An Old Woman Poem Summary

Write a critical analysis of the poem "An Old Woman" by Arun Kolatkar.

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Arun Kolatkar, an Indian poet, wrote in both Marathi and English.  An exceptional graphic artist, he is considered as the premiere Indian poet. 

Kaolatkar's poem "An Old Woman" follows a formal structure in three-line stanzas or triplets. The lines are short but always with a pattern of two stressed syllables. The final line of the poem varies with the single stress decisively bringing  the poem to an abrupt stop.  Most of the words are monosyllabic, giving the poem a staccato effect.  The narration is third person. The old woman is referred to using third person personal pronouns, yet the poet uses second person to reference to the tourist.  The "you" in the poem makes the reader feel as though he is the tourist. The poet's word choice and imagery are stark and realistic.

In the poem, the reader is given a glimpse into a moment in time for the tourist visiting the ancient land of India.  The scenario is unforgettable as is the character that is thurst upon him.  It is here he is accosted by an old beggar woman on the deserted hills of Jejuri.

Impoverished, and repeatedly referred to as "old," she is helpless to do anything other than what she does; however, she does not just beg.  She offers a service,  which in this situation,  the tourist  does not need. The old woman will not let him go.  Eventually, he tires of her hold on him, so he turns to stop this disgraceful scene.  When he actually looks at her face and into her eyes, he is able to see through the woman and into the hills and they become as one.   Finally he is able to understand the old woman's plight. 

And the hills crack,

And the Temple cracks

And the sky falls.

Nothing can change things for the old woman.

The poem is a meeting two cultures:  the new world tourist and the ancient Indian woman. Symbolically,  the tourist's initial lack of sympathy for the woman and her travails represents the world's view of the poverty stricken countries of the world: If you cannot see it, it is not there. The tourist intends to make her leave him alone but is reduced to small change in her hands when he see the hardships she has to endure. 

Her eyes described as "bullet holes" suggest the struggles that she and her country have endured.  They are synonymous.  The socio-economic status of India, where even a fifty paise coin is precious to the old woman, seeps into the heart of the tourist.  Then, he understands her disturbing statement;

What else can an old woman do?

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