Chapter 16 A Grain of Sand

A Grain of Sand is a poem written by the award winning Indian poet Tabish Khair. The poem discusses memory, love, faith, childhood and the troubles of living through a materialistic world. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Author

  • Tabish Khair is an Indian English poet and professor who has won the All India Poetry Prize.
  • Born: 1966
  • Place of Birth: Bihar, India
  • Major Books: 'Where Parallel Line Meet' and 'Man of Glass'
  • Best known for: His works reflect the complex and history of 'small town cosmopolitanism'
Handful of sand slips through a person hand
Handful of sand slips through a person hand

Summary of the Poem

The poet and the children are on a sea shore. Then his children came up to him to display what they had found. They had folded their tiny fingers into fists with something that was hidden in it. They were carrying some gifts that they had found from the sand to their father. This included simple and ordinary things such as pins, pretty pebbles and corks. The poet found these things to be extremely precious.

Look what we found my children said
Unfolding fists into a gift
Of cork, pin, caption, pebble, shred

Poet soon realises and considers these tiny common gifts as their way of expressing love. He calls it the "hidden gold". For the poet these things are precious as gold. As we grow up we lack the ability to find the stresses in common silt.

He soon realises that these glimmering tiny things will soon lose their worth as one grows up. As we grow we tend to price and tag everything that we see. He is referring to the idea of the market and how we determined the value and worth of things in this modern world. He understands that these precious tiny things that bring so much happiness will be seen through a price tag. Everything will become an object or a commodity that can be sold and bought.

Those glimmerings we lose with age
As price is tagged the story told,
And what is lost fills us with rage.

He goes on to tell that he is going to hold all the findings and treasures his children had brought to his desk. He strongly believes that one needs to learn the art to keep the findings and gifts. It is not enough to find and hold things but it is also important to keep them safe. It might also imply how we have to nurture certain values in our childhood and keep those values strong as we grow old.

It's not enough to find and hold,
One needs to learn we are to keep
What is found as if it was gold.

We need to appreciate the gifts and things that we discover in this world. It is not possible to own the world by just finding and holding things and naming it. It is most important to keep and appreciate them.

It is important to have faith and love for all these things that are around you which are big and small. It is equally important to keep these things safe so that we don't lose out or destroy these possessions. If one does not possess love and faith then whatever one believes will fall flat on the ground and become totally useless.

It's love and faith; it is a leap,
Without which all is dropped and lost
On hard inhospitable grounds,
Where price is known but not the cost
And nothing can ever be found.

The poet goes on to make a clear differentiation between price and cost. Price here is the net amount of money paid for an object. While cost is referring to all the factors that make an object special and valuable.

A money minded person cannot understand the actual value and worth of an object. They cannot find any treasure or appreciate any gift. This is because they are viewing things from the perspective of a price tag. The value, love and faith associated with that object goes invisible for them.

One usually reaches the stage as they grow up into adults. Are still run one tends to find joy in the most simple and silly things like a rubberband. But as one grows up and gets into the economically run society everything has a value and price. This often lets us not see the worth it holds beyond the price. We forget how to find happiness in finding the silliest things. The poet is asking us to not be too materialistic in our life.

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A Grain of Sand Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

The poet is trying to refer to a place which lacks love and faith through the phrase hard inhospitable grounds

As we grow old we forget the value of small things in our lives. We become materialistic and forget about the importance of small things in gestures.

Childhood seems to be a better stage in anyone's life. This is because life is simpler and one tends to gain pleasure from every tiny thing. As we grow old we get into the burdens of a material world. Hence childhood is a happy phase in everyone's life.