A curious case of alternate ending to a poem

"Everything that you need to know is there in the NCERT text books. You do not need to go for other fat and ugly books" exhorted our science teacher in his typical assamese accented english which most of us, the people of Assam, carry with an impetuous pride. But we found it hard to believe. The questions were framed quite oddly in those books, the concepts were never explained elaborately, pages were too much colorful and the language was an enigma to most of us!

We never read NCERT books for our courses. We would have reference books by S.Chands and Dhanpats for all purpose weathers. Years later, I would realise that life never presents a reference book for all the mysterious problems! We, now, have to read life in between the lines!

It is perhaps the lack of the ability to read in between the lines that led me to give an alternate ending to a very beautiful narrative poem with an even more interesting title  Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel. In an intermittent conversation with Tomichan Matheikal, I remembered the poem which has a theme of superstition, the same theme which is making the round in this week's IndiSpire edition.

All the while, during the conversation, I dogmatically believed that the poem talks about a man who was, even though a rational and a sceptic, succumbed to the pressure of superstition purported by the villagers and hence led himself in the search of the scorpion which bit his wife and escaped from the scene of accident. The superstition of the villagers was that the scorpion is needed to be caught immediately as the farther the scorpion goes the faster the poison spreads in the body of the victim!

The actual ending showed how the man never budged off from his principles of rationalism and scepticism and instead did what he thought was scientifically the right thing to do. The man tries to burn the affected area of his wife with some paraffin, but all through the process there was a holy man who was chanting chants to ward off the evil.

At the end, the wife is shown to get recovered. But the author never explains explicitly the reason of her recovery. Was it because of the husband's logical efforts or the holy man's irritating chants ?.

This unexplained ending, perhaps led me at that time to form an alternate ending which with the passage of time got turned into a different story where the man keeps on searching for the scorpion and at the end his wife dies because of the lack of treatment.

Critical analysis is something which NCERT books try to impart in the minds of the students. But the system of awarding marks to those who follow a template of a perfect answer takes away the pleasure of critical analysis.


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