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A Different History - Sujatta Bhatt Presentation

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Transcript of A Different History - Sujatta Bhatt Presentation

By Sujatta Bhatt A Different History In Greater Detail... Great Pan is not dead;
He simply emigrated
to India.
Here the gods roam freely,
disguised as snakes or monkeys;
every tree is sacred
and it is a sin
to be rude to a book.
It is a sin to shove a book aside
with your foot,
a sin to slam books down
hard on the table,
a sin to toss one carelessly
across a room.
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
without disturbing Sarasvati,
without offending the tree
from whose wood the paper was made.

Which language
has not been the oppressor's tongue?
Which language
truly meant to murder someone?
And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swopping out
of the conqueror's face-
the unborn children
grow to love that strange language Sujatta Bhatt was born in 1956 in Ahmedabad, India
She lived in Pune, India's 7th largest metropolis, until 1968, when she emigrated to the USA with her family
She is a native speaker of Gujarati, one of India's main dialects
She now lives in Bremen, Germany, with her husband

She has received a number of awards for her poetry, and has translated a number of poems from Gujarati to English
Many of Sujatta Bhatt's poems have themes of love and violence.
She explores topics such as racism and the relationship and interaction between Asian, European, and North American culture.
From many of her works, as well as her biography, we know that she afraid of losing her "natural"Indian identity, yet, at the same time, she is critical of Hinduism and its beliefs. Starting from the 1700s, Britain and France had a constant conflict over important trading areas of India, which led to two wars between them. After a series of French concessions and British military victories, the British East India Company had effective rule over many parts of the Indian Peninsula by the 1750s The numbers of British citizens in India were small, yet they were able to rule two-thirds of the subcontinent directly and exercise considerable leverage over the princely states (these were ruled by a local Government) that accounted for the remaining one-third of the area. By the beginning of the 1800s, however, attitudes were changing. The British Government believed that India was suffering from "deeply ingrained backwardness", that could only be solved by "strong" foreign rule. The Company set about making major changes to property ownership, the Law, the educational system towards a more "British" approach to these matters. They started to dismiss the superstition of Asian religions, and promoted the "rationality" of Christianity, through education, number of places of worship of each religion, etc. As a result, many native Indians started feeling oppressed by these changes, and resistance and protest movements started to grow. Which language
has not been the oppressor's tongue?
Which language
truly meant to murder someone?
And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swopping out
of the conqueror's face-
the unborn children
grow to love that strange language. Great Pan is not dead;
He simply emigrated
to India.
Here the gods roam freely,
disguised as snakes or monkeys;
every tree is sacred
and it is a sin
to be rude to a book.
It is a sin to shove a book aside
with your foot,
a sin to slam books down
hard on the table,
a sin to toss one carelessly
across a room.
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
without disturbing Sarasvati,
without offending the tree
from whose wood the paper was made. Stanza 1 Mocking/Satirical of traditional Indian beliefs. Stanza 2 Understanding yet Critical of the English changing India's beliefs. Great Pan is not dead;
he simply emigrated
to India. "Great Pan" = the Ancient Greek God
of Nature, who supposedly eventually
"slept for eternity"(died). He was half
man, half goat The God Pan was half man, half goat. First reference to the poet's dual identity - she too (believes) that she is composed of two different entities, that she is both Indian and English
The poet allies Greek culture with Indian culture. Such myths existed in Greece around 1000 B.C., while similar ones were still believed in India even up to the 1700s and the British Invasion. By thus comparing the cultures, the poet shows us how "Western" beliefs have developed over the centuries, while India's remained and remains basic. Here the gods roam freely,
disguised as snakes or monkeys; These two lines show us the integration of India's traditional ideas/beliefs into everyday life. And, by doing so, it expands the gap between the development of "Western" ideologies and Indian ones. Today, very few people believe that their religion is so actively involved in everyday life in Europe or the U.S., while this idea is very common with India's religions.
(snakes and monkeys are used as examples because they are the most common animals in India) every tree is sacred
and it is a sin
to be rude to a book.
It is a sin to shove a book aside
with your foot,
a sin to slam books down
hard on the table,
a sin to toss one carelessly
across a room.
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
without disturbing Sarasvati,
without offending the tree
from whose wood the paper was made. "sin" = 1. to violate a religious or moral law.
2. to commit an offense or violation. A sin is when one commits a crime, or a violation of an ethical law. However, here it is used to describe someone being "rude" to a book, and so, with satirical exaggeration, comments on India's beliefs even today. It also adds a religious dimension to the following actions. The poet personifies a book from an inanimate object into a living form with god-like qualities. A book, in "Western" culture at least, is just an inanimate source of knowledge, inspiration or entertainment. On the contrary, in India, because of its connections with the Arts Goddess Sarasvati, it is respected and handled with utmost care. A similar personification is applied to trees, turning them from mere plants into body parts of the Great Goddess of the Arts. The poet uses repetition and the imperative tense to show the pressure to conform to these beliefs in India. The constant use (repetition) of the powerful adjective "sin", and "without", show how unacceptable these religiously these actions are. The "you must learn" imperative shows how children are educated from a young age though their family and education to abide by India's religious ideology and its strong beliefs, as well as the overall pressure to conform. "Sarasvati" = Indian Goddess of the Arts, is widely
worshipped in many artistic fields in India "Which language
has not been the oppressor's tongue?"

"Which language
truly meant to murder someone?"

"And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swopping out
of the conqueror's face-
the unborn children
grow to love that strange language." Philosophical Point. It makes the reader think about the origin of all languages, and how they can change and be affected over time. In this case, for example, many of the newer words in the Indian dialects have English roots. Reference to British Invasion of India (can also be applied universally).
Britain is called the oppressor - did not respect Indian autonomy after the 1800s, changing education and the legal system contrary to the majority's wishes
Personification of language/dialect as a literal tongue. (consistent with turning the British Empire into a human form previously) Rhetorical Question / metaphor. The British, relatively, didn't kill many people in India during the Occupation.
What they tried to do was"progress" Indian culture after the 1800s, starting by changing certain aspects of the language.
[Killing language -> killing culture -> killing history and beliefs of person -> killing identity of person]
The English did not kill her country's population literally, but they killed their identities by changing their culture. Understanding that there was no malevolence on the side of the British - poet is understanding, or at least mentioning, their aims "torture", "cropped", "long scythe", "swooping out" Semantic Field - These words bring to mind a violent, quick, sharp movement, which symbolizes the changes made to India by the British in a short time period. "with a long scythe swooping out; of the conqueror's face" The scythe is the tongue, thus the language, of the "Conqueror" (Britain). Thus, it suggests that the change in language is the start, and the cause, of the change in India's religion.

"swooping out" represents a literal cut, a literal change. British Intervention after 1800 brought about many developments, yet STOPPED OTHERS FROM PROGRESSING, such as the INDIAN LANGUAGE, CULTURE and RELIGION. This cut is easy to imagine, since the imagery of this word allows us to visualize the movement, making the technique even more effective. The British Intervention is commented upon with a negative image through the use of the semantic field. "Unborn Children" = Future Generations. The poet counts herself as one of them, the children who never knew how the old way of life was. "Strange Language"= different Indian language, different Indian culture, not normal We should not forget our native language
Simultaneously satirizing her native language - even its origins are not completely original

Great Pan is not dead;
He simply emigrated
to India.
Here the gods roam freely,
disguised as snakes or monkeys;
every tree is sacred
and it is a sin
to be rude to a book.
It is a sin to shove a book aside
with your foot,
a sin to slam books down
hard on the table,
a sin to toss one carelessly
across a room.
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
without disturbing Sarasvati,
without offending the tree
from whose wood the paper was made. Which language
has not been the oppressor's tongue?
Which language
truly meant to murder someone?
And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swopping out
of the conqueror's face-
the unborn children
grow to love that strange language. Structure and Form Techniques used Structure - Two Parts - Dual Identity (One satirizing India and the other critical of Britain) This shows that the author is not completely confident about being either completely Indian or English.
Form - Free Verse, 29 lines (18 lines in 1st Stanza and 11 in 2nd Stanza) - allows us to concentrate on content
Rhyme scheme - Non Existent. The poet prefers irregularity, since it makes sure that the reader is reading each line carefully and understands its meaning, rather that to be "carried away" by the flow of a rhyme scheme. Stanza 1 Techniques used to convey attitude / Tone Mocking / Critical of India's Old Culture Tone: Satirical Exaggeration:
"gods roam freely; disguised as snakes or monkeys
In the 21st century, we all know it is unlikely that our gods actually take a real form and involve themselves into everyday life, yet the poet suggests this.
"every tree is sacred"
It is unlikely that all Hindus universally respect any tree as being sacred.
"it is a sin to ..."
The Hindu religion does not make specific reference to any of these actions, and surely DOES NOT prohibit them with such austerity. Personification:
"be rude to a book"
The book is given human qualities and almost god-like respect, as if it really is an item of worship. Since books are inanimate objects, it impossible for them to have feelings.
"...without offending the tree..."
Trees are too given human qualities and referred to as if they have emotions. The respect the Hindu religion normally gives them is again exaggerated, to the point that they have human emotions. Stanza 2 Understanding yet critical of the English changing India's culture
Tone: Critic, Angry, Dejected Impressive that Bhatt managed to "compress" all of her comments, ideas and beliefs into a 30-line poem.
Unlike poems such as "Pike", every line has at least one technique, all of which contribute to a clear theme and meaning. Rhetorical Questions: Both have a double meaning. The first one tries to philosophise on the general origin of languages while attacking the British Invasion, while the second is clearly slightly more understanding of the British aims and how they aimed to help, not oppress, India.
Semantic Field: The use of "strong" words to exaggerate and visualize the "harsh" changes made by the British. Torture, cropped, scythe, swooping all bring violence, brutality and sharpness to our mind. This comments on the changes negatively, and conveys the criticism and anger that the poet feels for the British actions.
"Strong" descriptions: "Conqueror" and "oppressor" connote malevolence and greed. Britain is not only portrayed as the invader, but one that exploited and oppressed the Indian population for its own interests. My only reservation is that Sujatta Bhatt criticizes the English too harsh without first hand experience of the change.
She could maintain a more neutral attitude towards the British for changing her country's culture. After all, they did end some of the more passionate ideologies which she herself satirizes, and we must not forget that many who lived during THAT era accepted the changes as well. Interesting because it uncovered many aspects of Britain and India's history + uncover the ties between the two countries.
Encouraged me to do additional research on a topic which is obscure for the rest of the world Personal Reflection. Techniques used. Identity. Techniques used. Culture. Techniques used. Time. Sujatta Bhatt has a a dual identity crisis. She believes that, culturally, she is made up of two different parts, one Indian, one English
She comments often in poems on the strangeness of having two languages and two different cultures
She is afraid that she will lose her "mother tongue", which is Gujarati, since she is mostly writing in English nowadays, and she had left India since she was 12 years old. Poem consists of two parts, each criticizing a culture - shows dual identity and how she does not feel completely at ease with each culture.
Reference to Pan, who was said to be half-man, half-goat (made up of two different parts) - Bhatt identifies herself.
"Unborn children grow to love that strange language" - shows how, even though British is not her native language, she (one of the furure generations) is starting to understand and love it. The poet believes that the English stopped India's culture from progressing and developing as it would have done otherwise.
She comprehends that they did not mean any real (physical) harm, yet she finds that "culturally killing" someone is just as bad. (Entire First Stanza) She satirises India's old way of life - showing the pressure to conform and some of the more peculiar aspects of that faith
[Exaggeration, repetition, strong words]
"Which language ... oppressor's tongue" - The origins of language (and so eventually) culture, claiming that all cultures have roots too.
[Rhetorical Question]
"And how does it....conqueror's face" - Dramatically describing the literal cut of India's cultural development
[Semantic Field, Imagery] Bhatt believes that all languages and cultures have origins
After a certain amount of time, this new, different culture will be understood and loved by the new generations who will have never seen the alternative - the old way of life. "Which language...the oppressor's tongue?" - Comment on the roots of languages and how they can be affected over time
[Rhetorical Question - this is not a question but a statement]
"The unborn children...strange language" - Over time, old faiths and beliefs are forgotten, and are replaced by new, adapted, affected ones.
The language would have seemed alien to the old generations, yet the newer ones have only ever known this and come to accept it as their own. THEMES. I appreciate Sujatta Bhatt's style, and how cleverly she can create a tone and/or describe a certain event

E.G. The semantic field she used to describe the English stopping India's cultural development.
She knew that a change of the Indian language brought about the overall change so she compared the English language to a conqueror's tongue.
She then compared the tongue to a "long scythe swooping out", so that we can visualize this visual cut.
The use of words such as "torture", "cropped", "scythe" immediately make us think of violent, swift, brutal actions. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING!
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