An Old Woman

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An old woman clutches a tourist's sleeve and tags along with him. She wants a 'fifty paise coin'. For this she offers to show him 'the horseshoe shrine'. This refersto a legend centred around a horse-shoe shaped depression in a rock about Khandoba, the presiding deity at Jejuri, who leaped from that rock onto his horse ashe carried his wife with him. This is a legend that the true believer reveres and the sceptic doubts.The tourist moves away as he has seen the shrine already. The old woman 'tightens her grip' and 'hobbles' along - not giving up so easily. She is persistent. Sheclings to him like a 'burr' - a prickly seed pod that clings to clothes.Irritated by this persistence, the tourist decides to 'face her' with an 'air of finality' —

he decides that he will not yield to her and thereby wants to put an end to the 'farce'. He presumes that his no nonsense reaction will deter her. But the old woman’s matter of fact question - 'what else' could an 'old woman' do to surviveon these 'wretched hills' –

strikes the narrator like a thunderbolt.The stark reality that hits the narrator allows him to 'see' her at closer quarters. When he turns to look at her face, he is shocked. There are two deep sunkeneyes that look like bullet holes. Her skin is wrinkled and cracks begin to appear around her eyes and spread beyond her skin. He feels that everything is fallingapart. Everything is cracked and in ruins.The cracks spread beyond her skin to the hills and the sky. There is a catastrophe. The hills crack, the temples crack and the sky falls and shatters like a sheet of glass. But the old woman stands there as a symbol of all round degradation. The narrator feels ashamed. He is reduced to the small change in her hand.In a moment of realization the narrator/tourist finds himself reduced in his self-esteem. His awakening to the 'real' world makes him feel 'small' —

as insignificantas the small coin he gave the old woman. The poem persuades its readers to give thought to...
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