Summary of “Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S” by Nissim Ezekiel

This is one of the poems of Ezekiel which illustrate a major characteristic of the later phase of his poetic career, namely his preoccupation with Indian themes, a preoccupation to which he seems to have been led by his acceptance of the reality of the Indian situation. Included in his Hymns in Darkness, this poem was one of the eight poems which appeared in the 1970s under the group Very Indian Poems in Indian English.

Though this poem is often described as a parody of or satire on Indian English illustrating the idiolectical features of the brand of English used by Gujarati speakers, as a humorous reconstruction of a particular variety of Indian English, it is actually “a satiric self-revelation of the speaker”. As Bruce King has put it, “Language reveals the speaker’s mind and social context; clichés, triteness, unintended puns are among the devices used to imply hypocrisy, pretence, limited opportunities and confusion”.

Note the Indianness inherent in the very title of the poem, the occurrence of the initials at the end of the name, a very Indian habit both in speech and writing. Even ‘goodbye party’ seems to be an Indian imitation of ‘birthday party’!

Notes:

1.2: dear sister: addressing a chief guest or speaker as “dear” or ‘beloved’ sister, brother, professor etc., is very common in India.

1.3: departing for foreign Note the Indian use of ‘foreign’ as noun and departing in the sense of going or leaving.

1.4: two thru days: translation of a parallel vernacular expression.

1.6: we are meeting today: This is one of the many instances of the use of the progressive for the simple present in the poem. The Indian predilection for the use of the progressive tense is well-known. Pick out all the other expressions of this kind in the poem.

1.10-11: Note the way in which the speaker chooses to convey that Pushpa is not only a woman of pleasant exterior but also of many sweet qualities of head and heart

1.12- 13: All that is meant is that Pushpa always puts on a smiling face which shows that she is emotional by nature.

1.15- 19: Though these words are meant to be complimentary, they can be hurting too to Miss Pushpa, for the speaker’s words sound empty as he is not quite sure of her actual parental background and makes vague references. Note the absence of the indefinite article in “very high family” and in “re­nowned advocate”.

1.20: Surat? Ah yes: obviously someone has reminded the speaker that it is Surat.

1. 22: family members: ‘family members’, ‘family friend’ ‘family matter’ etc., are common Indianisms.

11. 22-25: In India one does not hesitate to thrust oneself as a guest on anyone, however distant a relative of oneself or one’s friend’s friend!

1.24-25: Look at the ambiguity and the irony resulting from the expression ‘that was long time ago’.

1.27- 28: Popular lady with men also, and ladies also: an unusual collocation, for ‘men and ladies’ do not collocate well.

1. 30: Just now only I will do it: a typical Indian-English expres­sion. Note the numerous uses of the progressive tense in the lines that follow.

1. 34: Pushpa Miss: This reversal of the word order is typical of the Indian speech habit. This is how most students in India refer to their lady teachers

1. 40-42: The lines mean that Miss Pushpa will reply to the felicitations offered to her.