She desperately attempts to feel part of her Pakistani culture, but fails. Alvi feels unworthy and has no confidence in herself, ‘I could never be a lovely as those clothes’. She also refers to them as ‘those clothes’ rather than hers as if there is a distance between her and each item. Instead she ‘longed’ for typical British fashions such as denim and corduroy. She is desperate for British fashion and just wants to fit in, using the term ‘I longed’ on a different line to add emphasis.
Alvi gives a sense that she is in discomfort, and gives the image that they are attacking her and it is in a struggle to get them off as if she is drowning inside. The word ‘costume’ suggests that the clothes are unnatural and Alvi suggests she does not feel herself when she wears them, as if they are theatrical and she has to act a part. As the costume ‘clung’ to her the poet shows her sense of awkwardness with the clothes – they don’t belong together.Order now
She feels they don’t belong together. She feels a sense of discomfort, as if she is trapped. Alvi feels as if she is on fire, ‘aflame’- standing out from the crowd but cannot come to rise up to herself like a phoenix from the flames instead She feels self-conscious and She implies she is incomplete, seeing herself as ‘half- English’ and inadequate, unlike her Aunt Jamillia who she envies for being fully Asian whereas Alvi is only ‘half’.
In the third stanza, Alvi had second thoughts about the traditional camel-skin lamp. ‘I wanted’ reflects the ‘I longed’ expression earlier, the poet is constantly wanting answers as too where she belongs. The lamp is a symbol to indicate the poet’s connection with the camel, as she considers the cruelty of how it has been made and forced to be something it didn’t want to be and how it has been taken from its natural habitat; it does not belong in Britain, The lamp represents Alvi’s aim transformation as she feels she too was pushed into something she did not want to be. Despite the harsh realities and cruelty involved in its making, Alvi is fascinated by it, just as how she is fascinated with her past even though it hurts her.
Such objects make her feel much more confused about where she really belongs. Alvi is captivated and drawn in by the lamp because of the connection she feels to it. She refers to ‘stained glass’ because we can see through some parts but others are covered and fragmented. Which is also symbolic of Alvi, because the lamp is made from pieces just as her life is. ‘Stained glass’ is typically British and suggests that Alvi has come to feel ‘stained’ and unable to see any further. She then flicks quickly to another memory that haunts her.
‘ My mother cherished her jewellery – Indian gold, dangling, filigree, But it was stolen from our car.’ The jewellery was very special to her mum, and the lack of respect shown by the thieves for her mother’s cherished belongings didn’t go down well with Alvi. This again symbolises how Alvi feels about her roots, as ‘stolen’ implies something has been taken away from her. Alvi uses a hyphen again as a pause and then goes on to describing the jewellery. You could imagine her suddenly speaking in an abrupt and negative tone and she finishes with an end-stopped line to give a harsh effect to the stanza. This relates to the start where Alvi feels uncomfortable wearing the jewellery as she did the clothes on the other hand her mother even though she was English she is able to wear decorative Asian accessories without feeling uncomfortable.
Alvi keeps her presents hidden away and even though they are ‘radiant in my wardrobe’ their colourful and interesting beauty was just too much for Alvi. They stand out like a beacon of light, especially against her everyday western wear. Like her true culture, Alvi likes to keep her clothing hidden away. This makes the reader think that she is trying to hide reminders of her culture, and they are locked away with her true identity. This stanza ends with the irony that the aunts who sent the traditional clothes themselves wanted ‘cardigans from Marks and Spencers’. It is confusing to her as Marks and Spencers is so British yet her relatives feel comfortable wearing western clothing whereas she feels awkward in her Pakistani dress.
In stanza five Alvi feels very differently to her British school friend with regards to the clothing, and she admires the beautiful, captivating patterns and detail on the salwar. It’s not surprising her school friend is not interested; they do not have any meaning to her. The term ‘School friend’; gives us a sense of distance because Alvi does not use any name, which makes it feel impersonal as if Alvi feels like an outsider amongst her peers.
The mirror work as the clothes is in pieces may be symbolic of Alvi’s image of her life, as the mirrors are in fragments, as if Alvi’s life has been broken down into small pieces and she cannot bring them all together to get the full image of who she is, instead she just gets small parts here and there but she cant grasp a full picture. She tries her best to recreate her past; she remembers the painful journey to Britain as we picture an uncomfortable journey with prickly-heat as if the pain of moving can be felt physically, not just emotionally. The fact that she ends up in a cot shows how she feels discarded and forgotten about as she has been moved away somewhere out of the way. She arrives at her grandmother’s and she is immediately lonely as she plays with the ‘tin boat’. ‘Tin boat’ giving the effect of something hard, cold, and negative, just as she feels hollow and empty.
Stanza six is about how Alvi sees a picture of her birthplace. She has read about it in the newspaper, and there is a sense of confusion with each reminder as she tries to recreate herself as someone in Lahore, even though she was much too young to remember herself being there. She pictures it in her mind. ‘My aunts in shaded rooms, Screened from male visitors’ This section shows the social differences between the sexes; a strict Muslim upbringing vs. a more liberal UK attitude, in Pakistan it is tradition to keep the sexes apart and Alvi also refers to ‘shaded rooms’ as if the women are hidden away. The use of the word ’tissue’ makes the reader picture something very delicate and fragile like Alvi herself but also it suggests she also feels she has been wrapped up and carefully placed away from her true culture by her parents, just like the presents.
Finally in the last and shortest stanza, Alvi humbles herself as she imagines that she goes back to visit her home country. She talks about the poverty and the beggars on the streets and even visualises herself amongst people who are ‘lower class’. But even they are all part of a group; Alvi feels alienated again, everyone that surrounds her know who they are and know where they have come from but she is almost drifting between the two cultures. As she looks through the fretwork at the Shalimar Gardens she glimpses only pieces of what she could be. She implies that she feels almost like and outsider to everyone else. ‘No fixed nationality’ and once more she feels alien as if she does not belong anywhere.