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The poem Looking for a Cousin on a Swing by AK Ramanujan is about an immature and innocent sexual encounter of the poet’s cousin with him and her desire to experience it once again after growing up. The poem is a lyric without any rhyme scheme.
I have read a number of articles which have interpreted it in different ways and will try to cover most of the dimensions as the poem is quite symbolic and profound. I have divided the poem into three stanzas though there is no definite division.
The poet says that when his cousin was four or five in age, she sat on a village swing. Along with her was her cousin (poet himself) who was around six or seven in age who sat himself against her.
On the swing, both of them come into contact with each other and with every lunge of the swing she felt the poet in the lunging pits of her feeling.
The word lunge is a pun. It means a sudden forward movement. However here it also symbolizes the arousal of sexual feelings that are innocent.
The word pits mean lower abdomen which is regarded as the seat of strong feelings. Thus lunge and pits are erotic images that the poet uses to show that his cousin was sexually aroused and was enjoying.
The girl then asks the poet to climb a tree which is not very tall, but full of leaves like those of a fig tree. In their childhood, the poet and his cousin were very innocent about what they were doing on that tree in the leaves.
This stanza is quite symbolic and deep. The image of the fig tree has been borrowed from the Bible. Adam and Eve, the first human on earth used the leaves of the fig tree to hide their genitals, as per the Bible. Thus they matured from innocence to sexual awareness.
Another important thing to notice here is that there is a shift from 3rd person (in the first stanza) to 1st person in this stanza. The poet very cleverly makes it clear that the person he is talking about is none but he himself.
This stanza shows the poet’s cousin at a later stage when she has grown up and is mature now. She is living in cities which is quite big (has 15 suburbs i.e. districts as per the poem).
The poet says that his cousin now looks for the swing in cities. The work looks for symbolizes her desire for swing i.e. the sexual pleasure that she enjoyed with the poet in her childhood and also tries to be innocent about it.
She is trying to be innocent which means that she is not innocent and desires to be so. Secondly, she has a strong sexual desire which has not been fulfilled and is looking for someone who would fulfill this desire.
She desires to be on the crotch of a tree which looked as if it would burst under every leaf into a brood of scarlet figs if someone suddenly sneezed. The lines are symbolic. The crotch of the tree here refers to crotch (here means part of the body that includes vag ina).
Bursting under every leaf into a brood of scarlet figs refers to her desire for the sexual encounter with someone to get fertilized. The word Sneezing according to Kalaithasan means touching the genitals in certain Hindu communities. Hence the poem ends in her longing for sex.
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