Table of Contents
The poem Background Casually written by Nissim Ezekiel tells about the struggle of the poet for identity in a country where he as well as his community (Jews) is considered to an alien.
The poem has been divided into three sections. The first section deals with the childhood of the poet. The second section throws light on his adult-age and third section deals with the old-age of the poet.
In the beginning, Ezekiel uses the third person for himself. According to him, he was born low. Being a member of the alien community he could neither eat nor could sleep and thus became quite weak. Due to this feeling, he could not fly a kite. Even the top also failed to spin in his hands.
In the next stanza, the poet describes his childhood by using the first person. He was sent to a Roman Catholic School where he, according to him, was like prey before wolves (referring to Hindus and Muslims).
He was often taunted by the Hindus and Muslims who accused him of the murder of Christ. They compare him to Judas who betrayed Christ. The same year he won Scripture prize depicting that he was quite good in his schooling. He was often beaten by a Muslim boy and hence terror reigned in his mind during that stage.
Not only Muslims but Hindu boys also repelled him away with their wrong accent and use of language. Being enraged he even thought of becoming violent and used his knife, though he did not mention where, how and why he used the knife.
One night he heard prayers that made him believe that he is not morally so good (as he heard of Yoga and Zen). He thought if he could still become a Rabbi (a saint). Being curious he tried to find the answer but the deeper he went the more confused he was.
In the second section, Ezekiel talks about his adult-age experiences. His family desired to send him to England for higher studies but being financially poor they could not effort his expenses. However one of their friends paid for him and he was able to go to England.
There he was alone and considered poverty, poetry, and philosophy of his friends. Time passed and even after two years he was alone. A woman came and tried to motivate him and henceforth he tried to make his life a little bit better.
Later he recognized his failure which became an unbearable thought. After spending some years he desired to go back to India. However, he was too poor to do so.
Hence he started working on a cargo ship that took French guns and mortar shells to India and China. He was finally able to go back to India on the same ship.
After coming back to India Eziekel tried to be happy and feel at home again. However, he was still an alien. His father often told him that all the Hindus are violent. Nissim and his family were often humiliated by their neighbors. Hence he prepared to endure the worst.
He married and even changed his job. Doing such things he acknowledged that he was a fool. He started writing poetry and knew well that he has ample to write. He explains how low their community was. His ancestors did the job of crushing seeds which were not a good job.
In the 3rd section, Ezekiel explains his experience as an old person. He says that one of his friends told how he fought in the Boer War. Hearing the stories started fearing from the Indians. He recognized that writing poetry is also not safe and even the words can harm a person.
He wrote poems and gave up his sufferings. Now he tried to write wisely without giving free play to his thoughts. He expresses his inner and outer suffering that he ultimately failed to defeat. He says that now he has become an integral part of India.
The foreigners consider him to be an alien on that land (India). But he decided now he will consider himself as an Indian. He has to stay there though it is a backward place for the other Jews living outside of India.