The two poems from different cultures and traditions that I have chosen are “Search for my tongue” by Sujata Bhatt and “Presents from my aunts in Pakistan” by Moniza Alvi. These poems are about girls who are living in a place which is different from their culture i.e. they live in England but have an Indian/Pakistani heritage and background. However Moniza Alvi in my opinion is ashamed or embarrassed about her background but Sujata Bhatt would like to learn more about her culture.
Sujata Bhatt’s poem is about a girl who lives away from her culture and as a result she uses the language of that country more and so she is forgetting her mother tongue (gujerati). She is feeling sad and ashamed that she has forgotten who she is. Sujata Bhatt talks to you and continues to ask you questions through the first stanza: “I ask you what would you do If you had two tongues in your mouth” This involves the reader and makes him/her think about Sujata’s predicament. “Presents from my aunt in Pakistan” is about a half Pakistani half English girl who is almost an outcast in both societies, as she cannot release her Pakistani side in England and vice versa. She will always be frowned upon by Pakistanis for being half English and vice versa. In the poem she says
“Half-English Unlike Aunty Jamila” But then she says “The presents were radiant in my wardrobe” Firstly indicating that she did not like the clothes then saying they were beautiful. I think she wants to fit in everywhere and that is how she shows in this poem. Sujata Bhatt’s poem is written from the point of view of a desperate girl who is clinging on to the last bits of gujerati that she knows. “Your mother tongue would rot I thought I had spit it out but overnight while I dream” Then she writes in gujerati showing that she now remembers it but also showing how hard it is to learn the language in the first place.
As at the beginning she is sad the language in the first stanza is cynical and pessimistic. “Your mother tongue would rot rot and die in your mouth until you had to spit it out The metaphor of a bud as the language growing is effective and the bud rotting tells me that she wants to remember but can’t. the metaphor of the “tongue” instead of using the word language makes the language physical and makes the poem flow better. “If you had two tongues in your mouth. The metaphor mouth is just used to reinforce the “tongue” In the final stanza she says: “It grows back, a stump of a shoot Grows longer grows moist, grows strong veins” And “The bud open the bud opens in my mouth” The repetition of grows and bud show that she is ecstatic that she has remembered her language.
Moniza Alvi is an insecure person, I believe this is the case because of what she says in lines 18-19: “I’ll never be as lovely as these clothes” She is not high in confidence probably as a result of not being able to show both her cultures i.e. she believes that she cannot wear her salwaar kameez out on weekends in England as she thinks she will be laughed at. She uses many metaphors and similes describing the beautiful clothes: “Glistening like an orange split open” “Candy stripped glass bangles” These are effective forms of imagery because everyone loves food and so everyone can imagine the colours of the clothes. There is not much more imagery in this poem, when she talk about her journey to England she just talks about what happened like it was a conversation whereas other poets would have used more imagery.
“Search for my tongue” is written in three stanzas this is appropriate for this poem as in the first she is sad because she has forgotten gujerati. In stanza she is dreaming and remembers and in stanza 3 she is happy because “the bud grows back” The stanza in Alvi’s poem are irregular and in my opinion that is not for a reason there is also no particular rhyme or rhythm in the poem. I found both poems interesting and ii can relate to them but more to Sujata Bhatt’s poem as my mother tongue is also gujerati and I am starting to forget it. I also prefer it because it has a good rhythm and I like the way she shows the contrast between stanza one and three.