In Arun Kolatkar’s poem “An Old Woman,” the speaker initially dismisses an old woman begging at a temple shrine as a nuisance, but upon closer examination, he comes to see her as a resilient and dignified figure. The poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of seeing and understanding the people around us, and of never judging people based on their appearance or circumstances. Read More 1st PUC English Summaries.
An Old Woman Summary
An Old Woman Summary in English
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 refers to a legend centred around a horse¬shoe shaped depression in a rock about Khandoba, the presiding deity at Jejuri, who leapt from that rock onto his horse as he 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. She clings 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 survive on 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 sunken eyes that look like bullet holes. Her skin is wrinkled and cracks appear around her eyes and spread beyond her skin. He feels that everything is falling apart. 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 the heartland.
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 insignificant as the small coin in her hand.
In the conclusion of “An Old Woman,” the speaker’s change of heart highlights the importance of seeing and understanding the people around us, regardless of their circumstances. This lesson is significant because it reminds us that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion.