This is a narration of the ordeals the poet’s mother undergoes through when she is bitten by a scorpion on a very rainy night. The villagers pour in and search for the scorpion. They are very superstitious and believe all sorts of things - that she has been punished for sins in her past life. The poet’s father tries all sorts of herbal remedies and the holy man performs his rites. Finally, the poet’s mother recovers and is grateful that the scorpion bit her and did not harm her children.
I. Which of the following insects/animals are venomous? Discuss with your partner and complete the following table:
Black Widow Spider
Gila monster lizard
Venomous insects/ animals
– Adder, Viper
– Rat, Crab Spider
– Cockroach, Assassin bug
– Platypus, Toad
– Black Widow Spider
– Tarantula, Gila monster lizard
II. How would you treat a person who has been bitten by a venomous insect/ animal? Put a tick (P) against a correct option and a cross (x) against an incorrect option.
Keep the victim quiet and still to keep circulation to minimum and to keep the venom from spreading.
Immobilize the affected part in a position below the level of the heart.
Remove rings, bracelets, watches, and other jewellery from any affected limb.
Remove any sting left in the skin by squeezing the site of the sting.
Apply constricting bands above and below the site.
Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water.
Apply any soothing ointment to an insect bite.
Place ice directly on the skin or wrap the limb with ice.
Give the victim coffee.
Seek medical aid immediately.
Keep the victim quiet still to keep circulation to minimum and to keep the venom from spreading. (P)
Immobilize the affected part in a position below the level of the heart. (P)
Remove rings, bracelets, watches, and other jewellery from any affected limb. (P)
Remove any sting left in the skin by squeezing the site of the sting. (P)
Apply constricting bands above and below the site. (P)
Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water. (x)
Apply any soothing ointment to an insect bite. (P)
Place ice directly on the skin or wrap the limb with ice. (P)
Give the victim coffee. (x)
Seek medical aid immediately. (P)
IV. Answer the following questions:
Why did the villagers pray to God to paralyse the scorpion? Ans.
The villagers prayed to God to paralyse the scorpion because they believed that the movement of the scorpion caused its poison to spread in the poet’s mother’s blood.
Explain why the poet calls the world “unreal”? Ans.
The poet calls the world “unreal” because the villagers believe that there is as much of evil in this world as there is good. This should not be so in a real world as good must prevail over evil.
What does the poet mean when he says, ‘the peace of understanding on each face’? Ans.
The poet says “the peace of understanding on each face” to mean that the villagers took in the situation peacefully and understood that the poet’s mother’s fate was sealed. She had to suffer for her past life’s sins. Moreover, she had to cleanse herself with the poison and become a better human being. They also understood that the sum of evil in the world will be reduced by her suffering.
Explain, ‘I watched the flame feeding on my mother’? Ans.
The poet’s father in exasperation finally tried to cauterize the bitten toe by pouring a little paraffin and setting it alight with a match. The flame slowly spread on the area of the bitten portion.
What do you understand about the mother from her utterance in the last two lines? Ans.
The poet’s mother is very loving and devoted to her children. She expresses gratitude that the scorpion bit her and spared her children. She would rather suffer herself than let any harm befall her children.
V. The following flow-chart summarizes the main events mentioned in the poem. The arrows show the sequence of events. Complete the table by choosing a suitable expression from the list given at the end, and write it in the appropriate space. One answer has already been given as an example.
VI. Do you think the poet has merely described the scene or has he commented upon it too? Give reasons for your answer.
The poet has described the scene and he has commented upon it too. He attributes evil intentions to the scorpion. He listens to the peasants’ speculations with understanding. He can appreciate the practical nature of his father. The poet is touched by the selfless love of his mother.
VII. Poetry communicates experience and experience comes to us largely through the five senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and touch. Imagery, therefore, may be defined as the representation of sense experience through language. Though visual imagery is the most widely used in poetry, an image may also represent a sound, a smell, a tactile (related to touch) experience, or an internal feeling or sensation.
Work in groups and complete the following table listing the images in the poem as shown. One example has been given under each for your benefit.
Scorpion crawling beneath a sack of rice
smell of candles
scorpion biting the mother
buzzed the name of God a hundred times
- flash of diabolic tail - giant scorpion shadows
tame the poison
peace of understanding
- clicked their tongues
- swarms of flies
- steady rain incantation
Read the following extracts and answer the questions that follow:
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison-flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room-
(a) Who does ‘he’ refer to?
(b) Why did he come inside the house? Where did he hide?
(c) Why does the poet refer to his tail as ‘diabolic’?
(a) ‘he’ refers to the scorpion.
(b) The scorpion came inside the house because it was raining continuously outside. The scorpion hid beneath a sack of rice.
(c) The poet refers to the scorpion’s tail as diabolic because it bites his mother and injects poison into her.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
Trying every curse and blassing,
Powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
Upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
(a) What kind of a person was the father?
(b) Do you think his behaviour was in keeping with his nature and beliefs? Why/why not?
(c) Explain the meaning of “hybrid”?
(a) The poet’s father was a very practical person who had no patience with superstitious beliefs.
(b) His behaviour was not in keeping with his nature and beliefs. He tried every possible remedy to relieve the poet’s mother of her pains. But he also tried to invoke the Gods to relieve her of the poison.
(c) “Hybrid” means to try a mixture of medicines and prayers to remove the sting of the scorpion. The poet’s father hoped that the herbs would work with the grace of Heaven.
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