“Grandfather” by R.Viswanathan is written to eulogize his grandfather who had an infectious joviality about him . The poem is about the death of the grandfather. However, it does not have a mournful tome or an elegiac tone. He is said to have laughed his way through life overcoming all trials and tribulations with ease. The alliteration in the phrase ‘lived long’ points to his harmonious life that was drunk to the lees. He made his folks laugh many times till all their bones broke.The speaker implies that his humour infused their very being and his buoyancy was the very core of their existence. Even while he was ill and the others around him were very pessimistic he inspired them with his incorrigible optimism and cracked jokes. Their bones broke but never did his spirit die. Though the speaker was not home during the incident, the experience was communicated to him with all the positive vibes intact. Therefore, grandfather transported his positivism to people at a distance also. The speaker was not home even when grandfather died, yet his still body seemed to laugh, according to the versions of others. His static body appeared to be kinetic.
The speaker comes home for Sanjayana to administer the last rites and goes with his Dad to the crematory. Grandpa’s inanimate bones seemed to be animate as laughter seemed to be scattered here and there, like his buoyant and infectious laughter.
The speaker stands watching as the bones laughed .The dead bones seems to be more alive than the living poet. He could neither weep or laugh. He was overcome with the loss of his grandfather and yet he could not really weep as he was surrounded with his overwhelming presence. Grandfather was not there,but his presence was. The poet is neither weeping nor laughing. His grandfather seems to be neither dead nor alive. And the poem is about the death of a person who is very much alive.
The title of the poem is normally about the protagonist. But here it is about a person who is dead at that point of time. And yet the poem cannot be treated as a memoir also. Because, according to the speaker, the grandfather is still very much alive as his spirit is omnipresent. Also, the title is formal in its address while the tone of the poem is casual. The poem unlike a typical death poem and is filled with words connoting joy like ‘laugh’, ‘laughter’,’jokes’.etc. Grandfather has left, leaving his undying optimism behind.
© Rukhaya MK 2012
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