains fell after a prolonged dry period. The pollens cause allergy in her mother triggering severe headache. She can’t see her mother suffering doe to the pollens, and vents her anger on the trees.
4. How does the poet describe the fragrance of the Champak flowers?
Answer – The sweet fragrance has wafted in the air for nearly a mile away. The pollens float in the air refusing to move away with the wind.
5. How are the walls of the black-pillared house described?
Answer – It is an old house, whose walls have developed cracks here and there.
6. When the speaker says “had done it again” (Stanza 2), what is its effect? Does this expression convey approval or disapproval?
Answer – The speaker alludes to the copious blossoming of the Red Champaks that would soon bring misery to her mother. So, her she finds such a beautiful bounty of Nature unwelcome.
7. How are the words “sift” and “porous” related? What purpose do they serve in the poem?
Answer – Yes, the two words are related. Because of the minute holes in the walls, the pollens intrude inside. No amount of wind can sweep them away or ‘sift’ them from the house.
8. What makes the mother “flash” her temper?
Answer – When any suggestion to cut down the trees is mentioned, the mother angrily shoots down the idea.
9. “but mother flashing her temper like her mothers twisted silver, grand children’s knickers wet as the cold pack on her head” Explain the comparisons (similes) in these lines.
Answer – Like the curled twisted silver ornaments of her mother, she cringes her body to express her strong disapproval to the idea of cutting the trees. Here, her bent body is compared with the old twisted silvers, and the grandchildren’s knickers.
10. Which stanza do you find the most dramatic in the poem?
Answer – Stanza 10 is the most moving part of the poem. Here, the old lady’s concern for her successive progenies is mentioned. Her motherly love and sense of sacrifice come loud and clear in these lines.
11. What light does the poem throw on the Mother’s attitude?
Answer – The mother is extremely loving, dedicated to the family, and loves trees for the over-all benefits they bring.
12. How does the speaker’s attitude contrast with that of the mother?
Answer – The speaker is impulsive, and imperious, where as the mother is equanimous, stoic, and very caring.
1. Examine the appropriateness of the title ‘Ecology’ for the poem.
Answer – The poem centers around a cluster of Red Champak trees that have bloomed profusely. The rains came after a long dry spell. It seems the trees were holding back their beautiful extremely aromatic flowers till the rains came down from the skies. It should call for celebration. But, the rules of Ecology has some aberrations too. The pollens waft in the air all around, and in some rare cases cause migraine allergy in some persons. It, surely is an unintended consequence of the trees flowering and exhibiting their beauty to everybody around.
However, humans, particularly in tropical countries adore the Red Champaks for their coloured petals, and their bewitching fragrance. Women wear it in their hair passionately. This is the bond of the Red Champaks with humans, that has been there all along. As per the rules of Ecology, the flowers are irresistible to the visual and olfactory sense of humans. This attraction is universal.
The poem captures this bond between the humans and the Red Champaks, highlighting both its glorious and deleterious aspects. ‘Ecology’ is a scientific term, and the poem deals with human emotions. Despite such divergence, the title is apt, accurate, and justified.
2. Read the following poem by Nissim Ezekiel on a similar theme, and note the points of comparison and contrast between ‘Ecology’ and ‘Night of the Scorpion’.
Answer – The relation between the daughter and the Red Champak tree in full blossom is inimical. She wants the tree to be gone from the face of the earth.
In the scorpion, the villagers are in great rage against the scorpion for having stung the woman. They want to find it and kill it. None in the family or among neighbours has any love left for the scorpion. The fact that the woman is told that the poison is going to rid her of past sins, and bring happiness to the family can be attributed to their helplessness to counter the poison and relieve the pain. They are reconciled to the long hours of excruciating pain the woman is condemned to endure, and in their effort to console her, are discovering these imaginary virtues of the sting.
So, both poems bring out the harmful side of Nature, although in two different ways.
However, the poems have some contrasts too. The elderly woman loves the trees for its flowers her progeny would make use of for bedecking themselves. In case of the scorpion, there is no love lost between it and the humans around it. They want to kill it.