Lesson of Caring Elders in Leave Taking by Cicil Rajendra


Cicil Rajendra is a Malaysian poet, lawyer in profession says that his poems tend to be more a part of third world studies. He wrote his poems in 1980s related to the society at the time of Malaysia. He saw that the culture had been corrupted and needed to be cleansed. He saw that it is the duty of the artist, not a choice.

The poem Leave Taking is about the relationship between an old person and his grandson. Their relationship is very close, just like friends; the kid was the spring of happiness to the old man. Suddenly, the old person has to leave the world. All the family members cry aloud about his departure except the grandson, his only worry is grandpa not waving him back.

The post is not a deep end analysis about the poem but a reflection upon the Sri Lankan society with regard to the message delivered through the poem.


The poem - Leave Taking

The only joy

of his old age

He often said

was his grand son


Their friendship


eight decade

three generations


They laughed, played, quarrelled, embraced

watched television together

and while the rest had

little to say to the old man

the little fellow was

a fountain of endless chatter


When death rattled

the gate at five

one Sunday morning

took the old man away

others trumpeted their

grief in loud sobs

and lachrymose blubber


He never shed a tear

just waved one of his

small inimitable goodbyes

to his grandfather

and was sad the old man

could not return his gesture.


The poem carries a message to most Eastern contexts including Sri Lanka. The cultural backdrop has been transforming into a conceptual dilemma due to the invasion of global concepts thus making it a hybrid one.  When comes to Sri Lankan situation, it has become paralyzed body with the deterioration of economic stability making culture bunds eroded drastically. Therefore, human relationships are drifting apart dramatically. The poem runs parallel to the predicament of cultural erosion due to many reasons making ‘caring elders’ only to a sweet title of a school essay.

Though poignant, the situation in the country is far worse. In the poem grand-son had a chance to fill the blank space created by the elders, but in reality, the grand son is also caught into the rat race of education.

Cicil Rajendra examines how valuable the connection between grandchildren and grandparents is. For children, they are living libraries containing generations of knowledge and experiences. For them, their children and grandchildren are the fountain of happiness. People in Asian countries like Sri Lanka have to struggle hard to move upward of the social ladder, when the kids are small, parents have to sacrifice their joy to build up their future for kids. During the process, they lose their chance to spend the time with their kids. It is a good choice to allow the kids to grow with the grandparents as they are too a part of the family.

However, when probing into the upper and middle class families in Asian context, the situation is not so satisfying. The race for education has penetrated into the lives of children. Ever since the education has started to be measured by marks and grades, even a toddler is trained using private coaches to cope up with the future rat race of education. Hence, even kids have no time to stay with their grandparents. As a result of that the older generation has become more isolated as their ‘only joy’ has taken away by the race. On the other hand, the grandchildren are too excluded from a great source of culture as they have no time to learn about the traditions from their grandparents.

Due to the cultural erosion, the society has become enemies of each other. The sad reality is, even the parents-children relationship too is drifting apart. In early Sri Lanka, the families were macro-families, they lived with a community of few generations and relatives. Now-a- days, it is drastically transforming into micro to mini-micro versions of families due to socio economic reasons. When the relationships are physically drifting apart, the trust and bond are too drifted apart. As a result, ‘laugh, play, quarrel and embrace’ too become impossible as parents have ‘trust-issues.’  Therefore, the grandson has to build up his life on his own - mostly digitalized, he grows up like a machine devoid of old culture, not knowing what culture is. He has become a new human type, not even hybrid.

Cicil Rajendra shows that when the ‘death rattled’ the relatives are shaken up feeling the guilt. They burst into tears of guilt. It is a kind of realization that they still possess emotions and humane qualities inside. However, the situation is getting far worse as people have no time to worry or to allocate a space for their dead parents inside their home. The funeral services have taken over the duty on behalf of them charging a handsome amount of money.

It is not too late to take precautionary measures to stop this cultural erosion and dissolving of human relationships apart. As Cicil Rajendra did, it is the duty of artists to unveil the bitter realities in the society and enlighten the people about the repercussions of their actions. In Sri Lanka too, if this goes like this further, the results could be uncompromisingly disastrous. Policy makers should seriously think about the quality of human life if they think of a sustainable development of the country.

What are your views regarding the poem Leave Taking by Cicil Rajendra? Before we come to the same age, and death rattles at our sick beds, shouldn’t there be a humanistic touch to have a soothing feeling on our forehead?  Please share the post if you care to spread the message to the world. Kindly leave a comment regarding your experiences to make this post even more productive.

Post a Comment