This poem carries a note of awe as well as circumspect. The author is very careful not to reduce the girl to an abstract concept; an image; a metaphor. For her, this girl is a universe unto its own – she seems to declare that no one has the right or should have the right to use this girl as a representation or a symbol – she is her own person. The poem deals a lot with definitions and preconceived notions. As opposed to poems such as Farmhand, the poem does not glorify stereotypical features of gender, but rather questions the stereotypes and calls the readers to engage with the poem with more of a critical outlook – the poem makes you think!
Let’s sink our teeth into this poem.
Line 1 – Contemplation (thought so much). First person. Girl – simple, without any adjective or embellishment. This denies any narrow, constricting definition of the individual she is going to speak about. One major implication of using the first person is that the thoughts and opinions or feelings articulated will be SUBJECTIVE. This means that it is a very personal experience birthed out of the mind of the reader. But as we move along the poem we realize that this writer is someone who does not lean on preconceived notions or easy, yet general and essentialist ideologies or words and phrases. She is keenly self-reflexive and is very cautious as not to fall prey to the popular and prevalent gender stereotypes promulgated.
Line 2 -4 – she gathers cow-dung. It is a wide, round basket which probably could carry a significant amount of dung. Cow dung may be a repulsive image to you. It may disgust you and make you want to puke; or nauseous. But wait. Let’s move forward in the poem, to understand how the poet treats these pieces of excrete – or how she treats the person (the girl) who treats these as treasure! If you read the last two words, it reads ‘a particularly promising mound of dung.’ This hints at the way the poet perceives cow-dung and by extension how Indians view it. Now this is crucial to your understanding of the poem. Go ahead and google ‘cow dung in India’ and you may read how it is used for many things as fuel, manure, insect repellents, disinfectants among other things. Seen in this light, we can no longer treat cow dung as the abject object of repulsion. It may be feces, but once we are able to confront that immediate gut reaction, we may be able to respond to it more objectively as a natural part of the cycle of life.
The Radhavallhab temple is also significant as the poem revolves around a woman and the task of describing her without defining her in limiting ways. Radhavaballah temple dedicated to Radha is a place of worship to goddess Radha. How is she perceived?