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Explore the ways in which two or three of these poems present the experience of living between two cultures and the difficulties it causes.

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Introduction

Explore the ways in which two or three of these poems present the experience of living between two cultures and the difficulties it causes. The two poems I am choosing are "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan" and "Search for My Tongue". "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan" is written by Moniza Alvi, a woman who was born in Pakistan but moved to England at an early age. Her mother was from England and white, her Father was Pakistani and so black. This makes Moniza 'half-caste', as well as the aunts in poem being from her father's side. Her poem begins with a description of the gifts her aunts send her; "They sent me a salwar kameez peacock-blue, and another glistening like an orange split open..." The gifts are clothes in the typical Pakistani style, long tunic and loose trousers of blue and orange. Yet her indisposition towards the clothes is hinted at by her description of the first set of clothes. Peacock blue suggests that she feels like a peacock in them, showing off and flamboyant, something she doesn't want to be. They make her uncomfortable and self conscious. The next set of clothes show us the passage of time for Alvi with more clothes from her aunts. Yet as in England, and as she puts it, school, fashions change. ...read more.

Middle

This no doubt troubled Alvi, her school friend not liking her clothes that she wasn't one hundred per cent on anyway. This could not have boosted her morale over the issue of ethnicity. Yet it goes on to mention that she does try the clothes on, looking in the mirror at herself. Presumably this was done alone and out of eye of her parents and friends. Now she talks of photographs; "...in miniature glass circles, recall the story how three of us sailed to England." Her memories of the Pakistan and the journey to England are non existent; she was too young to remember. She gets her memories and perceptions of that time from photographs and stories her parents have told her. Stories of how she screamed all the way to England due to prickly heat and playing with a tin boat in her English grandmother's dining-room. She then shifts to picturing her birth place, as she puts it, not her home. She gets her ground plan from fifties' pictures, black and whites from before she was born. Then she grows up, accounting the troubles that come to the region of her origin; "When I was older there was conflict, a fractured land throbbing through the newsprint" conflicts like the Kashmiri War in 1965 and the antagonism over East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. ...read more.

Conclusion

What she says is basically what she says in English above, voicing her concern over the loss of her first language. Yet she dreams it in that language, bringing it back to life; "...it grows back, a stump of a shoot, grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins," the language comes back to her consciousness. She uses the imagery of a plant, one that can die and become useless, and one that can grow and take root. The mother tongue does grow back, knocking the other aside, making its presence felt. This is a very triumphant poem as the last stanza illustrates; "Everytime I think I've forgotten, I think I've lost the mother tongue, it blossoms out of my mouth." When she is in the lowest moment, the most uncertain time, a time where she doubts her nationality, it comes flying out, reassuring her. The difficulties she faces are internal, no one is putting pressure on her, and there is no question nationality. She is more upset than concerned over the 'losses of her native language. Alvi has no fixed language, no fixed home. She is caught between the two cultures, Bhatt is caught between tongues. Her second tongue is one of convenience. She thinks she has lost the first, but she hasn't. Alvi doesn't even go near that level of contentment. ...read more.

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