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Small Towns and the River by Mamang Dai - theme of Life and Mortality

 Small Towns and the River

Mamang Dai

Small Towns and the River by Mamang Dai - theme of Life and Mortality

How does Mamang Dai present a picture of life and mortality in the poem ‘Small Towns and the River’?

Answer: Mamang Dai's poem, "Small Towns and the River" is a part of "River Poems" (2004). Mamang Dai is a poetess, born in Pasighat, East Siang District, Arunachal Pradesh. The images of small towns, rivers and gorge in this poem reflect her proximity to her birthplace. Every subtle movement of poetry has the essence of Arunachal Pradesh. Furthermore, the reference to the tuberoses and spiritual elements of the poem presents the theme of Indian-ness.  Apart from these, the poem reflects how close the people of the "small towns" of India are. The death of a person in the neighborhood somehow pained the whole city. Thus, the poetess depicts the nature and values of the people living in the villages and small towns of India.

However, the poem “Small Towns and Rivers” is primarily concerned with human life and mortality. In the poem we see that the poetess depicts people who have lost their loved ones. People mourn the loss of loved ones and the whole city cries for the loss also. The poetess has used images of rivers to depict the unique life of the river, whereas people are led to decay and destruction. The poem becomes interesting among the readers due to the use of different types of images. At the first level we can find images of the plight of the people and the city. The poetess says that small towns always remind her of death. She says her town is calm and quiet in the trees. It can be summer season or winter season, there will be no change in the look of the village. The dust is blowing and the wind is howling in the trees.

On the other hand, the poetess says that the next day there was news of someone’s death and the news made everyone sad. The people cried in silence. After the death of each person, people always see the pathetic wreath of tuberose. Life is not permanent and death is inevitable for every living thing. Life and death are an uninterrupted process in everyone's life. In our society, traditions, customs, rituals are permanent, not life.

Therefore, the poetess uses the image of the river to compare human life. Rivers are permanent but human life is temporary. The river has a spirit through which it can overcome sorrow in its path. The poetess uses river imagery to emphasize water sustainability when comparing human mortality. Rivers knows all about this city and the frequent deaths of people in this city. The river knows about the rainfall and mountain holes that touch the dry earth. River imagery is used in a charismatic way.

Moreover, the images of explorers who explore fish and stars are also used here. The stars are seen as symbols of the sky. They represent infinite divine love. In addition to love, they also possess qualities such as guidance, awareness, inspiration, brightness and intuition. Fish spirits, on the other hand, teach us to heal ourselves over time, to fill in the gaps, and to replace them with something better. It is a symbol of rebirth, renewal and self-sustainability.

According to the poetess, the stage of childhood is the most important part of a person. The first stage of life, childhood is like the purity of the soul towards dawn. Small towns are worried about the future. Seeing the sun before gold helps the poetess with new and positive kinds of energy. The poetess emphasizes the meaning and importance of everyone’s life. Without life we   cannot be the living soul of this universe. In poetry we can realize the thought of eternity and spirituality. The poetess believes in the idea of   the hereafter. The rhythm of harmony gives us peace of mind. In poetry we can basically find natural aspects.

Thus, the poem ‘Small Towns and the Rivers’ written by Mamang Dai is a poem about life and mortality. The symbolic city of death presents a sad image of those who have lost their loved ones. In this poem, the miser not only mourns, but the city also mourns the loss. Moreover, the poetess have presented a contrast in the image of the river that survives forever, on the other hand, man is prone to death and decay. However, the symbolism and imagery used in the poems have made the idea of   poetess more thought-provoking and attractive to the readers.


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