The poems ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ written by Moniza Alvi and ‘Half-Caste’ written by John Agard are both about people who feel socially excluded because of their faith or cultural background. ‘Presents from my Aunts’ is a very personal poem written by a girl who is having ‘social’ problems, whereas ‘Half-Caste’ is written by a man who has been called a ‘Half-Caste’ or ‘Half a person’ as it is described and is very offended and hurt by the fact that just because of his appearance people think he’s different.
‘Presents from my Aunts’ starts with the line ‘They sent me a salvwar kameez’, in my opinion this line would not draw me towards the poem it would just make me think a Salwar Kameez is not an ordinary present. The poet uses a variety of colours to try and paint a picture for the readers; ‘Half-Caste’ also uses this technique. ‘Peacock-blue’, ‘orange’, ‘gold and black’, ‘apple green’ and ‘silver’ are all interesting colours which describe the clothes that this girl receives from her Aunts in Pakistan. As we can see these colours are not ordinary colours for an average outfit, these clearly must have some kind of different background or an explanation behind them. The last line in the first stanza is ‘for my teens’ this clearly states that as she is a teenager she doesn’t think that she should be wearing these cultural clothes.
The second stanza is where she starts to show her real emotion, she feels uncomfortable and has mixed feeling about wearing these clothes as the second line is ‘was an alien in the sitting room’ telling us that she felt like some exotic creature in the sitting-room. She does like these clothes because she thinks their lovely but she doesn’t think she’ll ever be as lovely as them. She is desperate to be a normal teenager wearing normal clothes, as she says ‘I longed for denim and corduroy’ which was the fashion and a lot of the time if people are not in with the fashion or are not fashionable then they feel as if they stand out like a sore thumb.
By wearing these fashionable clothes she would be pretending to be someone that she isn’t. This part of the poem shows that she is torn between two groups, two cultures. ‘Half-English, unlike Aunt Jamilia’ here she compares herself with her Aunt who sent her these wonderful clothes, Aunt Jamilia is all Indian whereas this girl is half-English and half-Indian. She is torn between two worlds. The net stanza is a little bit unexpectedly, it is camel-skin lamp in her parent’s room, and this lamp has been distorted from a camel to a lamp. She likes the lamp and its colours a lot but she feels confused about it and thinks it’s cruel to transform a beautiful natural creature into a manmade invention.
The forth stanza gets back to the girls life a bit more and is about the clothes and jewellery that her mother loved. The Indian jewellery has a lot more detail on it than the kind of jewellery that is made England ‘Indian gold, dangling, filigree’. Is how she describes her mother’s ‘cherished’ jewellery, this sentence ends with a bang when all of a sudden she says ‘but it was stolen from our car’ which might suggest that she lives in an unpleasant nabourhood. In her wardrobe were her ‘radiant’ clothes meaning they were bright, war and glowing. It’s not only that she is curious about what culture she is in but also her Aunts are curious about English clothes as they requested a cardigan from Marks & Spencers, which to us is utterly ordinary.
Here she looks at objects to show the difference, others use language. Her school friend didn’t like the clothes her Aunt gave her and asked to see her week-end clothes, it made her feel completely out of place. Her clothes had small mirrors on them, which she likes looking at herself in, ‘But often I admired the mirror-work, tried to glimpse myself in the miniature glass circles’. She ended up feeling alone with only a tin boat to play with.
Looking at photographs she imagined herself being in the pictures where she was born. ‘Fractured’ a strong word meaning broken, her land was broken. She sometimes imagined seeing Lahore a city in Pakistan ‘I saw Lahore my Aunts in shaded rooms screened from male visitors’ in Pakistan women were allowed no attention from men. ‘I was there of no fixed nationality’ she was in India but still with no real nationality meaning where ever she goes she will never be a ‘normal’ person, as she stares through the fence in to the Shalimar Gardens, beautiful gardens in Lahore, as she longs to go in. ‘Half Caste’ is my favourite of the two; it is more suited for me and is what I love to read.