Ecology: A K Ramanujan
1. The Champak trees were seeded by a passing bird’s providential droppings.
2. The poet does not believe in the story of the origin of the champak trees. He is critical and sarcastic.
3. The poet comes home in a rage on seeing the three red champak trees in full bloom after the first rain.
4. The mother lost her temper on hearing that the champak trees could be cut down.
1. The poet’s house is a black-pillared house; it’s walls had ears and eyes. It is an old house in bad repair. The doors and windows creak and there are holes all over the walls. Hence it is “porous”. The sights, sounds and smells associated with it are dull and dismal. The poet mentions scales, bone-creaks, and nightly visiting voices.
2. The poet’s mother flashes her temper, like her “twisted silver”, on hearing that the Champak trees have to be cut down. She would not let her children cut down a flowering tree. The Champak tree is almost as old as her. They were seeded by a passing bird’s providential droppings. The trees give her gods, daughters and daughter’s daughters, basketfuls of annual flower. Hence the mother stubbornly refuses to have the trees cut down.
3. The poet’s attitude to the champak trees is antithetical to his mother’s. He represents the modern generation. The champak trees give mother severe migraines every year. This gets the poet into a rage. Ironically, mother endures the headache without complaints. The poet thinks that the trees have to be cut down. But on hearing it, mother flashes her temper. The Champak tree is almost as old as her. They were seeded by a “passing bird’s providential droppings”. The trees give her gods, daughters and daughter’s daughters, basketfuls of annual flower. The poet, however, sees them as a source of trouble every year.
4. The fragrance of the champak trees is strong and pungent. The fragrance gave the poet’s mother blinding migraines every year. No wind could sift such a fragrance. And no door could shut it out of his house. The fragrance of the pollen grains hung heavy in the air. The “street-long yellow pollen” fog gave forth a strong fragrance.
Q: How does the attitude of the mother towards the Champak trees conflict with that of the children?
In the present age of ecological crisis, A K Ramanujan’s ‘Ecology’ is a thematically and aesthetically relevant poem. The poem depicts many contrasts. It describes the contrasts in attitudes, beliefs and values of two generations.
‘Ecology’ deals with a mother’s attitude of reverence to “the three red Champak trees” in her home yard. She blindly believes that they were seeded by a passing bird’s “providential droppings”. Also, the trees are as old as her. They provide flowers for her Gods, daughters and granddaughters. The mother has a near-sacred attachment to trees. She identifies her advancing age with their uncertain existence.
On the other hand, the poet (her son) comes home “in a rage”on seeing that the trees have “done it again”. Thus the trees in full bloom are presented as ‘trouble makers’. The poet reasons out his dislike by stating that it their yellow pollen fog would give mother a “blinding migraine”. He would not believe in the myth about their origin. He is a man of reason. He wants a seamless perfect life. The poet goes on to describe his house in dull and dismal images. The doors and windows creak and there are holes all over. Hence the house is porous.
On hearing the son’s plan to cut down the trees, mother flashes her temper, like her ‘twisted silver.’ She would not let her children cut down a flowering tree. A full bloom is clearly a symbol of vitality. So, the mother shows an attitude of respect and concern for life and nature. The mother willingly endures pain every year. But the poet sees her migraine as a pretext for him, to fell the tree. The mother’s blind beliefs and reasons may not be convincing. But, it is full of wisdom. The mother is unaware of the ecological implications of her beliefs and actions. Hence the title is ironic.
The use of colours sounds and sights add to the beauty of the poem. The poem suggests a paradigm shift from an anthropocentric (man-centred) to an ecocentric worldview. It upholds new social values also. The care of nature is presented here as, the care of oneself and one’s family. Thus the poem can be read on the lines of deep ecology. Though deceptively simple, the poem can stir our thoughts and actions, towards a greener life.
Neethu Tessa Baby
Assumption College Changanacherry