A CRITICAL ANALYSIS
“Obituary” by A. K.Ramanujan describes the aftermath poetic person’s father’s death and al things he left behind,physical and emotional.The word ‘obituary’means a notice of death in a newspaper including a brief biography.By describing his father’s life and death ,A.K. Ramanujan alludes the transience of human life in his poem.The poem discusses the death of his father and his own sufferings.It is written in first person narrative,the son is the persona in the poem describing his father’s life and death.There are two obituaries in this poem;the one published in the newspaper and the other the poetic recreation.
The poem begins with the persona telling the reader that his father died.When he died he left behind a lot .Ramanujan lists the things that his father had left behind;dust and old papers,debts,daughters and a grandson named after him.In the first stanza poet gives importance to the meaningless things by focusing on what the father left behind.Instead of admiring his father the persona enlists the burden and responsibilities that his father left behind after his death through this the poet alludes the absurdity of life.These lines also shows the culture of typical Indian family.The poet is more concerned about the duties which he has to perform and the description itself indicates the impermanence of human life.
Ramanujan juxtaposes the themes of transience of life and also ridicules the rituals practised after death in the Indian society.In the second stanza persona says that he has inherited a house from his father which is leaning on a coconut tree and thus in bad condition.The poetic persona deliberately explains how his father cremated.Poet draws the readers attention towards the coin that is left in the ashes ,looking the same as when it went in to the fire alongside there were also several spinal discs.It symbolically represents no matter how great or unimportant a person is death will reduce them in to ashes.The ritual also related to the tradition of putting coins on a dead person’s eyes when they are buried.
The poem ‘Obituary’ is a satire that ridicules the rituals conducted after the death of a person and states its insignificance. The poet explicitly states that neither was his father’s birth is much important nor was his death. The son,the speaker and his brothers engages in a ritual throwing the bits of bones in to the river.This shows that the how they performs the Hindu rituals and it happens somewhere near railway station.Third stanza of the poem alludes how the priest forces the sons to do the rituals; the priest advises them to pick gingerly the burnt spinal cords and to throw in to the river.”Obituary” is a fine poem, which is steeped in irony because the rituals are practised for honouring and remembering the died person but here the poet ridicules it.The father’s ashes,the tangible evidence of the man left behind, are thrown in to river and there is no headstone with the dates of his birth and death.The author reflects that this man cremated and disappeared all too easily from this physical existence.
The poem is a reminder of whatever we accomplish in life ultimately leave to posterity and also reminding the transience of human life.The persona says that his father was born in a Brahmin ghetto and he died by heart failure in the fruit market, here he contrasts places with important events. The poet connotes that whether a person is born in an elite family or not all are equal before death.His fathe’rs birth and death was ordinary and his father achieved nothing in his life.All he gained in his life worth mentioning,the two line obituary inserted in a local Madras newspaper.Even the newspaper’s name is not mentioned in the poem this underlines the triviality of whatever the father has achieved.Earlier on the poet used to read the news papers which had groceries like salt and jaggery wrapped up in it.However,now a days he does it for the reason that some day he may succeed in finding those lines relating to his father’s obituary. Thus the poet attempts to find some meaning of his father’s existence in life .
There are two obituaries in this poem; the one published in the newspaper and the other the poem itself.The poem reflects on how a person’s life has been reduced to a two line obituary a newspaper.There are many imageries in the poem ”Obituary”;images are concrete,precise,accurate,real and highly suggestive. All the imageries employed in the poem reminds the readers about the inevibility of death .To conclude the family is left with annual rituals which were started by a man who is no longer alive. The poet shows his dislike for the rituals which is celebrated in the memory of his father for his peace . Ramanujan’s poetry incorporates a sustained quest ,the quest for roots in the tradition and the quest for a higher self.