The poem, “In The Midst Of Hardship” was originally written by Latiff Mohidin in Malay. It is translated by Salleh Ben Joned. Latiff Mohidin was born in 1941. He isMalaysia’s most celebrated living artist and poet and is considered a national treasure. He did his art training inGermanyat Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste, Atelier La Courriere inFranceand Pratt Graphic Centre inAmerica. He shaped the development of art practise and literature through his extraordinary vision.
In the Midst of Hardship
At dawn they returned home
their soaky clothes torn
and approached the stove
their limbs marked by scratches
their legs full of wounds
but on their brows
there was not a sign of despair
The whole day and night just passed
they had to brave the horrendous flood
in the water all the time
between bloated carcasses
and tiny chips of tree barks
desperately looking for their son’s
albino buffalo that was never found
They were born amidst hardship
and grew up without a sigh or a complaint
now they are in the kitchen, making
jokes while rolling their cigarette leaves
– Latiff Mohidin
As the title suggest, this poem is trying to convey the hardship that a family in a village is facing after a big flood. In this poem, the poet tells of the situation of a farmer and his family. They only returned at dawn after being out in the floodwater for a day and night after tirelessly looking for their son’s albino buffalo. They are all wet and hurt but they do not show any despair or of losing hope. Although they have been born into a life of hardship, they have never complained. They spend time together, enjoying each other’s company. They are grateful for what they still have instead of what is lost. Now, they are in the kitchen and they joke and talk while preparing to relax with a smoke.
The elders returned to their home in the early morning. When they return home, they approach the kitchen stove to warm themselves. Their clothes were very wet and torn. Although they had wounds and scratches on their hands and legs, they were not in low spirits. Dawn refers to early morning. The poet uses brows to tell about the expression on the face-“but on their brows”, “there was not a sign of despair”.It means by looking at one’s brows we can make assumptions whether the person is unhappy or happy.
They were out in the flood the whole day and night. They were wading among dead bodies and tiny chips of tree barks in the floodwater. They were also worried of their son’s missing albino buffalo. They searched desperately for their son’s albino buffalo. After braving the dreadful flood for the last 24 hours, they still cannot find it. The strong bond between family members is shown here.
They were born into poverty and difficulty, but they do not complain about their sufferings. Instead, they sit in the kitchen, cracking jokes while smoking cigarettes. Despite all the adversities and suffering, the people in the poem do not complain or lament on their misfortunes. Life goes on with their daily chores of preparing food and habit of rolling their cigarette leaves. They are still able to joke with one another.
The setting of the poem is in the house and a flooded village.
The theme is not the hardship itself but how the family handles it. The lines ‘but on their brows’- ‘there was not a sign of despair’ show their optimism. They returned home at dawn in soaking-wet clothes that is all torn-up and with bruises and cuts all over but, their face did not show any sign of hopelessness and despair that would normally be expected. These two lines further accentuate the point on optimism of this family.
Another major theme is love in the family. Love binds them together. This is shown when they searched desperately for their son’s albino buffalo.
We should learn to accept problems in life with a positive outlook. It means that although we are facing problems, we should not complain but instead we must attempt to face it courageously and solve whatever problems in hand. Failure is part of growing up. We should not despair in the face of failure.
Point of View
- Third person point of view.
Language, Style and Literary Devices
Language is simple and easy to understand. The style is simple with no rhyming scheme. There are no full-stops in the poem. This is shows that there is no end for hardship.
Imagery – Gives picture of poet’s thoughts
- soaky clothes torn
- limbs marked by scratches
- legs full of wounds
- bloated carcasses
- tiny chips of tree barks
- rolling cigarette leaves
- albino buffalo – symbol of something that should treasured
- horrendous flood – symbol of terrible trials
- stove – symbol of warmth and sustenance
- bloated carcasses – symbol of death and decay
This poem tells of the hardship that a family in a village faces after a big flood. It takes a lot of courage and strength to see the silver lining and to move on after that. Yet, that is exactly what this family is doing. They’re spending time together, enjoying each other’s company and they are actually grateful for what they still have instead of what was lost. As we can read in the poem – they returned home without finding the buffalo but they did not seem to be really bothered by it. They accept fate as it is but more importantly, it portrays how they are different from many people who are materialistic. Although the Albino buffalo is a rare species of the buffalo family, the family in the poem is not very worried that their precious buffalo is missing. This poem wants to convey the hardship that they endured and even though they saw many dead animals floating because of the flood, they were still searching for the buffalo. It is important to know that they did not complain and did not lose hope as they were used to difficult life. They refuse to let it ruin their day and their spirit. The main concern is that they did try to find it as the buffalo belongs to their son. This shows that they were looking for it as they were concerned for their son’s lost.