Toufiq Rafat – a Pakistani postcolonial English-speaking poet


The postcolonial world of literature is rapidly moving towards new realities of living in these communities, but at its core it still responds to basic binary patterns of opposition.

One of them is the literature in English produced by indigenous writers to represent their people and this is what qualifies them to be called postcolonial writers. One of them is Tofique Rafat who wrote his famous poems in English and published them all over the world. He has been recognized as one of the best Pakistani poets in English and especially depicts his people in their true spirit in brilliant light. His poetry mainly reflects Pakistani indigenous life with a philosophy that Pakistanis are a nation with their specific characteristics and culture, which demands that they also be at the center of international debate on education, health and the impact of the global world on their.

One of his poems, ‘Gangrene’, highlights similar aspects of his poetry in which he speaks on behalf of suffering humanity due to people’s ignorance and lack of conscience. This is on top of the government’s inability to meet the basic needs of the people to survive. Many Pakistanis have given up their young lives only because they could not access the medical facility around them or because of the lack of awareness that this facility is causing tragedies in their lives. It has been going on since 1947 and could not change even in the 21st century. The government’s reluctance to punish and deport non-professionals who not only mint money at the expense of innocent people, but also damage their bodies and become the cause of risk to their lives.

‘Gangrene’ tells the story of a young boy who fell from the roof while trying to catch a kite. Catching kites in the spring is a favorite activity for young people, but it has resulted in loss of life and property due to the lack of any law enforcement. The boy falls and dislocates his shoulder. The local wrestler, who is supposed to do all kinds of bone repairs, bandages the arm and administers medicine without looking deep into the injury because he is neither professional nor has the machine, instruments and knowledge necessary for the TO DO. The poet comments:

It really is a miracle, he says; the boy could have broken his neck. It’s nothing but a fracture. Thus, the victim continues to experience pain and over time the injury begins to show gangrene effects in the form of change in skin color and damage to the skin. The color of the skin began to turn green, and the foul smell of rot began to be felt. The parents again give the wrestler money and go home, newly satisfied, until the pain becomes unbearable and the smell also stresses out. However, the wrestler still wasn’t ready to accept his inability. The poet expresses this painful situation in the following words,

But when the limb blackened and started to stink, they got scared.

The villagers are knocking on the doors of the town hospital after all, but time has run out of bounds, and the doctor recommends the amputation of the boy’s arms to save his life. The parents are shocked and refuse to do so. The parents decide to change doctors to save their son’s life because they cannot accept the amputee boy. The father said the boy should have died instead of living with an amputated arm. The next hospital and doctor could not save the boy, who died on the very stretcher in the operating room. The slogan of the poem is therefore, I heard that the boy died on the operating table.

The poet initiated the debate and discussion about health, education and the political system of Pakistan, which has been unable to provide health facilities to its people so far. This condition could be improved by increasing the number of hospitals in the villages and making them very easy to access. In addition, awareness campaigns on occasional accidents and illnesses and access to doctors should be maximized. The piece of literature made a perfect statement of the problems of people in most postcolonial societies, and it calls very loudly for solutions. This is the work of literature and Rafat treats it so well. The poem is written in simple English and can be understood very comfortably. It is not with a regular rhyme scheme, nor in stanza form. It is free verse in the style of modern Urdu and English poets from Pakistan, simply focusing on the message it wants to convey. But the poem has many indicators to prove that it is a Pakistani poem written in English and highlights the issues of the local communities in the rural area, making it postcolonial as well.

The author is a professor of English at Government Emerson University in Multan. He can be reached at [email protected] and Tweets at @Profzee

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