Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S. by Nissim Ezekiel

our dear sister
is departing for foreign
in two three days,
we are meeting today
to wish her bon voyage.

You are all knowing, friends,
What sweetness is in Miss Pushpa.
I don’t mean only external sweetness
but internal sweetness.
Miss Pushpa is smiling and smiling
even for no reason but simply because
she is feeling.

Miss Pushpa is coming
from very high family.
Her father was renowned advocate
in Bulsar or Surat,
I am not remembering now which place.

Surat? Ah, yes,
once only I stayed in Surat
with family members
of my uncle’s very old friend-
his wife was cooking nicely…
that was long time ago.

Coming back to Miss Pushpa
she is most popular lady
with men also and ladies also.

Whenever I asked her to do anything,
she was saying, ‘Just now only
I will do it.’ That is showing
good spirit. I am always
appreciating the good spirit.

Pushpa Miss is never saying no.
Whatever I or anybody is asking
she is always saying yes,
and today she is going
to improve her prospect
and we are wishing her bon voyage.
Now I ask other speakers to speak
and afterwards Miss Pushpa
will do summing up.

Summary and Analysis

The poem is a parody of the Indian English as used by some people in India on certain occasions of social, commercial, or administrative importance. Here Miss Pushpa’s farewell party is a social gathering and the poem is in the form of a speech made by a relative or a friend on the occasion. And it seems he is the lead speaker here. Since the poem is meant to be a source of humour, all that one can do is to enjoy it as such, and in the process note the typical Indian nuances of expression, thought and manner which result in amusing distortions of the language as used by the Indian Babus.

The feature of Indian English that the poem reveals are the frequent use of present continuous in place of simple present tense, the literal translation of Indian idioms and phrases, the rambling course of thought an un-English way of placing words (syntax), the amusing connotations that the words receive and, above all, the craze for ‘foreign’ that prevails all over India. In fact, the poem is an amiable satire on this widespread xenophobia of the Indians. Thus the occasion to go abroad is a cherished landmark in the career of an Indian, a veritable take-off stage for social and material advancement. The friends and relatives on such occasions naturally tend to be rather too extravagant in their praise of the person going abroad, and such extravagance of praise, like the excess of sentiment is another typically Indian characteristic that the poem satirizes.

Dear sister: A typically Indian characteristic of a woman being addressed as a ‘sister’ by a male of more or less her own age group. The word ‘sister’ is supposed to lend moral respectability to his relationship with the woman. For an Indian any elderly woman is a mother (Mataji) or an ‘aunt’, and an elderly man an ‘uncle’ even though no relationship exists. The use of the word ‘dear’, the poet seems to imply, indicates excessive sentimentalism. In fact, however, it merely translates a very formal expression of address used all over India on such occasion when we are using any of our own Indian languages. The amusing effect arises, here as elsewhere, out of the speaker’s attempt to impose on words and expressions cultural connotations which do not belong to them. And, of course, he is blissfully unaware of what he is doing. (Another example of a similar ‘misuse’ is the expression ‘your good name’).

Departing: This is the first example of the present continuous tense being used for the simple present. In the whole poem you find numerous such examples of faulty grammar that characterizes Babu English : other examples are ‘meeting’, ‘knowing’, ‘smiling’, ‘feeling’, ‘coming’, etc..

Foreign: The use of the word ‘foreign’ is among the most common errors of the Indian English, the word often being pronounced as ‘phoren’.

Two three days: This is an example of literal translation of the Indian expression, ‘do teen din’. The correct expression would be “…is going abroad in two or three days”.

Bon voyage: bon is a French word meaning ‘good’, and is used to wish her a happy journey.

You are… is feeling : The lines are full of verbs used in present continuous in place of simple present tense. ‘smiling’ indicates her external sweetness and ‘feeling’ her internal sweetness.

Surat?…time ago: Here the speaker indulges in a characteristic though irrelevant digression of thought, talking about his own experience of Surat and referring to the nice cooking of his uncle’s very old friend’s wife. This way of referring to a distant relations or remote acquaintances is also a typical Indian habit. Note also the amusing effect of the intransitive use of ‘cook’ here.

Men also…also: An example of wrong placing of words and superfluous usage. Just now only : faulty translation of Indian expression.

Improve her prospect: The journey abroad is regarded to be an important milestone in the advancement of one’s career. He uses ‘prospect’ in place of ‘prospects’.

Summing up: Another faulty though funny expression. Miss Pushpa is supposed to express her thanks, not do any ‘summing up’.

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