What is the theme of A.K. Ramanujan's poem "Extended Family?"

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A couple of themes that stand out in A. K. Ramanujan’s poem “Extended Family” are memory and ritual as a bridge between identities and generations. The question of identity is especially pertinent because Ramanujan is a man with double selves: Indian and American. Through the ritual of taking a bath, which is an important one in the Hindu tradition of Ramanujan’s ancestors, the poet is trying to cobble a pathway between the dead and the unborn of his family. However, he treats these themes with humor rather than nostalgia, as we can see in the sharp juxtaposition of images, such as “dry Chicago lightbulb” against “Vedic sun” (lines 5-6). Where his grandfather paid obeisance to the sun standing in a sacred river, the metropolitan poet wades in a bathtub in Chicago.

Yet like grandfather
I bathe before the village crow
the dry chlorine water
my only Ganges

The village crow watched the grandfather’s ablutions, but the poet only has the bathroom mirror as witness. The sense in...

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