The Bus, by Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar

The Bus by Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar

The Bus is written by Marathi poet Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar. He wrote in Marathi and later tried in English too. Jejuri was his first book of English poetry. It is a collection of 31 poems about his visit to a religious place called Jejuri. The Bus is the first poem in this collection. His poems had humour about everyday matters. Marathi poets were greatly influenced by his works. Initially he was hesitant to write in English but it had great impact on contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie and Nizzim Ezekiel. This collection of poems was published in 1976 and it won the Commonwealth Writers prize in 1977. Born on 1st November 193 2 he died on 25th September 2004 at the age of 72.

Synopsis

The poet or the one who is travelling is in a state transport bus all the way to Jejuri and to keep the cold winds off the tarpaulins attached to the window is buttoned down. The tarpaulin keeps moving and hits the elbow of the passenger. It is night time and the bus is making a loud noise and it has been a long ride. The passenger is looking for signs of daybreak as that would mean that the destination was nearing. Since the bus windows are also closed he has look for signs of day break at the front glass where the light of the bus can be seen.

Since the tarpaulin is down one cannot look outside to see the countryside and the only thing to be seen is his own face in the spectacles of the old man sitting opposite to him. There are no actual signs of forward movement inside the bus but it seems the bus is continually moving forward. The forward destination for now is the old man’s face, his mark on the forehead beyond the eyebrows.

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Slowly the day has dawned and the lights are coming through the eyelets in the tarpaulin and reach the old man’s glasses. A sunbeam rests on the temple of the driver’s head and then the bus changes direction. The bus has come to its destination and its bumpy ride has come to an end. As he gets off he sees his face on the bus and then states that he did not step into the old man’s head.

Structure

The Bus is a free verse. There are 25 lines and does not any specific rhyme scheme.  It is descriptive poem as it describes the journey to Jejuri in very simple words. He describes the scene outside, the scene inside and the end of the journey. Like in most of poems there is a touch of humour in the lines. For instance these is a description which is very creative and funny.

Your own divided face in the pair of glasses

On an old man’s nose

The ride was so bumpy that he is glad that he did not enter the old man’s head. The poem ends with this line which is once again an instance to smile.

The pronoun ‘you’ is used many times and this is to impress upon the readers that the reader has to be a part of the ride. The poet is trying to stay away from the poem and is coaxing the reader to be a part of the journey. It is a way to hammer into the reader that he has to be a part and parcel of all that is happening in the bus.Syntactic constructions in the poem are descriptive yet simpleas the theme of the poem is also very ordinary and an everyday affair.

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Theme

The theme is mostly about the travel. The ride was bumpy and during the night. The weather outside is also described beautifully. The feelings of the passenger is also indicated when he is relieved with the first rays of sun. The bus must have been crowded but there is mention of only one old man as a co-passenger. The mention of the co-passenger takes us to the next theme which is religion. The mark on the forehead indicates the old man’s religion and caste. The idea of inflexibility is indicated in the phrase “you don’t step inside the old man’s head’.  While all are tuned to be on a pilgrimage, the passenger is non-involved and resistant to the sense of devotion. This shows the distance and objectivity with which the poet views religion. It seems that poet is an alien to Indian customs and religion while in reality he is very much grounded as an Indian. While there is heightened religious sensibility the poet puts forth a theme of alienation which is typical of a modern pilgrim. Sunlight is another theme that figures in the poem. There are lines which describe the way sun peaks into the bus. “Sawed off sunbean” indicates the sharpness of the sun rays. There is strong visual imagery and this is not surprising as he was also an artist. He has painted word pictures in the poem. The destination is Jejuri which is mentioned right at the beginning. Jejuri is a temple town where Lord Khanoba is the deity.

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Figure of Speech

The verbs ‘slapping’ and ‘whipping’ are used to give life to wind and so it is personification of wind. In the same manner the verbs ‘shoots’ and ‘aims’ personifies sun. The word ‘roaring’ is used to modify road while what the poet tries to convey is that bus is roaring meaning making a lot of noise. The state of the state transport bus is understood with this one modification. By using the word ‘caste mark’, the poet has used metonym. He has used this in place of the words ‘belonging to high caste’.

‘Your own divided face in the pair of glasses’

With a simple usage of ‘divided face’ he has conveyed that idea that his face looked divided as it was seen in two glasses. This is in some ways a metaphor.

The poem The Bus by Arun Kolatkar is a classic example of how ideas can be conveyed with minimal words. In fact it even descriptive with minimal words.