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Tishani Doshi is an Indian English poet born to a Gujarati father and an English mother. This intermixing of two different worlds can be seen in her works. The Art of Losing is a poem that tells us about embracing loss. We all face loss whether in one form or the other and we always tend to grieve about the loss.

A similar thing happened with the poet when her pet dog refused to eat one day and then died in the following days. Like all of us would do, the poet mourned his death and grieved for her loss. But then she realized that if she could understand her loss better, then she would be able to embrace it better. She says that we should learn to accept our loss and to embrace it because all of us know that everything is not permanent and will get lost eventually.

Tishani Doshi

Death is inevitable and there is nobody who can escape from death. It all begins with birds and fishes dying every day. The sorrows in this universe are so deep and cannot be rectified. Everybody ages and die and there is a time when people will be missed by their relatives. We will get to feel their touch or hear their voice. Build courage to face your death. No one is aware when their time comes.

The poet describes death as ‘only the start of an endless litany of betrayals’. Betrayal is probably the most devastating loss a person can experience. Loss can also involve things that are less tangible such as trust. When an individual is betrayed by someone, they lose trust in that person. You can’t be betrayed if you did not trust the individual in the first place. We understand that when someone dies we experience loss and grief, but frequently we don’t recognize the other forms of loss that we may experience in life.

Sometimes loss can be the loss of an illusion. Frequently, we develop in our minds the way we think things should be. However, reality doesn’t always correspond with the demands that we put on life, ourselves, and others. Therefore, sometimes we are hurt when we have to face this reality. Even if the betrayal is the loss of the illusion, the grief is very real and needs to be dealt with. Given that betrayal is a loss, it is necessary to understand the process of grief to deal with having been betrayed.

Death may not be the end of this life. It can be a life-altering experience. There is only one art that is needed to be mastered- it is the art of losing. We must learn to let go. Everybody holds on to their external materials, people, but these are often intended to be lost. The grief process is a healing process. It was built into our systems to help us cope with the numerous losses we experience in life. If we trust the process fully, we will heal. Trusting the process means allowing the feelings to be what they are, whatever they are. When life forces us to release our grip, we need to understand what exactly we value. The poet advocates not only the art of losing, but also speaks about the art of being lost.

This poem explores the theme of loss and how it is intrinsically tied to the human experience. Intriguingly, Doshi casts loss as an “art”, suggesting loss is not merely a sad eventuality, but something requiring skill, practice, and resilience to navigate and reckon with. The poet employs a conversational tone to guide the reader through the various instances of loss, infusing a sense of universality in terms of the experiences she portrays. The losses detailed in her poem range from the mundane -like misplacing keys -to profound experiences such as the death of loved ones.

Notably, the poem uses repetition to emphasize that loss is an ongoing process. Each stanza repeats the phrase, “The art of losing…” providing continuity and a certain rhythm, reinforcing the idea that loss is an inevitable part of life.

The imagery Doshi uses is quite powerful, which imbues mundane objects such as keys with emotional value as symbols of loss. The contrast between trivial material loss and profound emotional or spiritual loss effectively portrays the spectrum of human experiences concerning loss and the ways people are affected by it. The poem also illuminates the connection between loss and gain. With every loss comes an opportunity for growth, for resilience, for connection -a theme Doshi subtly touches upon.

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δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of lecture notes that she prepared by referring to various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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