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A different History

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Phoebe Fielder

on 22 January 2013

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Transcript of A different History

A Different History The Poem
Backround Information about the poet Sujata Bhatt was brought up in Pune, India until 1968 when she emigrated to the U.S with her family.
Many of her poems have themes such as love and violence. Sujata Bhatt explores issues such as racism and interaction between Asian, European, and North American culture.

A link perhaps and inspiration to her poems and this particular poem ,is her Grandfarther who was held under arrest by the British authorities and red Tennyson poems for comfort( I could not find any further information on this) What techniques are use in the poem?
Part one 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 a 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.
Whose 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 the long scythe swooping out
of the conqueror’s face –
the unborn grandchildren
grow to love that strange language
In the first part of the poem the speaker starts by showing she is in fact of two nationalities by beginning the poem with "Great Pan" "emigrating", a greek god of nature whose upper body is of a man and lower is of a goats.
She use the phrase "here, gods roam freely disguised as snakes or monkeys" to show that religion is part of the daily life in India. Monkeys and snakes are conman animals which is how the reader comes to the conclusion of how much of daily interaction with religion there is. Then we have the repation of "sin" and given examples with the words "rude" "shove" "Slam" "toss" which give us clear imagery of violent actions and what is an absolute must not, this is of course an exaggeration and criticizes India's culture and strong view on religion.
The last paragraph of the first part counters the previous imagery of violence with " you must learn to turn the pages gently" which is a soothing image and also tells the reader that the culture of India is inforced " you must learn", "without disturbing sarasvati" the goddess of knowledge who links in with books. So to sum up part one is about how religion plays a mass part in Indian life
by Sujata Bhatt Part two In the second part of the poem the mood completely changes from the critical yet not completely unsporting view, to a harsh and angrier tone. It is all about language and begins with two rhetorical questions. The first "Which language has not been the oppressor's tongue?" indicates that many languages have been altered by some sort of oppressor(someone who treats people in an unfair and cruel way and prevents them from having opportunities and freedom) and the second "Which language is truly meant to murder someone?" represents the speakers opinion that language is part of some ones' identity and to kill their identity through language is the same as murder.
The words "Oppressor" "murder" "torture" give this very negative image, making altering a language seem like a mass crime. The phrase " and after the soul has been cropped with a long scythe swooping out" is a metaphorical image of the identity of "India" being taken ( soul has been cropped) And finally the last two and most striking lines " the unborn grandchildren grow to love that strange language" Which basically means that the newest generation will never come to know the unaltered "language" and instead embrace and take in as their own the "strange" language.
So to sum this up the colonization of India by Britain was WRONG and the alteration of India's Language and culture stole identities. Use of Language, structure and form There are 29 lines in the poem
it is written in free verse, the poet does this to make her opinion seem more serious and help the readers to concentrate on the matter being expressed in the poem
repation, metaphors and imagery is used in the poem
some lines are broken in two so as to insure that the reader, reads the poem slowly taking in everything
there are two parts to the poem, separated so the clear change in mood and attitude is conveyed
Themes Identity


religion Personal response I found this poem very engaging because of all the different techniques used, making it interesting and harder to unravel. This particular poem was a bit like a riddle to me, at first when I read I didn't have the slightest idea what it was about, so to speak it sparked my curiosity.
I love the fact that there is more than one way to interpret the poem and that the poet has made it so personal to her.
The phrase in this poem that caught my attention was "Great Pan is not dead he simply emigrated to India" because I can sort of relate to it, as I feel I also have two identities and am international.
The last two lines I find are easiest to remember as they were what made and helped me realize that this poem was about the British (not specifically) altering India's culture and language. The fact that the new generation will never know the old language is almost a sad thought, making the phrase slightly haunting. Why do you choose to work in English? “I write in English because English became my language. When I was a girl in India I was sent to an English school, and also in between as a child I had travelled back and forth between the United States and India. So actually I learned English first in the United States when I was five, and then we returned to India shortly after, and I continued attending an English school over there, and so that's why I write in English. My native language is Gujarati, and in some of my poems I've mixed Gujarati with English for various reasons, which pertain more to the poem than with anything else, or perhaps the poem reflects the way I think, or it reflects a part of my life, and so I've used both languages in some poems, but I really feel that English is my language, as it is for many other writers from India”
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