The price seemed reasonable, location Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived Off premises. Nothing remained But self-confession. ‘Madam,’ I warned, ‘I hate a wasted journey—I am African.’ Silence. Silenced transmission of Pressurised good-breeding. Voice, when it came, Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully. ‘HOW DARK ?’... I had not misheard... ‘ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK ?’ Button B. Button A. Stench Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak. Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed By ill-mannered silence, surrender Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification. Considerate she was, varying the emphasis—
‘ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?’ Revelation came. ‘You mean—like plain or milk chocolate?’ Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted, I chose. ‘West African sepia’—and as afterthought, “down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic Flight of fancy, till truthfulness changed her accent Hard on the mouthpiece. ‘WHAT’S THAT?’ conceding ‘DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.’ ‘Like brunette.’ ‘THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?’ ‘Not altogether. Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused— Foolishly madam—by sitting down, has turnedMy bottom raven black—One moment madam!’—sensing Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap About my ears—‘Madam,’ I pleaded, ‘wouldn’t you rather See for yourself ?’
UNDERSTANDING THE POEM
1. State the central issue in the poem.
2. There are intervals of silence in the interaction between the landlady and the prospective tenant. What are the reasons for this?
3. How is colour highlighted in the poem and why? List all the words in the poem that suggest colour.
4. Which are the lines in the poem that impressed you the most and why?
5. You know what ‘hide-and-seek’ is. What would ‘hide-and-speak’ mean?
6. Certain words in the poem are in capital letters—why?
7. Why do you think that the poet has chosen the title ‘Telephone Conversation’? If you were to suggest another title for the poem, what would it be?
8. The power of poetry lies in suggestion and understatement. Discuss this with reference to the poem.
TRY THIS OUT
1. Enact the conversation bits with your partner.
2. Attempt a description of
a. the place from which the call was made
b. the lady at the other end
c. the speaker in the poem.
3. The poem evokes a mental picture of the scene. Draw a rough sketch to illustrate the episode.
4. The poem ends with ‘Wouldn’t you rather see for yourself?’. Imagine a personal encounter between the two people in the poem and write down the dialogue they might have had.
Please refer to attached file for NCERT Class 11 English Elective Telephone Conversation