"Equation" is one of the popular poems of Tapan Kumar Pradhan, the Indian writer and poet, and it won Kendriya Sahitya Akademi's Indian Literature Golden Jubilee Award for Poetry in 2007. The poem received critical acclaim following its publication in the journal Indian Literature in December 2007. The theme of the poem is poetic justice or the law of retribution, by which an exploiter or oppressor ultimately is paid back in the same coin.
Origin of the poem
The setting of the poem is the drought affected areas of Kalahandi district in Orissa, India, now known as Nuapada, where the poet spent a couple of years in early childhood and adulthood. The poem was first written by him in his mother tongue Oriya in 2001. It was originally titled Hisaaba, and was subsequently translated by the poet himself into English. The translated poem was submitted to the Sahitya Akademi as entry for the Indian Literature Golden Jubilee Literary Competition 1957-2002. In the words of the poet, the single event that prompted him to write the poem was "a news-item published in the daily Samaja in 1992 which described the story of a poor tribal woman who was compelled to sell off her six-months old child for a paltry sum of forty rupees in the face of starvation...". The English translation is an abridged version of the much longer original Oriya poem.
Allusion and symbolism
The poem is allegorical in nature and is written in the story-building or narrative style with stark symbols and allusion, which is typical of Pradhan's poetry. The poem is in three parts (From Blood to Tears, From Tears to Blood, and Tears in Blood). The first part describes scenes of poverty, starvation and sexual-economic exploitation of poor illiterate people in Kalahandi symbolically through the story of a woman who sold her only child for forty rupees, and that of a man whose wife went to a far-off place to work, never to return. The second part describes the turning of fortunes for Kalahandi. With the advent of international NGOs, government subsidy and media coverage, Kalahandi now learns how to convert its tears to blood, and sell the blood for money (chops off flesh from its own thighs...). The third part shows how Kalahandi is now ready to take revenge. The exploiter has now to pay the price. He now finds that the blood he sucked is actually full of tears (retaliation in the form of misery and virus). The poem has many hidden layers of meaning, offering food for thought to the discerning reader.
Comments and criticism
The renowned Oriya short story writer Bhupen Mahapatra has commented that Equation along with the poet's other poem Kalahandi are peerless in their genre in modern Oriya Literature. However the critic Ramakrishna Mohanty opines that the poem suffers from many structural defects, notably the sudden loss of meter, tempo and focus in the last section after the rather brilliant opening in the first two parts. Many critics feel that Equation is the most moving piece in Pradhan's poem collection "Kalahandi", especially the first part "Blood to Tears".