Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose is a typical postmodern poem. The poem deals with the contemporary lifestyle. It is about unavoidable circumstances that may cause an unwanted disturbance at any moment in life. Ghose presents how his nights are disturbed twice by the siren of an ambulance. He also presents his thoughts as he listens to the sound of the siren. Moreover, he tells what justifies his thoughts. The poem also sheds light on the isolated lifestyle of this age. Ghose also comments on the tension and strain that wait may cause to human nerves. It may seem the description of a common incident. But Ghose, like in many other of his works, leaves a lot for his reader to ponder upon. This article, Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose, is an attempt to look into the artistic aspects of the poem. It will prove handy for students and teachers alike.
A Brief Biography of Zulfikar Ghose
A Brief Biography of Zulfikar Ghose
Zulfikar Ghose, one of the prolific writers of Pakistan, was born in 1935 in Sialkot city of Pre-Partition India. In 1947, after the partition of India took place, Sialkot became part of Pakistan. Ghose’s family settled in Bombay in 1942. So, he lived his early childhood in a city with a Hindu majority. Since the partition created rift and roughness in the Hindu-Musliam relations, Ghose’s family felt insecure. The relations between the two communities became so strained that there were outbursts of violence. These outbursts also resulted in heavy casualties. Therefore, Ghose’s family moved to England in 1952.
Education and Careers
Ghose received his early education at a secondary school in Chelsea. In 1955, Ghose got admission to the University of Keele. He completed his studies for BA in 1959. At Keele, he found the company of poets B. S. Johnson and John Fuller. He remained a member of “The Group” which included poets like Anthony Smith, Peter Redgrove, George MacBeth, and Peter Porter. Ghose had a successful career as a sports journalist. He also worked exceptionally well as a literary critic and teacher.
Important Works of Zulfikar Ghose
The Loss of India, Ghose’s first collection of poetry came out in 1964. The poems in this collection exhibit his nostalgia for his place of birth. A feeling of being ‘other’ in the Western culture remains dominant in his poems. In the same year, he published a collection of short stories, Statement against Corpses, in collaboration with B. S. Johnson. In 1965, Ghose compiled his autobiography entitled Confessions of a Native-Alien. Ghose’s first novel, The Contradictions, came out in 1966. It presents a contrast between Western and Eastern lifestyles and attitudes. Jets from Orange is another collection of his poetry that he published in 1967. In the same year, his novel, Murder of Aziz Khan, received extraordinary acclaim. The novel portrays a power structure based on money and authority in Pakistan. The work Ghose is most famous for is a series of three novels known as the Brazilian Trilogy.
Major Themes of Zulfikar Ghose
Displacement, dislocation, otherness, rootlessness, isolation, and nostalgia are the major themes we find in Ghose’s works. His works highlight his approach to cultural differences and their outcomes. Despite his lifelong stay in Western society, he felt alienated. This feeling finds its vent in his literary works. At the same time, he writes about contemporary lifestyle, social connectivity, and complexities of the human thought process. Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose also touches on some of these themes.
Text of the Poem Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose
Summary of the Poem Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose
Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose is an interesting poem. in this poem, the poet describes how the arrival of an ambulance in his neighbourhood disturbed him. The incident took place twice in the same year. Ghose shares his thoughts about this incident.
In the first stanza of Disturbed Nights, Zulfikar Ghose describes what he thought at the arrival of an ambulance. It is quite late in the night when he hears the siren of an ambulance. He thinks that the ambulance has come as part of a rescue operation in case of an accident. Ghose thinks that a person returning home from a bar late at night might have lost control of his car. His car might have run into a truck. The ambulance has come to carry this man to the hospital.
In this stanza, Ghose continues to think about the possibility of the accident. He guesses that some young boys in a jeep might have met an accident. Ghose imagines that the boys must be drinking and listening to loud music in the jeep. They might have miscalculated a sharp bend in the road and met an accident. Ghose also tells why he thinks so. He says that there are many incidents of this kind reported in newspapers. The poet says that he reads about such accidents every morning while making his tea.
Soon, however, the poet’s perception begins to change when he listens to the howl of the dogs in the neighbourhood. The sound of the siren now starts piercing through his ears and he rushes out to see what happened. He finds the elm tree in front of his door lit up by the headlights of the ambulance. Soon, the whole front yard is brightened by these headlights as the ambulance approaches near. The poet covers his eyes as he feels dazzled by the white headlights and alternating red and blue emergency lights.
As the ambulance slows down near the poet’s house, he recalls the event when the ambulance first came there. In front of the poet’s house, there is a photinia hedge that he trimmed and fertilized. He stood behind this hedge and witnessed the whole proceeding of the paramedics. He recalls how paramedics walked into the house like late-night guests for a dinner. The paramedics spent a long time in the house and the poet kept waiting behind the hedge.
Ghose recalls how the front of his house looked on the first disturbed night. Owing to the constant headlights and flashing emergency lights, it gave the look of a stage. It seemed that the technicians were testing the lights on the stage before the beginning of the performance. The poet remembers how a paramedic came out to wheel a stretcher up the driveway. It reminded the poet of seeing a UPS technician wheel a package up the same driveway some time ago.
The poet comes back to the description of this second disturbed night. He watches two paramedics go inside another neighbour’s house and then come back. They repeat the action three times. The paramedics move about with their heads bowed down. They resemble country tax appraisers who come in their white utility van to evaluate the property.
Unlike the previous disturbed night, the paramedics have not come for the stretcher yet. The lights of the ambulance parked in front of his house trouble his eyes. He thinks of going inside. But his curiosity keeps him waiting for the paramedics’ next action. He stands there behind the photinia hedge and feels how tense the wait can be.
Analysis of the Poem Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose
Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose is evidence of the poet’s extraordinary command of description. The poem also reflects his imaginative faculty. Ghose’s use of contemporary idiom in his depiction of an event shows his up-to-dateness in employing modern diction in poetry. Also, the way he connects this disturbed night with a similar one is an example of his genius in comparison. The analogies he creates for the events on two different occasions are everyday but exquisite. The poem is an exhibition of Ghose’s ability to say a lot between the lines.
Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose presents a glimpse of the contemporary lifestyle. Ghose wakes up to the sound of the siren of an ambulance. What comes to his mind is the usual perception about some road accident nearby. He guesses about the nature of the accident. He thinks that someone returning home from a bar on this humid night may have run his car into a truck. Drink and drive cases are common not only in Western countries but also in ours now. He further imagines that some young guys in a jeep may have been drinking beer and dancing to loud rock music. In the enthusiasm of the moment, they may have lost control of the vehicle at some sharp bend. Ghose refers to newspaper reports about such accidents. These accidents occur due to the contemporary lifestyle of visiting bars, driving while drunk, and fondness for youthful adventures.
This poem presents a deplorable condition of social connectivity in contemporary society. People are so engrossed in their lives that they do not know what happens in the neighbourhood. With the arrival of the ambulance, the poet comes to know that there is an emergency with a neighbour. Even upon the arrival of the ambulance, no one seems to notice the situation. Associated with this theme is the theme of isolation. In the modern urbanized world, despite so much hustle and bustle, man is aloof. People have no time to know about the cares and worries of others around them. The thread of relations has become very weak and unreliable.
Wait and Anxiety
Disturbed Nights ends with Ghose waiting to see the true magnitude of the issue for which the ambulance has come. The lights of the ambulance are teasing his eyesight. He feels like going inside his house to relieve his eyesight. But the anxiety that arouses out of inquisitiveness to know more about the incident keeps him standing there. Between the lines, Ghose comments on the pattern of life. Human beings spend their whole life waiting for something to happen. They want to be clear about the circumstances. But if the wait goes on for a long time, it causes tension and anxiety.
The Structure of the Poem
Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose consists of seven stanzas of six lines each. This structure of six lines in a stanza is called a sestain. In Urdu poetry, we use the term “musaddas” for it. However, in a sonnet, the final part of the poem consisting of six lines is called a sestet.
Zulfikar Ghose has employed free verse in this poem. It means that the poet does not observe any strict rhyme scheme and meter in the composition of this poem. The syntax of the poem is simple. At the same time, there are reflections about past events and some generalizations. The diction of the poem is simple with exquisite use of contemporary idiom. The imagery of the poem is lucid and realistic.
Ghose’s Experiment with the Form
Critics find Ghose’s works comparatively complex. The reason is his experiments with the narrative mode and structure of the genre. In Disturbed Nights, we find hints that Ghose incorporated the stream-of-consciousness technique which is generally employed in novels. This technique empowers the author to look deep into the minds of the characters he depicts. It exposes the conscious part of the human psyche. The characters depicted with this technique face a sense of indecisiveness. Ghose presents how his thoughts wander from one to the other in a series of associative events and references. The siren of the ambulance makes him think of some accident nearby. The arrival of the ambulance in the neighbourhood makes him recall a similar event some time ago. The lights of the ambulance take him to the world of theatre. The memory of the stretcher man reminds him of the UPS technician.
Disturbed Nights by Zulfikart Ghose is a poem worth-reading. While depicting an emergency in this poem, he does not compromise the pleasing factor of the poetry. The diction and imagery of the poem attract the attention of the readers.