Presents From My Aunts In Pakistan

Presents From My Aunts In Pakistan

Presents From My Aunts In Pakistan

Moniza Alvi's poem is about having a mixed cultural background, being half-English and half-Pakistani. The poem is about how confusing this was when the poet was a young girl.

She feels part of two different cultures, but also feels separate from them.

The poet as a young girl is caught somewhere in between the cultures. She is attracted to the bright colours and patterns of the Pakistani fashions but she doesn't feel comfortable in the presents her aunts give her:

'My costume clung to me

And I was all aflame.'

'Costume' sounds like something you put on for a show, 'clung' sounds rather desperate and uncomfortable, and 'aflame' suggests extreme embarrassment.

Her English lifestyle and friends influence the young girl's ambivalent,uncertain feelings for her Pakistani background. Her birthplace is a place of colourful mystery to her, 'throbbing through newsprint' with its different fashions and values, its 'beggars,and 'sweeper girls'.

The distance the poet felt from her Pakistani heritage is conveyed in the image of her 'staring though fretwork /at the Shalimar gardens.' The fretwork is like a wall or barrier, making the girl an outsider, looking inon something of which she is not part.

The young girl's feelings are mixed all through the poem. In the table below are some quotes from the poem, with explanations of what they tell us about the poet's attitudes and emotions.

Quote:The girl's feelings:
Glistening like an orange split openThis is a very positive image; the presents seem exciting, beautiful, full of promise.
Was alien in the sitting roomShe feels uncomfortable. The presents do not fit in with the surroundings.
I could never be as lovely as those clothesShe does think the clothes are wonderful, but feels she is inadequate, that she is not good enough for them. This may be a form of guilt about her uncertain feelings.
I longed for denim and corduroyShe wants her ordinary English things, which she can feel natural in.
I couldn?t rise up out of this fire half English unlike Aunt JamilaShe feels she is not up to wearing these clothes. She feels English more than Pakistani.
I wanted my parent's camel-skin lamp... to consider the cruelty... marvel at the colours...She is both attracted and repelled by aspects of Pakistani culture. There is both the misery and the beauty, and she does know which affects her more powerfully.
My salwar kameez didn't impress the schoolfriendHer background makes her different from her peers
(I) tried to glimpse myself in the miniature glass circlesShe is trying to work out who she is, find her 'true' identity. She is unsure about these things.
There was conflict, a fractured landShe only knows about her 'home' country from second-hand sources. These suggest it is war-torn.
And I was there-of no fixed nationalityShe doesn't feel she belongs entirely to either culture.
Staring through fretShe is separated from re-connecting with Pakistan.
Sometimes I saw Lahore - My aunts in shaded rooms Screened from male visitorsShe knows that women are treated very differently in Pakistan, but doesn't know what to feel about his.

[*]The subject(s) of the poem [*]The attitude of the poet [*]The poetic devices the poet uses

In other words you will be asked about what the poet is writing about, what the poet feels about the subject(s) and how the poem is written.

Subject
The poem is about how Alvi felt as a young girl about her cultural identity. She felt English, but was attracted to Pakistan, and confused and even repelled by it.
There are some feelings of guilt about this uncertain attitude. There is a general sense of a young person trying to work who they are.
The clothes are made to sound vibrant and attractive, but this is balanced by the final stanzas, where we hear more negative things about the poet's 'home' country: For example 'conflict', and 'beggars'.
Attitude
This is a poem specifically about the poet's feelings and attitudes.
Alvi, as a young girl, felt a mixture of emotions about her cultural identity: Wonder, excitement, inadequacy, guilt, confusion, attraction, awe, discomfort, and alienation - many emotions common to teenagers.
Style
The poem uses a lot of visual detail to make us see the brightness and colour of Pakistan.
This use of visual detail is appropriate in a poem about how someone sees them self.
The personal nature of the poem is shown by the number of times the poet uses the pronouns 'I', or 'my'.
The form of the poem is irregular, with lines starting at different places, and being of different lengths. This creates a slightly unsettled, fluid feel to the poem, reflecting the poet's feelings about her identity.

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