POEM: Geography Lesson By Zulfikar Ghose
About the poet.
Born in Sialkot, India (now Pakistan), Zulfikar Ghose grew up as a Muslim. His father, Khwaja Mohammed Ghose, was a businessman. In 1942, during the Second World War, the family moved to Bombay (now Mumbai). After the partition of British India into Pakistan and India, Ghose and his family emigrated to England. He graduated from Keele University in 1959, going on to teach at Ealing Mead School in London.
In 1964, Ghose married Helena de la Fontaine, an artist from Brazil (a country he later used as the setting for six of his novels). He moved from London to the United States in 1969 to teach at the University of Texas in Austin, where he has lived since.
In the 1970s, Ghose gained international repute with his trilogy The Incredible Brazilian, which American writer Thomas Berger called "a picaresque prose epic of Brazilian history." American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux called the work "a considerable feat of imagination."
Ghose has written both poetic and prosaic, fictional and non-fictional works. His books of poetry include The Violent West, A Memory of Asia and Selected Poems. He has written short stories, novels and five books of literary criticism.
Ghose's correspondence with Thomas Berger, spanning 40 years, is housed for research at the Harry Ransom Centerat the University of Texas at Austin. The letters cover topics such as their writing projects, books they were reading and personal concerns. Berger's dystopic 1973 novel Regiment of Women was dedicated to Ghose.
The poem is about the way earth looks from different altitudes. It is divided into three parts. When the jet takes off and starts to climb up in the sky, you can have full height view of the city. The city grew as per its necessity and did not grow as per proper planning. It does not have any particular style. It even looked six inches from a certain height revealing its true structure.
When the jet climbs higher up to about ten thousand feet, he could apprehend the fact that cities grew water resources. Water fulfilled the necessities like agriculture, transport, business and others. He found that valleys were populated which met the necessities of the people.
When the jet went above six miles, there is more water than land on the earth. While appreciating the geographical niceties of our planet, the poet is unable to understand the tendency to build borders, to erect walls, to create fences. Then he reflected that people on earth selfish and narrow for they hate each other. He found the earth to be one, but not the people living on this earth, who are divided for shallow reasons.
I. Answer with reference to context:
1. When the jet sprang into the sky,
it was clear why the city
had developed the way it had,
seeing it scaled six inches to the mile.
There seemed an inevitability
about what on ground had looked haphazard,
unplanned and without style
When the jet sprang into the sky.
(a) How had the city developed?
(b) Which line suggests that the city is not in order?
(c) From what height is the poet looking at the city? How do you know?
(d) What is the effect of the refrain (repetition of two lines) in the stanza?
(e) What inevitability does the poet figure out about the haphazardness of the city’s development? Why is it inevitable?
(f) What do we see when we look at the earth from a low height?
2. When the jet reached ten thousand feet,
it was clear why the country
had cities where the rivers ran
and why the valleys were populated.
The logic of geography —
that land and water attracted man —
was clearly delineated
When the jet reached ten thousand feet.
(a) What was understood at a height of ten thousand feet?
(b) What is the logic of geography?
3. When the jet rose six miles high,
it was clear the earth was round
and that it had more sea than land.
But it was difficult to understand
that the men on the earth found
causes to hate each other, to build
walls across cities and to kill.
From that height, it was not clear why.
(a) What two things did the narrator learn from a height of six miles?
(b) What was difficult to understand from a height of six miles?
(c) Why do men on the earth build walls?
II. Answer the following questions briefly:
1. What is the logic of geography about the populated land?
2.Why the ground from the sky look haphazard?
3.What were the facts which the poet watched from the six miles height?
4. What other title can you suggest for this poem?
III. Choose the correct answer from the options given below:
1. Seen from the window of an aeroplane, the city appears
(i) as haphazard as on ground.
(ii) as neat as a map.
(iii) as developed as necessary.
2. Which of the following statements are examples of "the logic of geography"?
(i) There are cities where there are rivers.
(iii) It is easy to understand why valleys are populated.
(iii) It is difficult to understand why humans hate and kill one another.
(iv)The earth is round, and it has more sea than land.