The Gift of India

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  • Q1

    Give a background of the poem ‘The Gift of India’.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    This patriotic poem was penned by a pained poet over the meaningless massacre faced by the Indian soldiers of the British Army. Approximately one million Indian men served in the British army in World War I despite the unwillingness of the Indians. Nearly 75, 000 were martyred on foreign fields, never returning home, and about 70,000 were wounded. The poem offers a tribute to those brave sons of the soil who died serving in the Ypres Sector and other battlefronts on the Western Front, as well as in Mesopotamia and Gallipoli.

    It also warns the Imperialist forces not to bend India too much lest they should pay a high price for their fascist deeds.

    Sarojini Naidu was a political activist, feminist and a poet par excellence. She actively took part in the activities of the Indian National Congress and was closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi. She later served as the Governor of the provinces of Agra and Oudh and was elected the President of the Indian National Congress.

    In this poem, we have the outpourings of a bleeding heart. Written in the context of the Great War of 1914-1918, the poem is emotionally surcharged with the feelings of the poet towards the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives. The Indians were in no way involved in the cause or the outcome of the war however they were deviously deployed for the benefit of the English against the Germans and their allies.

    She alludes to Persia (now Iran), Egypt, Flanders (Belgium) and France, the specific lands wherein the Indians at the mercy of the British were sent to war. The poetess portrays a heart rending picture of the pathetic dead soldiers in her poem.

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  • Q2

    Discuss the relationship India has with its people in the context of the poem ‘The Gift of India’?

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    This patriotic poem was penned by a pained poet over the meaningless massacre faced by the Indian soldiers of the British Army. The poem offers a tribute to those brave sons of the soil who died serving in the Ypres Sector and other battlefronts on the Western Front, as well as in Mesopotamia and Gallipoli.

    The poem opens on an intense note as India is personified as a compassionate and grieving mother who has just lost her brave sons due to the lust of imperialist powers. She addresses the fascist countries in a defiant tone and asks them what else she can render them. The poet is alluding to the plunder of the Indian resources by the British forces. Though India is the vanquished country, she proudly asks them what else they require of India.

    In rich poetic language she asks them if they need clothes, food or gold from her. She seems to suggest that they have robbed her enough already and their greed may not go unpunished.

    The tone of the line is anguished and moves the reader to empathize with the speaker. It is thus able to rouse a strong sense of patriotism. It also rouses the reader to a strong sense of indignation against the fascist forces, particularly the English.

    Mother India’s soft and tender feelings for her brave soldiers are seen through the words, ‘like pearls’. She likens her brave sons to pearls in oysters. Through the simile she compares the dead soldiers lying in graves in foreign lands to beautiful pearls in oysters. The lines also reveal a mother’s sorrow for her sons as well as her pride in them. This reveals great poetic sensibility on part of the poet.

    To the Mother India the soldiers are as delicate as flowers. She is greatly grieved to hear of their bodies being mutilated on the warplanes of Flanders and France. The pale faces refer to the dead bodies of the slain soldiers whereas ‘broken arms’ tell us that they fought bravely before succumbing to death.

    The Mother realizes sorrowfully that once the war is over these powerful nations shall commemorate their soldiers and their contributions. There shall be memorials raised in their honour. The European and the English army men shall be remembered for their bravery. She is rightly apprehensive that the sacrifices made by her sons shall be largely forgotten. She plaintively asks the Western powers not to forget the precious Indian blood that was shed in their cause. They must not forget the precious Indian lives lost in a battle that was not theirs.

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  • Q3

    Comment on the form and structure of the poem “The Gift of India”.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    The poem is divided into four stanzas of six lines each. The rhyme scheme follows aa, bb and cc pattern of rhyming. The poet has made use of judiciously selected and richly embellished similes to express the tender and proud feelings of a mother for her dead sons.

    The poem has a number of poetic devices used effectively to emphasize poet’s message. Naidu is quite fond of using literary devices to adorn and embellish her poems, and ‘The Gift of India’ is no exception.

    In the poem the soldiers have been likened to pearls. The simile compares their graves to oysters. The pride of the Mother is exhibited in the comparison of the soldiers to pearls. They are also compared to flowers mown down accidently. The comparison brings out the tender feelings of the Mother.

    Sarojini’s poetry is famous for its use of imagery. The lines “Lo! I have flung to the East and the West Priceless treasures torn from my breast” could refer to the Indian soldiers who have been plucked from Mother India’s bosom and been flung into the war field. These lines could also allude to the exploitation of the Indian resources by the British Empire. The words ‘treasures torn’ signify the soft feelings of a mother for her brave sons. They also tell us that the soldiers have been forced to go to the battlefield against the wish of the Indians. The words ‘stricken womb’ paint the picture of an injured mother. These words could also signify a mother who is hurt due to the death of her brave sons. The words, “To the drum-beats of the duty, the sabres of doom” describe the scene on the battlefield. The soldiers march to the battlefront when the drum is sounded only to be killed by the savage sabres of the enemy.

    The poet refers to life as a metal piece which is to be beaten into shape on an anvil in a forge. The forge fire might refer to the chaos and fiery skirmishes of the war. The troubles and tortures of the war have been likened to an anvil. Ultimately what shall come out of war shall be a peaceful life for all.

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  • Q4

    Q1. Comment on ‘The Gift of India’ as an anti-war poem?

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    Wars have often been glorified in literature. However, ‘The Gift of India’ is quite different. ‘The Gift of India’ was penned by a pained poet over the meaningless massacre faced by the Indian soldiers of the British Army. Approximately one million Indian men served in the British army in World War I despite the unwillingness of the Indians. Nearly 75, 000 were martyred on foreign fields, never returning home, and about 70,000 were wounded.

    The poem offers a tribute to those brave sons of the soil who died serving in the Ypres Sector and other battlefronts on the Western Front, as well as in Mesopotamia and Gallipoli.

    It also warns the Imperialist forces not to bend India too much lest they should pay a high price for their fascist deeds.

    In the poem India is personified as a compassionate and grieving mother who has just lost her brave sons due to the lust of imperialist powers. She addresses the fascist countries in a defiant tone and asks them what else she can render them. The poet is alluding to the plunder of the Indian resources by the British forces. Though India is the vanquished country, she proudly asks them what else they require of India.

    Mother India’s soft and tender feelings for her brave soldiers are seen through the words, ‘like pearls’. She likens her brave sons to pearls in oysters. Through the simile she compares the dead soldiers lying in graves in foreign lands to beautiful pearls in oysters. The lines also reveal a mother’s sorrow for her sons as well as her pride in them. This reveals great poetic sensibility on part of the poet.

    She plaintively asks the Western powers not to forget the precious Indian blood that was shed in their cause. They must not forget the precious Indian lives lost in a battle that was not theirs.

    View Answer