Don’t bite your nails, Amanda!
Don’t hunch your shoulders, Amanda!
Stop that slouching and sit up straight,
(There is a languid, emerald sea,
where the sole inhabitant is me—
a mermaid, drifting blissfully.)
The poem 'Amanda' revolves around the dilemma faced by a young girl named Amanda. As children grow up, they are given a set of rules and regulations by people who are their caretakers. Every child is born without knowing how and what they are supposed to do in the world. The social set-up and the people who guide them are the only sources of their understanding of the outer world. We often wonder about the reason behind certain rules being levied on us. For example, we do not cut our nails in the evening. We blindly follow this but never question as to why we are asked to follow a superstition. Apart from superstitions, we are also bombarded with various activities and rules that we need to follow. There are too many of them that we feel overwhelmed. The poem also talks about an overwhelmed child like that, who delves into her own imaginary world when she feels it is too much for her.
The first rule that the poet talks about is biting nails. As children, we all tend to bite our nails, either out of nervousness or out of habit. Nails are just extra skin that grows on our fingers, and it is always good to keep them clean, as it can bring on diseases. Biting them can also lead to diseases in the gums and can affect the alignment of the teeth. But rather than telling a child the reason for refraining from nail-biting, they are only given direct orders. Similarly, they are also asked to sit straight and not slouch. Children tend to hunch up their shoulders and sit in a lethargic position when they are bored. They do this unconsciously. This can lead to having a bent back as they grow up. But the poet seems to be focussing on the fact that ordering them to sit straight can only lead the children to repeat it as they are unaware of why they are asked to do so. Amanda is ordered to stop doing this and that, and not talk about the consequences.
Child biting nails
When children are repressed with orders, they feel that their freedom is being curbed. Amanda, therefore, imagines herself as being in a different world whenever she feels overwhelmed with the orders. She imagines herself in an emerald sea, where there is no one but only her. She may have come up with this fantasy as she was smothered by people around her who suffocated her with rules. She wants to be in a peaceful set-up and hence imagines a sea. It is not just any ordinary sea, but an emerald one, as fantasies have no set rules. She imagines herself as a mermaid drifting across the sea. As young children are curious about mermaids, unicorns etc., Amanda also wants to be unique.
Meaning of difficult words:
HunchTo bend one's back in a round position
SlouchingTo sit in a lazy way
LanguidLacking energy
SoleThe only person
InhabitantA person who lives in a particular place
EmeraldA bright green
DriftingMoving slowly
BlissfullyIn a very happy mood
MermaidA woman has a tail of a fish and lives in the sea
BombardedTo attack someone with questions/rules constantly
LethargicLazy to act
CurbedTo limit or control
SmotheredTo cove up
SuffocatedUnable to breath
AlignmentThe arrangement of something
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Amanda- Robin Klein (pp. 61-62). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.