Poem 7 – Vocation
By Rabindranath Tagore
On your way to school or market you see many people at work. In pairs, discuss what you have noticed. Then read this poem. You may read it aloud with a partner, if you like.
When the gong sounds ten in the morning and
I walk to school by our lane,
Every day I meet the hawker crying, “Bangles,
There is nothing to hurry him on, there is no
road he must take, no place he must go to, no
time when he must come home.
I wish I were a hawker, spending my day in
the road, crying, “Bangles, crystal bangles!”
When at four in the afternoon I come back from
I can see through the gate of that house the
gardener digging the ground.
He does what he likes with his spade, he soils
his clothes with dust, nobody takes him to
task, if he gets baked in the sun or gets wet.
I wish I were a gardener digging away at the
garden with nobody to stop me from digging.
Just as it gets dark in the evening and my
mother sends me to bed,
I can see through my open window the
watchman walking up and down.
The lane is dark and lonely, and the streetlamp
stands like a giant with one red eye in
The watchman swings his lantern and walks
with his shadow at his side, and never once
goes to bed in his life.
I wish I were a watchman walking the street
all night, chasing the shadows with my
The poem describes a child’s longing for the freedom he sees in the lives of those around him. When the gong sounds ten in the morning, he walks to his school and sees the hawker crying “Bangles, crystal bangles!” and he wishes he could be a hawker. At four in the afternoon, while coming back from school, he sees the gardener digging the ground and he wishes he were a gardener. When dusk falls his mother sends him to bed and he sees the watchman through the window and he wishes he could be a watchman.
The poem gives us an insight into the working of a child’s mind. Children dislike parental control on their activities. They always hunger for freedom. The freedom of a hawker and a gardener and a watchman fascinates the child narrator in this poem because they are their own masters enjoying the utmost freedom without the slightest rebuke of anybody.
However, the young boy values only freedom without authority. He doesn’t at this point realize what education and discipline would bring to him. Foolishly, the boy does not see the hardships that each worker faces.
(i) The hawker yells all day, standing in the same spot trying to sell cheap bangles. Undoubtedly his work is boring and unsatisfying.
(ii) The gardener, possibly working for someone else, spends hours doing back-breaking work. His job is dirty and his hands are rough from using gardening tools.
(iii) The watchman walks all night without sleep. The streets are shadowy, desolate, and lonely. He has got very tedious job too.
Therefore, the outlook of the boy is obviously childish. Hopefully, time and maturity will enable the boy to find his vocation through his education and commitment to a profession.
Textual Questions and Exercises
Q1. Who is the speaker in the poem? Who are the people the speaker meets? What are they doing?
Ans. A school boy is the speaker in this poem. He meets a hawker, a gardener and a watchman. The hawker is selling bangles, the gardener is digging the ground and the watchman is walking up and down the street all night.
Q2. What wishes does the child in the poem make? Why does the child want to be a hawker, a gardener, or a watchman? Pick out the lines in each stanza, which tell us this.
Ans. The child wishes to become a hawker so that he can move about freely as per his own will and wish. He wants to be a gardener so that he can dig the ground with freedom. He too wants to be a watchman so as to walk freely in the street. It is their carefree life that he is attracted to.
Q3. From the way the child envies the hawker, the gardener and the watchman, we can guess that there are many things the child has to do, or must not do.
Make a list of the do’s and don’ts that the child doesn’t like.
|The child must||The child must not|
|1. come home at a fixed time.||1. get his clothes dirty in the|
|2. Go to school at 10am||2. wander in the street|
|3. Go to bed when it is dark||3. play when the sun is hot or it is raining|
|4. Stay at home at night||4. stay out of the house at night|
Like the child in the poem, you perhaps have your own wishes for yourself. Talk to your friend, using “I wish I were…”
Ans. 1. “I wish I were a bird.”
- “I wish I were a king.”
- “I wish I were an English teacher.”
Q4. What wishes does the child in the poem make? Why does the child want to be hawker, a gardener, or a watchman?
Ans. The child wishes to become a hawker so that he may go about freely. He wants to be a gardener so that nobody would scold him for spoiling his clothes. He finally wants to be watchman so as to walk freely in the street. The child wishes to enjoy a restriction free life.
Q5. Who does the child meet every day in the lane?
Ans. The child meets a hawker everyday in the lane.
Q6. When does the child go to bed?
Ans. The child goes to bed as soon as it is dark in the evening.
Q7. What does he see through the open window?
Ans. He sees the night watchman through the open window.
Q8. How does the street lamp stand?
Ans. The streets lamp stands like a one –eyed giant.
Q9. Who gives company to the watchman?
Ans. The watchman’s Shadow alone gives him company.