I Am Cripple is a poem from the division Being Human in which the poet, being a crippled creature who has been suffering the painful experiences in life, comes to the feet of God for getting relieved from the perils of life.
I Am Cripple appears in the section entitled Being Human in Says Tuka. The devotee is grieved that he is crippled who lost his hands, legs and all other limbs. Therefore, he has to move sliding across the barbs of the fences, thickets and stumps of the trees that give him more pain. As he is crippled, he is unable to walk like a normal human being. The poet feels that he has become an orphan and he has none close to him to look after him.
The poet, being a crippled and orphan is walking abnormally and thus his journey of life is a strenuous and perilous one. In search of someone who will take him out of these troubles, the poet is tired and fatigued as he fails in finding a support. This journey of his life has become more painful, and he cannot find the compassionate soul to rescue him from the grief.
The poet prays to God Vitthal, the ruler of Pandhari. He entreats God to show him the way to come out of the troubles as the God has done in the past. Many saints sang abhangas for Hari, the God. And the same God has restored or cured the maimed souls and injured human beings. The poet, therefore, hopefully expresses his wish to restore the limbs and make him normal, and to save the orphan from the strenuous experiences of life.
The poet looks upon God as his father and mother. And God, being the parent of all orphans in the world can provide the poet with food, because the poet has lost his property, and shared his hoarded grains among the masses during the famine of 1629. Later he has moved to many people for asking for the food, but he was turned away. Finally, he goes to God Vitthal for food.
In this two-line stanza or a couplet, the poet speaks of his hapless plight. Though he is helpless, his hope does not let him stay still. So he continues to be moving.
This stanza delves into the confused mind of the poet. He doesn‘t know what‘s right and what‘s wrong, nor does he know what his crimes are. He is hanging around and hovering at the same place. He seems to have lost his memory and cut off from his roots. The poet‘s condition is like a moth without wings which is unable to reach the flame; the moth can see the flame though. It strives to reach the illumination of the light from distance, but in vain. Likewise the poet is incapable of reaching his light because his wings are chopped off by the time.
The poet earnestly requests the great saints to bless him, since he has come far off in order to get cured. He submits to the God and prostrates before him to heal his wounds and give him relief.
The poet has lost many things in his personal life. He has lost his wife, parents and child, and his elder brother leaves home renounced in order to be devoted to their clan god. It is therefore he has to look after his family including the deserted wife of his elder brother and his younger brother. The famine has stirred him greatly. Meanwhile, he has closely realized the importance and ephemeral nature of life. These are the incidents that changed him and made him feel that he has been crippled. His comparison to a cripple person whose life is fraught with many perils and pains calls for an external support from somebody to rescue the crippled person. Thus, he desperately needs support in life because he is an orphan, and he is turned away by the people surrounding him. He finds god as the only source of solace.
The poet compares his state of mind with three images: a crippled person, central image of the poem, an orphan, and a striving wingless moth. In all the comparisons the poet is a helpless creature though he has a strong will to conquer. On the other hand, the god is equated to a supporting cane in the hand of crippled the parents or caretaker of an orphan, and the wings to the birds or insects to mount up or progress.
The poem depicts the devotee – god relationship. It is a variant of archetype: relationship between creator-creature. Hari, Vitthal of Pandhari, has always been the source of inspiration, rescuer of the inflicted, and the patron of the whole world. The devotee delineated in the poem attempts to reach his God through the bhakti marg or selfless devotion.
The language of the poem (the abhangas) is so lyrical and musical as originally it was meant for singing in praise of God Pandurag. It has got the purity and divinity suitable to the language of communication/ negotiation between God and His worshipper.
The poem alludes to the painful experiences of Tukaram and mirrors the time in Tukaram‘s life when he was frustrated by the catastrophes in his life.