Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Summary of the Peacock by Sujata Bhatt

"The Peacock" is a situational poem. It deals with a specific context where the appearance of the bird in human presence is chronicled in terms of effect. Sujata Bhatt plays with the possibilities of colour and vision, which, coupled with the evocative ambience contributes to the way the situation is perceived and felt. At the core of the poem lies the way the peacock is perceived and seen, but it is not quite seen as such, and just in a fleeting moment its presence is experienced: "if you look up in time you might see the peacock/turning away as he gathers his tail." It is interesting to see how Bhatt creates the effect of presence by drawing in the human subject, who, incidentally, remains unidentified, and with conditions that are incumbent upon those who aspire to have this experience, it is as if the peacock will appear only under a specific set of circumstances.

This experience is not confined to one individual but has acquired the status of a legend, in that the speaker has been "told" that it is likely that the peacock will appear when the person is seated with a book. engaged in reading it with deep "concentration" and it is then that the peacock will make its appearance. By the time the person engrossed in reading lifts his eyes to sense the presence of the peacock, only a passing glimpse of its vision can be had. One could argue, of course, that for the peacock to be attributed with such tactics and sense of timing is a little challenging to the conditions of realistic experience, but there can be no denying that the bird's playfulness is not out of the realms of credibility. It would not serve much purpose if we were to engage ourselves in the question of identity in relation to the bird, for that is something that Sujata Bhatt keeps ambiguous in the poem. We are also not sure whether it is a specific bird, one identifiable peacock that does this act under the given circumstances, or whether this is a practice that has extended over time. One thing is clear though; that the peacock's presence in such a manner has caught the imagination of the people in the vicinity, and it is that legend which drives the speaker to see a pattern in the way a peacock appears and moves away in that situation.

the Peacock by Sujata Bhatt


The poem begins with a sense of mystery: the peacock seems to appear on the scene from "nowhere": but even before it is properly glimpsed, it disappears, and prior to this fleeting vision, the peacock is heard, a call that announces its presence, a call that is "loud" and distinctive. There is a combination of sight and sound, the coming together of an image and its associated call, and even before it is adequately seen or heard, it's tail disappears. What Bhatt is attempting to suggest is that there is no doubt that bird that makes its appearance in this manner is certainly the peacock, for the signs and traces are beyond doubt, yet at the same time, there is a mystique that cannot quite be decoded. People know that the peacock makes its appearance, but there is also the sense that pervades therein, that the bird is elusive. Such knowledge about the bird has contributed to the legend of its style of movement, and it is the momentary presence which continues to invite both curiosity and excitement in those who are willing to have that experience. The surroundings, characterized by the pipal tree, adds to the flash of colour, the green of the tree contrasting with the turquoise hue of the peacock, so that movement, colour, sound, and vision come to create the effect.

The speaker is aware of the way the peacock plays with whoever is present, as the mode in which the peacock operates here has become something of a legend. It is evident that the peacock is unlikely to make an appearance if it feels that its arrival is awaited; rather, the impression must be created that the peacock is not a matter of interest, so when the individual is supposedly engrossed in reading a book, lost in it, it is then that the bird appears. By the time the presence of the bird is sensed, it moves away. It is as if a game of hide-and-seek is being played, with both sides aware of how things operate, and none seems to get away from the state the things are in The peacock would be conscious of an audience, and its situation as the bird being viewed, but it is simultaneously clear that the peacock does not mind being glanced at, but eschews a straight direct gaze. Sujata Bhatt keeps a lot of issues in the poem hovering over the text, and that is where the appeal lies. The final lines of the poem play with the idea of the "eyes", there is a suggestion that the pattern in its tail, eye-like glances back at the viewer, something that may also indicate how there is a game going on, with either side not willing to reveal all the moves. It is in the potential of an engagement that is never actually fulfilled, both sides unwilling to yield, but giving in only that much which would ensure that the process does not end altogether. The peacock in the poem can also be seen as a metaphor, and the scope for reading the poem allegorically is very much there. In Indian mythology, the bird is associated with Krishna, and how far this association can be extended to interpret the poem depends on how the other factors are reconciled to justify such an association. One could perhaps argue, on the other hand, that such associations are not textually determined, for nowhere does Bhatt direct our attention to such a possibility overtly. It is worthwhile, at the same time, to see how the symbolic significance of the peacock and now mysterious its movements are, are part of a culty of play. The peacock's freedom is never, compromised, and irrespective of the encounter, what the bird does is part of its own will and movement. This is evident in the way the figure of the cat is referred to in the poem, domesticated and confined to the human environment, the cat's behaviour is predictable, but the peacock's is not, it continues to contribute to the sense of mystery, making its very presence the subject of anticipation and excitement.