M J Aslam
Homer is the name ascribed to one or more men, presumed to have lived between 700-800 BC, among Greek . Homer is credited with writing of two epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which hold central position in Greek mythology & Western literature. The Iliad is the sequel to the Odyssey. Both are classic poetry that will hold sway over the readers till ages lost. It is the Odyssey that concerns the context at hand.
In Odyssey, there is a classical poem of LOTUS EATERS with some eight long stanzas. The central character in this epic poem is the king of Ithaca, Odysseus, who after an unsuccessful war of ten years in Troy, decides to return home, Ithaca, with his army of mariners . While they are on sail & near reaching home, the storms sweep them away to an unknown island where it “seemed always afternoon” as its dwellers , strange kind of people, are seen by Odysseus eating lotus-flowers-fruit that had narcotic effect on them, like drugs, causing them deep slumbers till next afternoon. The cool, salubrious & languid atmosphere of the island makes it look like always-afternoon .
The blue eyes lotus-eaters offer LOTUS to the mariners lotus. Many among them eat it & fall in deep slumbers on yellow sand of the island. They can hardly perceive their fellow mariners speaking to them. They get totally disconnected with the world & people around. They are weary & tired of wars. They want rest & sleep. But their destination, their home, their Ithaca, is no more in their sight & mind. Odysseus drags them away from the island & tries to put them on board the vessel. But they are intoxicated by the Lotus & in a half-conscious state of mind, they sing that they have no will , no desire, to return home because they want to live in dreams free of worries & toil of life. They say that everything in nature blooms , enjoys life, till it fades. So, why should not they, men, also live in total calmness & tranquillity, away from all.
Why should only men labour , wander & suffer , they ask? They have decided to stay for ever in the island of dreams, free of all kinds of tensions of life. They want to remain disconnected with the people, surroundings , things, happening , everything, going on around them. They do not want any one disturbing them. They want to live in continuous dreaming away from all. They want live in their self-happy luxuries of the dreamy-island. They want to escape from the toil and woes of the earthly life & live in a place of self-contentment, complacency and disconnection.
Odysseus wants to bring them back on board & continue journey of life till they reach their final destination. But they are not ready as they are under the narcotic influence of the LOTUS. Their minds are caught in clouded bliss totally cut off from the hardships & painful realities of life . They cannot avoid temptation of freedom from sorrows & sadness of life. They have total APATHY towards others, their fellow beings.
Odysseus does not himself fall in the temptation of LOTUS which is, of course, a great temptation to be unmindful of the fact that life is a continuous journey that starts when man becomes CONSCIOUS & ends in death only. But lotus-eaters want to live in death-like-EXISTENCE.
They do not want to wake up. The poem through its class of poetic metaphors has left great treasure of learning the meaning of life which is that one should never succumb to the falsities that give lot of pleasure & joy to the people.
Kashmiris represent both CHARACTERS of ODYSSEUS & LOTUS-EATERS within. While former want to continue journey of life in spite of its all kinds of experiences of hardships & difficulties till it reaches its goal, with deep-felt feelings of care & concern for others, the latter are contended & complacent totally callous & unmindful of the realities of life that it is not a bed of roses for all; least caring and empathising with suffering Kashmiris. These Lotus-eaters are to be found in good considerable numbers in Kashmir society, whether one agrees or not with this fact.