" When, finally, we reached the place,
We hardly know why we were there.
The trip had darkened every face,
Our deeds were neither great nor rare.
Home is where we have to gather grace.”
Indian English Literature is a true venture to depict the rare gems of Indian Writing in English. The literature has come a long way since its inception. It was a product of the colonial rule but since then, it has grown authentically and has attained an independent status in the world Literature. This literature highlights the Indian culture, tradition, social values and history. Authors bearing the flag of Indian English Writing include Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, R.K.Narayan, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand-to name a few. Indian Nissim Ezekiel, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Kamala Das are some of the poets constituting English Literature.
The poem “Enterprise” is written by Nissim Ezekiel and is part of the Indian English literary works. The poem is a quest and represents the journey of the travellers. The characteristic stance chosen by Ezekiel is irony. The poem is a quinetum, with six stanzas, each line with eight syllables. The rhyming scheme of the poem is ‘abab’. It is a closely-knit poem.
Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004) was born in Bombay, India and was part of the Jewish community. He was a poet, actor, editor, art critic and playwright. Ezekiel was the founder of the post-colonial Indian English poetry.
In 1983, he received ‘the Sahitya Akademi Award’ for his poetry collection, "Latter-Day Psalms", by the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters.
Bombay, Poet’s birthplace- Source: Google
The poem ‘Enterprise’ has autobiographical elements of Ezekiel’s from his sojourn to England. The quest of his ancestors to find their ‘promised land’. Also adds up to the autobiographical elements of the poem.
The Author – Source : India Content
‘Enterprise’ is a quest for home and for belongingness. The journey that starts with hope and faith and ends with the thoughts of survival. The end line ‘home is where we have to earn our grace’ is a special 5 syllable line to indicate the flexibility of mind at home and its importance Ezikiel journey to find a home ground and to develop its identity from scratch is what constitutes the poem. The poem is sort of a moral lesson for the search of home and to learn from journey rather than to be in hurry to reach home.
The themes of spirituality, hope and belongingness. The idea of impermanence is also visible throughout the poem. The journey starts with a group of enthusiastic people, full of hope and faith. The energy was so high that even the sun was reflecting their energy. This can also be taken for the interpretation of Ezikiel’s ancestors leaving their homeland for the search of new home but the decision making and rough patches lead to differences in the group and depart on their own ways. The quest continues to be mundane and hopeless.
Pilgrimage or a journey – Source : Google
The poem speaks on three levels, personal, communitarian and national. At personal it speaks of the journey from innocence to experience and from childhood to adulthood. The ambitions require to reach the destination and trials and tribulations faced in the way. At communitarian level, it is the quest for their promised land and belongingness. At national, it is the journey of freedom and independence and the aftermath of post-partition India.
Journey of freedom- Source : Google
The message of the journey being more important than the destination is reflected in the poem. The things to learn on the ways from people, the experience and to think deep on things than to take them on face value. But in the end ignorance takes over as seen in lines ‘when finally, we reached the place, we hardly knew why we were there’. The destination and journey became meaningless and all they thought was their efforts went in vain. The irony is seen at the end where the trip started with bright faces and high hopes and ending with darkened faces, maybe because of tiredness or from their lost hopes. They realise their deeds ae neither great nor rare and home is where we have to earn our grace meaning there is no such special place to travel to and home is built from respect and love.
Journey from childhood to adulthood- Source: Google
Poetry is not exactly what I read, surely, I have come across some amazing works of poetry but it is not what I’ll search or read in my leisure time. But the poem “Enterprise” made read and search more poems by the Indian English poets. The poem speaks to you on an individual level, as if it is specifically conveying the message to you itself. But the fact that it has so many layered meanings resonates a sense of belongingness to others as well. The poem is a quest about finding your identity, your home. The autobiographical elements add to the authenticity of the poem. The poem carries important lessons and messages for life. The poem echoes that in the race to be successful, people have lost the their true inner feelings and the true meaning of life. To find the purpose of living, people have actually stopped living. The poem is a spiritual one talking on communitarian as well as national level.
‘Enterprise’ becomes the pilgrimage of hopes, lessons, freedom and identity and one of the milestones in Indian English poetry.