Who Are You And Whom Do You Love?

Bhanu Kapil


Bhanu Kapil

Nationality: English

Bhanu Kapil is the author of several works of poetry and prose.

Her works include Incubation: a Space for Monsters and How to Wash a Heart.

The poem, Who Are You And Whom Do You Love?, is one of the “Twelve Questions,” that Bhanu Kapil asks through her book, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers. Bhanu Kapil, the British-born Indian origin Writer, in her full-length book, combines the narratives of the travelogue. During her travel through the above-mentioned countries, she reaches the homes of people living there, and comes in contact with them to take their interviews, and tries to learn how they live there, and asks them “Twelver Questions”, which relate to their lives.

Through her “Vertical Interrogation of Strangers”, Bhanu Kapil asks what happens when the outside world of the individual self is pierced, invaded and colonized and terrorized. This book consists of a series of prose poems, written on the basis of interviews had with Indian women living in India, England, and the United States. The book blends these different voices, all answering a series of twelve questions that are the titles of each piece.

Who Are You And Whom Do You Love? by Bhanu Kapil


Who Are You And Whom Do You Love? Analysis

The poem, Who You Are And Whom Do You Love, is about the departure of a lover, and answers to the question Who Are You and Whom Do You Love? in a circular series of images. Even the very title or the question titled and posed through Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, by the poet suggests itself that the narrator is talking about her lover whose identity is not disclosed, but the lover loves a woman, who is filling bath to float candles. The lover knocks at the woman’s door to tell her that he loves her, but his romance gets vanished when he learns that the woman has brown eyes, not the black eyes that enthralled him towards the woman.

As is above discussed, Who Are You And Whom Do You Love? begins with the lover’s departure and ends at “Floating Candles”, which is what the narrator of the poem does before and after the departure of the lover. The “Floating candles” used in the first and at the last line of the poem suggests that the narrator likes floating candles when she is with her lover, and even when he is gone.

Whatever may be the reason for floating candles, the distance between their bodies becomes too wide to cover. It is “incommensurable distance”, which can hardly be covered by both of them. The narrator gets too alone to pass her time. Therefore, when he (her lover) is gone, she says that she will make crepes, walk by the river with her dog, and will also float candles in a pudding basin as she does usually when he is gone.

Where in the first part, she talks about her lover’s departure and lighting candles in a basin as she used to do before his leaving to the increasing distance between their two bodies, in the second part she discusses a lover, who may either be the gone lover or the new lover who has come into her life. This lover knocks at the door of the woman who has impressed or enthralled him with her black eyes, but the romance of the lover immediately comes to an end when he learns that the color of the eyes of the woman is brown, not black. The lover comes to the woman to tell her that he loves her, but since the woman is drawing a bath, and the roar of the water filling the tub, obscures the knock on the door, she is unable to hear the knock of the lover on the door. As a result, the lover has to go back.

Thus, images used in Who Are You And Whom Do You Love?, instead of circling around the gone lover, the circle’s line spins out into space: “Floating candles. The narrator is not only unable to measure the “incommensurable distance”, but she can’t even remember her lover’s face, thus leaving the narrator without even memory of her lover.

The poem contains a circular series of images, from the lover’s departure (going) and lighting candles in a basin as she used to do before he left to the increasing distance between their two bodies – sunlight, cows, hummingbirds, death – unless it gets wound around to “a man who is knocking on the door of a woman with black eyes, in order to express his feelings to her that he loves her; the woman herself, who is drawing a bath”.

When the first line starts, the narrator is shown counting like: “A month from now. A week from now. Tomorrow”. She says when he will go she will do her daily chores, such as she will make crepes (a light, thin fabric with a wrinkled surface), walk by the river with the dog, and will float candles in a pudding basin (a deep round bowl used for mixing and cooking steamed puddings) as she usually does.

But when the lover is gone (about which the second part says) there is a deep distance created between their bodies, such as the sun at 5 a.m.; fifty-seven Herefords, and a Brahma bull that broke the river fence; four and a half thousand hummingbirds; a dying man. The meaning of Brahma bull is a breed of Zebu cattle (Bos indicus) that was first bred in the United States from cattle breeds imported from India, while the meaning of the hummingbirds refers to a small nectar-feeding tropical American bird that is able to hover and fly backward, and typically has colorful iridescent plumage.

Later when the lover comes to tell the woman that he loves her, she becomes so busy in filling the bath wherein she will float candles that in the roar of falling water, she cannot hear the knock on her door, and thus the lover has to go without getting any answers from her. In another way, the woman ignores the feelings of this lover to such an extent that she cannot even forget to memorize his face.

Thus, the “Floating Candles” in the poem have been talked twice in the poem, and this could be because the woman likes “Floating Candles” in the pudding basin. The poem talks about the relationship between two lovers, and how wide or deep distance has been created due to bitterness in their relationship. The poem in fact revolves around the woman and her lover, but the way the second lover and second woman are introduced makes the poem quite confusing. This could also be assumed as the arrival of the lover who has been talked about in the first part of Who Are You And Whom Do You Love?.

On the whole, the poem Who You Are And Whom Do You Love? by Bhanu Kapil, talks about the relationship between two souls who are in love with each other, likes to express their feelings.


About Bhanu Kapil

Bhanu Kapil is the British-born Indian Writer, who combines the narratives of the travelogue. During her travel through counties like India and England, and the United States, she reaches the homes of the people of these countries and learns about the new ways of belonging in the world as well as possibilities for an art grounded in a localized cosmopolitan culture. Bhanu Kapil’s Vertical Interrogation of Strangers is fractured and baffling, uneasily dealt with by the reader, and unwelcoming to any analysis trying to fabricate some stable body called “self.”

Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.

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