A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 by Vikram Seth is a remarkable poem describing the horrors of the aftermath of a atomic bomb explosion. This tragic poem describes the condition of the survivors of the atomic bombing by the United States on Hiroshima during the end of the World War II on 6th of August 1945.
The narrator in the poem, A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945, is a doctor. The poem begins with a calm and serene note. The doctor says that it was dawn and he was in his bed, not fully clothed. When he stretched out and looked outside, he saw shining leaves and shadows. In the next moment, there were two sudden flashes of strong light and the old stone lantern lit up by itself. The doctor wondered whether the flashes were magnesium flares seen during a war. In the next moment, the doctor finds out that the roof and wall of his building has collapsed and the debris were scattered all over.
Dust covered up the whole place and clothes disappeared from his body. They were burnt. The doctor was wounded on his cheek, thigh and he was bleeding. A piece of glass had entered into his body which he removes ‘detachedly.’ He was wondering what suddenly took place and what had happened to him.
The narrator called out his wife, ‘where are you, Yecko-san?’ Yecko-san looked pale, frightened and had blood stains on her body. The doctor assures his wife that they would be fine and they must go to the hospital for aid.
The doctor and his wife steps out of their house and while walking on the road, tripped on a head of a man, who was probably crushed to death under a gate. They saw a house that ‘tilted, swayed, toppled and crashed.’ Fire was springing up in the dust and was spreading fast by the wind. The couple thought of going to the hospital as they needed aid and also the doctor wanted to help his staff. But then he wondered how could he help his staff when he himself was injured. His legs felt wasted and he sat down on the ground. He was thirsty but he did not find any water to drink. He was panting but finally he got up with little strength and walked towards the hospital.
The narrator in A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 was naked but felt no shame at his state. He came across a soldier who gave him a towel. The doctor could not walk anymore, he told his wife to move ahead alone. She did not wish to but they had no other choice. The doctor’s mind was working but the body refused to work or move ahead.
He saw shadow-like appearances of people, some resembled ghosts and some scarecrows but everybody was silent and numb. Some of the survivors were walking with their arms hanging loose from their body. It took a lot of time for the doctor to understand what has happened.
The doctor was surprised to see people walking naked as if it was a naked parade. He encountered a woman and a child both unclothed who seemed like as if they had come out straight from a bath.
The doctor encounters another naked man until then he realized that something horrific has happened that had burnt down people’s clothes.
He comes across an old woman who was lying on the ground, her face distorted. But she was not grumbling. Silence was around and in the face of all men and women. Each and everyone were dumbfounded and speechless, they even could not cry out of pain.
The main theme of A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 is the destruction caused by the atomic bombs on Hiroshima. The poem depicts both mental and physical agony. The poet has described the gruesome reality of the first nuclear explosion and its power to destroy the whole human race. This bombing wiped out two cities and millions died. However, Japan endured the calamity, rose up, (bit by bit my strength/Seemed to revive) and rebuilt their shattered city and their world.