How do Moniza Alvi and Sujatta Bhatt use their poems to show the difficulties facing people moving from one culture to another?
Moniza Alvi is from Pakistan, and is mixed race, her father is Pakistani, her mother is English, and her, her mother and father moved to England when she was a baby. She doesn’t remember travelling to England, or her birthplace. The only things she knows about Pakistan are through what people have told her and from photographs that her family had shown her.
In this poem, she describes gifts that are sent to her from her relatives in Pakistan. She likes them, because of the bright colours, but would feel awkward wearing them out because it’s not English people’s ...view middle of the document...
She says about the glass bangles, ‘snapped, drew blood’, she sees them as a health risk, if she snapped it, it would cut her arm.
Moniza Alvi talks about trying the clothes on, and they felt strange and she ‘longed for denim and corduroy’ and the Pakistani clothes felt ‘alien’.
The exotic and vibrant colours of the clothes she has been sent aren’t normal in England and she wouldn’t wear them out. It would seem strange to her, because she has been swept away by British fashion, which is generally quite tight and shows off the shape someone may or may not have, and the bright, Pakistani clothing is normally hand made, and quite loose and shapeless.
She compares the clothes from Pakistan to the ones she has bought in England. She is attracted to the exotic clothes, because they are bright and she says they stand out from her dull English clothes “the presents were radiant in my wardrobe”. She mentions lots of colour when she describes clothes from Pakistan, but refers to no colour to her English clothes; I get the feeling that in comparison, they are very boring.
Moniza Alvi writes about what she’s heard of Pakistan in the papers, “fractured land, throbbing through newsprint”, by this she means war and conflict. Though she hasn’t been back to Pakistan since she was brought to England, I think she feels safer being at home in England, avoiding the wars.
The objects she receives from her aunts in Pakistan don’t ‘fit’ into the English way. She talks about her mother’s Indian gold that was left in the car, it got stolen. I think she liked her mother’s jewellery; she refers to it as filigree and dangling. The camel skin lampshade would be considered cruel because it was killing an animal for its skin, to make a lamp shade out of; I also think she likes the camel skin lampshade, her parents had one, and she says she likes to ‘consider the cruelty and transformation’, and she ‘marvels at the colours, like stained glass’.
I think that when read, this poem should be read wistfully, she wants to be in touch with her original culture, because of the bright clothes, and strange, cruel and beautiful objects. I think she wants to know what it would be like if things were different, if her family had stayed in Pakistan, “half-English, unlike Aunt Jamilla”, “recall the story, how the three of us sailed to England”, and “and I was there – of no fixed nationality”. I think she wishes she had the courage to wear the clothes out, but her confidence had been knocked: “my salwar kameez didn’t impress my school friend”, and “but it was stolen from out car”. I know she doesn’t have the confidence to wear the clothes she receives because she only looks at them in the wardrobe “the presents were radiant in my wardrobe”.
Sujatta Bhatt was born in India, and her first language is Gujarati, which she refers to as her ‘mother tongue’. She moved to the USA and learnt English. The poem, ‘Search for my tongue’ is about her being worried about forgetting her main language....