Chemmanam Chacko’s ‘Rice’ (‘Nellu’ in Malayalam) deals with the plight of the farmers in Kerala who are forced to move from food crops to cash crops. It mourns the loss of paddy fields which have been replaced by commercial plantations.
The poet pictures the nostalgic feelings of the narrator who returns to his homeland after a long stay in North India. He has earned a doctorate on making toys with husk. While in train, the bustle and excitement of farming in his homeland fills his mind. He is eager to have a meal of ‘athikira’ rice.
But to his great shock he finds that the place has changed completely. Tall rubber trees have taken the place of rich paddy fields. With the least sentiment and with great pride, his father says that they have stopped paddy cultivation as it is not profitable any more. “Only fools would turn to cultivating rice,” he says.
The narrator sarcastically concludes the poem commenting on the Chief Minister who flies high above the cash crops to the Centre to demand for allotment of more rice. He pathetically asks himself whether the state will get some husk from the Centre too.
“My little brother runs in to meet me–
I, eager to have a full meal of athikira rice.
He’s carrying the rations for the whole household–
He trips over something and scatters the wheat all over the yard.”
Here we see the narrator who is eager to have a full meal of athikira rice becoming desperate on realising that he has to satisfy himself with a ration of wheat. Do you think that the poet is satirising the change in the attitude of the people with the changing society? Consider the poem ‘Rice’ as a satire.
‘Son, we’ve stopped working on all the rice.
It was quite inconvenient. The farmer gained nothing-
only fools turn to rice-farming for gain.’
- What change of attitude and life-style, in the farmer is expressed through the lines quoted above?
- This is a pathetic situation pointed out by Prof. Chemmanam Chacko. Can you give two suggestions that will revive paddy cultivation in this state?
O train, will you run a little faster-
let me get home quickly and eat my fill.
What does the poet want to eat ?