Paraphrase of the Poem "To the Indian Who Died in Africa" by T S Eliot

Stanza 1

A man naturally yearns to be at his home if he happens to be working in another country. He keeps on looking forward to returning to his home and hearth and for the food so lovingly cooked by his wife. He waits for the happy hours when he will be sitting peacefully on the steps of his door, enjoying the setting sun while watching his grandson playing with the neighbour’s children in the dust in front of his house. The soldier anticipates going through these pleasant experiences once he is safely home after the war is over.

Stanza 2

The soldier was lucky enough to survive the war though he bore many a scar on his body from the battle. The memories of the war and his comrades-in-arms coming from another country, who were fighting away from their homeland like him are fresh in his mind. These remembrances crowd in his psyche whenever he sits and talks to people irrespective of the climate being cool or warm in his country. It is true that the men he met in foreign places were foreigners but they were not aliens in the sense that they shared the common purpose of fighting against a common enemy.

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Stanza 3

A soldier may not stay in his country or die there. His fate may take him away to fight a battle in a far-off land. A land which is home to one is exile to another. However, the country where a soldier lays down his life while fighting, turns into his homeland whereas the land of his birth becomes a foreign land for him. The poet hopes that the soldier’s countrymen will appreciate the legitimacy of this abstraction.

Stanza 4

While thinking of the dead Indian soldier, it occurs to the poet that Africa where the Indian and the British soldiers came to engage in a battle, belonged to neither of them. Some of the English soldiers came from the Midlands in England and some of the Indian soldiers belonged to the land of the five rivers (Punjab) but those among them who were killed in the war, will be buried in the same graveyard in Africa, so far away from their native country. It is only the soldiers who return alive from the war, will narrate the great saga of their dead comrades to their brethren when they reach home. The sublime sacrifice that they made in a foreign land for a common cause, will kindle the same great spirit in other men in the years to come, hopes the poet. We must realize that selfless action never goes without its own reward.

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by Somnath Mitra