Ranjini Thaver


Five poems by Ranjini Thaver:

  • Fish for Thought
  • The Prodigal Poor
  • Ode to My Sister
  • Paper Dolls at Graduation
  • Genesis

The two poems on poverty are intimately related to my emotional [first hand] and intellectual [second-hand] experiences with poverty. As a poor child growing up in apartheid South Africa, I agonized over the inability of affluent men and women of all races to understand the beauty and dignity of the poor despite our outer appearance. Now that I am educated and affluent I understand emotionally why this was so. At the intellectual level most well-meaning scholars and activists respond to poverty from the outside as a secondary process, implementing policies that are relevant to their own primary experiences. In this case, the ‘catch’ for most analysts has been to increase investments such as job creation opportunities and education for the poor - “teaching them to fish.” Very little emphasis has been placed on interacting with the poor as equals deserving to enjoy food [eating fish] served at the same table with us. Very importantly from the perspective of the poor, is the need to be recognized for their dignity and freedom [soul food] even though they are not dressed in economic prosperity. Both poems portray these metaphors. In addition, the poem “The Prodigal Poor” reflects my exuberance at the World Bank’s recent initiative to truly listen to the poor’s diagnosis of poverty and resulting remedies.