About the poet-
Nissim Ezekiel was an Indian Jewish poet, actor, playwright, editor and art critic. He was a foundational figure in postcolonial India’s literary history, specifically for Indian Poetry in English. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983 for his collection, “Latter-Day Psalms“.
The poem Enterprise is composed with multiple meanings hidden behind it. The poem revolves around a group of pilgrims set for a pilgrimage. The poet starts the poem by saying that it all began with a pilgrimage. All of them were excited about the journey ahead of them. Their excitement made their burdens seem so light. They were not afraid of the difficulties waiting for them. This part symbolizes the early stage of youth, where men are innocent and unaware of the complexities of life. Then the group entered the second stage of the pilgrimage. This stage was full of problems and difficulties. The scorching sun was radiating heat that made their journey difficult. However, the group did not quit the journey and moved on. The sun tried to burn out the rage inside their hearts but was unable to do so. The poet says that they had succeeded to overcome the difficulties on their path. They kept themselves busy by noting down the things they saw. They wrote down about the things sold by the farmers; ways of snakes and goats, and also about three cities they crossed on their path. They saw a hermit, teaching lessons; however, failed to notice what he was teaching. This stage of their journey signifies distraction. We often get distracted from our goals and spend our time on useless things.
Next, the pilgrims reached a stage where difference of opinions arose among them on how to cross a desert. As a result, one of the members, who was the most intellectual among all left the group and traveled on his path. Thus a shadow began to grow among them. They reached another stage where they got divided into groups. They were attacked and they lost their way. Hence, they started facing a lot of difficulties. Many of them left the journey. The poet tried to pray in such a situation. This stage represents how men often get lost in their lives. In such a moment, the leader said that he smelt the sea, which means they were close to their destination. However, they realized it was a false hope, as they didn’t reach their destination. They noticed nothing on their journey. They were now an aimless group of wanderers. They were deprived of even the basic needs of life like soap. They were frustrated by the journey. Some of them couldn’t walk anymore and some broke down with pain.
Finally, they reached their destination, exhausted. However, they didn’t feel any joy or satisfaction. They felt as if their journey was a failure. They had lost all the hopes in life. They questioned their roles in the journey. None of them had done anything great or heroic during the journey. Neither their journey was unique nor rare, as other pilgrims had already completed this pilgrimage. The poet finally realized that home is the most satisfactory place. Thus, their trip became worthless. This poem is a representation of human life. It means that chasing a dream is actually more interesting than actually achieving it. In the final stage of our lives, we often get dissatisfied with the result of our hard work. Thus, this poem is an accurate representation of human life.