Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat is a poem based on a cultural aspect of Pakistani rural life. Rafat receives high acclaim for depicting indigenous life and characters in his poetry. The poem is a depiction of a marriage ceremony that takes place on a rainy day. Rafat describes not only the scene of the marriage but also the thoughts of different characters. The characters he depicts in this poem are stereotypes that we may encounter in our everyday life. The poem shows his deep insight into the mindset of the characters he depicts. This article, Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat – Summary & Analysis, looks into different aspects of this poem. It will prove of good use to the students of teachers. Moreover, it will be of interest to readers with an interest in Pakistani literature in English.
A Brief Biography of Taufiq Rafat
In 1927 was born Taufiq Rafat, a true representative of Pakistani culture and tradition in English poetry. Born in Sialkot and educated in Dera Dun and Government College, Lahore, Rafat gave Pakistani poetry in English new dimensions. Rafat wrote about life in his immediate surroundings. Therefore, his poems carry a realistic outlook. It is also the reason for their being strikingly appealing to native readers. One thing Rafat is most acknowledged for is his use of local speech style in his English poetry. It inspired and encouraged Pakistani writers in the English language to use localized expressions in their works. Oxford University Press published three collections of Pakistani poetry in English during the 1960s and 1970s. Their titles were: First Voices (1964), Pieces of Eight (1970), and Wordfall (1976). All three of them had Rafat’s poems. He also translated Punjabi poems of the great Sufi poet, Bullah Shah.
Text of the Poem Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat
They are taking my girl away forever,
sobs the bride’s mother, as the procession
forms slowly to the whine of the clarinet.
She was the shy one. How will she fare
in that cold house, among these strangers?
This has been a long and difficult day.
The rain nearly ruined everything,
but at the crucial time, when lunch was ready,
it mercifully stopped. It is drizzling again
as they help the bride into the palankeen (palanquin)
This girl has been licking too many pots.
Two sturdy lads carrying the dowry
(a cot, a looking glass, a tin trunk,
beautifully painted in grey and blue)
lead the way, followed by a foursome
bearing the palankeen on their shoulders
Now even the stragglers are out of view
I like the look of her hennaed hands
gloats the bridegroom, as he glimpses
her slim fingers gripping the palankeen’s side
If only her face matches her hands,
and she gives me no mother-in-law problems,
I’ll forgive her the cot and the trunk
and looking glass. Will the rain never stop?
It was my luck to get a pot-licking wench.
Everything depends on the ferryman now.
It is dark in the palankeen, thinks the bride,
and the roof is leaking. Even my feet are wet.
Not a familiar face around me
as I peep through the curtains. I’m cold and scared.
The rain will ruin the cot, trunk, and looking glass.
What sort of man is my husband?
They would hurry, but their feet are slipping,
and there is a swollen river to cross.
They might have given a bullock at least,
grumbles the bridegroom’s father; a couple of oxen
would have come in handy at the next ploughing.
Instead, we are landed with
a cot, a tin trunk, and a looking glass,
all the things that she will use!
Dear God, how the rain is coming down.
The silly girl’s been licking too many pots.
I did not like the look of the river
when we crossed it this morning.
Come back before three, the ferryman said,
or you’ll not find me here. I hope
he waits. We are late by an hour,
or perhaps two. But whoever heard
of a marriage party arriving on time?
The light is poor, and the paths treacherous,
but it is the river I most of all fear.
Bridegroom and bride and parents and all,
the ferryman waits; he knows you will come
for there is no other way to cross,
and a wedding party always pays extra.
the river is rising, so quickly jump aboard
with your cot, tin trunk, and looking glass,
that the long homeward journey can begin.
Who has seen such a brown and angry river
or can find words for the way the ferry
saws this way and that, and then disgorges
its screaming load? The clarinet fills with water.
Oh, what a consummation is here:
The father tossed on the horns of the waves,
and full thirty garlands are bobbing past
the bridegroom heaved on the heaving tide,
and in an eddy, among the willows downstream,
the coy bride is truly wedded at last.
Summary of the Poem Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat
Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat recreates a wedding day ruined by torrential rain and flood in the river. The poem is reflective of Rafat’s keen observation. He has depicted not only the rural landscape and tradition but also unfolded the mindset of the society. Rafat’s description is so accurate and appealing that the reader is transported to the place where this ceremony took place. Imagery is not the only respect in which this poem stands unique. The diction and indigenous idiom also cast a fascinating impact on the readers.
The bride’s mother weeps and gives vents her feelings of sadness while sending off her daughter after the wedding rituals. She fears how her shy daughter will be able to adjust among strangers. The poet says that it has been a hard day with continuous rain. The rain spoils the taste and festivity of the wedding day. However, it mercifully stops at the time when the meal is served. After the wedding meal, the procession prepares to leave. The bride sits in a palanquin. Four sturdy villagers carry it toward the river which lies between the village of the bride and that of the bridegroom. Two men carry the dowry that consists of a cot, a looking glass, and a tin trunk. Rafat introduces a native belief that the rain on the wedding day means that the girl licks pots.
The second stanza of Wedding in the Flood presents the thought of the bridegroom. He feels joyous at the glimpse of the bride’s delicate and white fingers. Her hennaed hands fascinate him. The bridegroom wishes her face to be as glowing and beautiful as her fingers. Moreover, he wants the bride to be accommodating, and not a girl who always complains about her mother-in-law. He thinks that he will let go of the issue of scarce dowry if she is beautiful. However, at once, he begins to think that she must have been licking too many pots for the rain does not stop.
In this stanza of Wedding in the Flood, Rafat presents the thoughts of the bride sitting in the palanquin. It is dark in the palanquin and its roof is leaking. The bride feels severely cold and her feet are wet with rainwater. When she peeps out of the curtain, she finds no one whom she knows. It scares her. She is anxious to reach her destination and thinks that it depends on how much time the ferryman takes. Later in the stanza, however, she expresses another side of her anxiousness. She does not want her cot, looking glass, and tin trunk to be spoilt by the rainwater.
The fourth stanza of the poem focuses on the thoughts of the bridegroom’s father. He is annoyed at the items given as dowry. With a farmer’s background, he thinks that the bride’s parents should have given her a bullock. Instead, they have given only such things that only the bride may use them. He worries about their journey back home. He recalls the angry look of the river this morning when they sailed with the marriage procession. The ferryman told him to reach the bank at three sharp. But they are late by an hour or two. The fear that the ferryman should have left without them augments his anxiety. However, marriage processions often get late. He also blames the bride for licking pots which is why it is raining on the wedding day.
When the marriage procession reaches the river bank, they find the ferryman waiting for them. He knew that they had no other choice to get back home. Also, the idea of the opportunity to get a bit more money must have kept him waiting. They hurriedly get on board the ferry and their homeward journey begins. The river is rising in flood. The way the ferry moves is horrible. Soon, it tumbles and the fares fall into the river. All of them drown in the wrathful river. The poet calls it a strange consummation. An event of joy and pleasure turned into a scene of tragedy.
Analysis of the Poem Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat
Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat is a beautiful depiction of the lifestyle in the rural Punjab of Pakistan. Therefore, the themes of the poem also closely relate to the culture and traditions of this lifestyle.
In rural Punjab, generally, parents arrange the marriage of their children. While making the match, they keep the caste and financial status of the family under consideration. Most of the time, neither the boy nor the girl knows anything about each other. They have to observe ‘purdah’ (veil) strictly. This aspect of tradition is obvious in the bridegroom’s joy at the glimpse of the slim fingers of the bride. Another aspect related to this theme is rather symbolic. The poet symbolically presents the outcome of arranged marriage in the modern world. The rising river stands for the changing social thrust that is going to sweep away arranged marriages.
Status of Women
Wedding in the Flood questions the place of women in society, particularly, after marriage. The apprehensions of the bride’s mother in the opening lines of the poem are not baseless. Women in Pakistan face many problems regarding their adjustment to marital life. A bride remains an outsider in the family. Her happiness in married life depends on certain factors. The fortune she brings as dowry is one while her physical beauty is another. In addition to these, she has to submit to the will of her in-laws silently. Even superstitions are attached to the bride. The heavy rain on the wedding day is attributed to her habit of pot-licking.
Taufiq Rafat presents deep thoughts of the characters he delineates in this poem. It is through their thoughts that Rafat unfolds their real selves that are quite different from their appearances. First of all, Rafat exposes the character of the bridegroom. He is going to have the most precious relationship in the world. But he is putting it to conditions. He feels grieved at the scarcity of the dowry. However, he is ready to let this issue go if the bride is beautiful. It shows his selfishness. His father is no less selfish. He should welcome his daughter-in-law into the family like a daughter. He, however, grumbles at the cot, the looking glass, and the tin trunk she brings in dowry. Both the father and the son also consider the bride a pot-licking wench. Rafat’s description shows how materialism has brought about hollowness in respectable relations.
Fate is one of the most important themes of Taufiq Rafat’s poetry. Wedding in the Flood also covers this theme. The procession that comes to celebrate a marriage meets a tragic end. Rafat tells that it takes very little for good fortune to turn into misfortune.
The Structure of the Poem
Taufiq Rafat composed Wedding in the Flood in free verse which is typical of a poem in the modernist tradition. It does not follow any fixed pattern of rhyme. The poem consists of four stanzas with a different number of lines. The most appealing feature of the poem is the use of local idiom in this poem. The diction of the poem is simple and straightforward. The imagery employed by Rafat reflects his close observation and insight. The pictorial quality of the poem adds to its appeal.
Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat is a representative poem. it represents the culture, tradition, mindset, and preferences of the residents of rural Punjab. The poem has a sense of objectivity in its description of different aspects of life in rural Punjab.
For a Summary and Analysis of the poem Disturbed Nights by Zulfikar Ghose, Click here.
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