Class 3 Poetry

A Different History – Sujata Bhatt

A Different History
Sujata Bhatt
Summary: The poet here talks about the affects of colonization or globalization for that matter. Whatever the case she addresses a sudden change in the way society thinks and how we should try to preserve it. She also talks about the loss of culture that comes with globalization and the loss of part of our history as we reject the teachings of the old culture and of our old heritage. It could be for this reason that she decided to name the poem A Different History.
Significant poetic devices and their significance (eg: Metaphors, symbols, rhyme scheme, form, imagery, repetition… etc)
Structure based analysis
1.       Note lines 9 to 14 and notice the indentations of the lines.
“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”
Note that the poet has done this purposely to accentuate the action described. Similar to when you kick a book, the sentence suddenly shifts to the right, as if you have kicked it into that position. In the same way when you slam a book hard on a table or toss it carelessly across the room you move the book, although perhaps not as far if you had kicked it, thus the exaggerated indentation in the first line.
2.       Similarly, the whole of the second stanza is indented. This shows perhaps a form of limitation or segregation between the two.
a.       The first stanza represents the ones unaffected by globalization and the western society. People who maintained their “original” culture.
b.      The second stanza represents those who chose to migrate and are bound to or favour the expat or international or western culture.
Note that although the degree of indentation is different, the border is the same. This means that the second stanza has less ‘line space’. This perhaps can address the issue that the thinking of the next generation is narrower and less open minded. It also shows how little in breath they know about their society and their heritage, especially one as rich as India.
3.       Assonance. This means that we can find internal syllables rhyming with each other. Note the word “book”, “foot”, “room”, “wood”, “swooping”. The significance of it being that perhaps with globalization, you still retain some of your heritage, which still allows you to be saved. Note how the four “oo” sounds can be found in the first stanza, while the last one is only found at the end. Perhaps this can be used as an index to show your level of knowledge of your past. Similarly, it can mean that you never really truly forget your culture, but perhaps lose a bit or remember little, no matter how much you are influenced by globalization, colonization or one of those –izations. Especially in places like America, a lot of the Asians are Westernised, but keep parts of their heritage alive, perhaps like eating Chinese food or something.
4.       Free verse.
a.       This demonstrates the fact that the poem is a completely free and is basically used to vent the poet’s opinions on the matter. She perhaps is saying that her opinion belongs to her and she just wishes to express them onto the world. She could perhaps be saying that she is not right, nor is she saying that globalization is necessarily a bad thing.
b.      On the other hand, she could be saying that globalization or westernization is a completely different thing, a phenomena that humans have not ever experienced in the history of us living together. It breaks all conventions as it has never been done before, similar to how this poem, with its free verse and peculiar paragraphing, breaks all conventions of a typical poem.
5.       The whole poem is in English. This completely contradicts the fact that she is ranting about the change in culture and language and the horrible effects of the something-ization when she is speaking the language caused by it. She is in this way putting herself not on the pedestal but beside it, saying that she is one of the stupid something-ized people to create an empathy link between the reader and the poet, perhaps making it look as if  ‘we can do this together’ kind of image. She is putting herself in the humble position.
Text level analysis
1.       “Great Pan is not dead; he simply emigrated to India” Take note that Great Pan is the only God ever died in Roman history. What she is saying here is that he is not dead, but actually emigrated to India. Take note that people tend to migrate to places that are more beneficial to us, showcasing the fact that India is a beautiful place to go to to live your life. She goes on to talk about this in the next line.
2.        “here the gods roam freely; disguised as snakes or monkeys…”  we can find juxtaposition here. How can one roam freely if you have to disguise yourself as something else? This once again relates to globalization or one of the –izations. Note that Pan is a Greek God and he has moved to India. Similarly, it can perhaps show that foreigners are allowed to roam freely and have been for many years, as long as they do not make their presence known. They do not separate themselves from the local people nor do they treat themselves any differently. Therefore they adopt the culture of the people and act accordingly, similar to how the Gods have to be succumb to be one of the animals that can be usually found in India (such as the snakes and monkeys) Become one of the crowd, and you will live a happy life.
3.       “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,”
Here she continues her description, using the word sacred, relating to the divinity of the area, as if the area was a garden for Gods. However, she starts becoming negatives and starts listing what not to do. She uses the contrasting word, sin, to exemplify the vast contrast between the two and to make what you are not allowed to do a mortal sin, something that is almost a tragedy to do. Once again, note the repetition of the word sin, once again amplifying how terrible it is to do such a thing. At the end she explains her actions that we must learn to respect books and use them in such a way that would make Sarasvati, the God of the arts, happy.  The poet obviously treats poetry as an art so it would be normal for her to be mentioned.  Books, of course, hold history, and she is basically saying that we should respect our history (culture, heritage… wink wink)
4.       “without offending the tree
from whose wood paper was made.”
Of course by this she is saying that to not insult the tree, who sacrificed its life to make a work of art that we can do nothing else but enjoy and appreciate what it has done for us.
5.       “Which language ,
has not been the oppressor’s tongue?
Which language
Truly meant to murder someone?”
Here she is addressing the loss in language. Because of globalization, we are now speaking the tongue of the foreigners. It is this way that she is using this as a form of mockery to say
that ‘by speaking the language of the enemy, we have already given up mentally’. She is trying to say in a sense ‘wake up! Can’t you see what you’re doing? Why are you speaking the tongue of our enemies? Which language destroyed (murdered) our heritage/culture?’ It can be a slap to the dignity and the inner heritage of every man.

Oppressor à Conquerer
6.       “And how does it happen
that after the torture,
after the soul has been cropped
with a long scythe swooping out
of the conqueror’s face-
the unborn grandchildren
grow to love that strange language.”
This is obviously an attack on the morals of every man in India, basically by trying to get them guilty. Of course here she is saying that the something-izers have caused a lot of turmoil in a country that was otherwise very happy before. They have tortured us and made us do things we didn’t like (after the torture,after the soul has been cropped with a long scythe swooping out of the conqueror’s face-)perhaps either physically or mentally, or both. Why is it that after all this time that the next generation (unborn grandchildren) are going to grow up in that strange language? This demonstrates the despair in the heart of the poet as she already knows that the children are about to adopt the language of the foreigners, perhaps because the father or mother have already grown to love that language because it is already so deeply ingrained into the minds of the people that make up the society. They don’t even know how to talk their own native language anymore. The fact that she mentions grandchild illustrates the fact that she is talking to the elders, the ones most considered wise in almost every society. This shows that she is talking to them, indicating that getting an audience with them is hard and that only people with relevant arguments can arrange a meeting with them, making her argument a very significant one.
7.       The use of repetition in the last stanza “which language”. In addition to the phrase being on its own line, this phrase exudes an accusive tone in her phrase, expressing severe criticalness in her expression.
Speaker of the poemThe writer herself. Sujata Bhatt
Speaker’s attitude toward the subject of the poemDissatisfied, distressed, hopeful, still optimistic that we can change, moralistic, relies of emotions rather than logic (emotional)
Paired poems (Identify poems in the anthology and why they are appropriate to be paired)
1.       Perhaps The Planners in the sense of inevitability and distress over the fact that nothing will ever be the same again and how fake everything really is and how different it is compared to the past. It also in a sense mocks the system that governs the development implying that it causes more damage than good.
2.       Where I come from in the sense of the comparison between urbanization and rural atmosphere. We can to a certain extent say the same as India was really quite a rural area before one of those –izations.
3.       Where I come from as we can see a similar style in structure as they are split to show a bigger contrast and that there is a indentation in the beginning of the second stanza.
Memorable lines
1.       “You must learn how to turn the pages gently without disturbing Sarasvati”
2.       “Here the gods roam freely, disguised as snakes or monkeys”
3.       “without offending the tree from whose wood the paper was made”
4.       “Which language truly meant to murder someone?”


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