Explore the ideas in the poem A Different History by Sujata Bhatt. Sujata Bhatt reflects and explores on the ideas of ‘culture, ‘values’, human struggle, religion combined with its beliefs and acquisition of foreign or strange language. Bhatt invites the readers and takes them through the culture of India and its religious beliefs that every life respects them there. There is enough vocabulary to understand this in the poem. She also expresses her bitterness and strong emotions towards the struggle and torture borne by the people ‘here’ in the past.
She wonders and ponders on the issues of ‘tongue’ and ‘language’ She shows her amazement and expresses her inability to understand how people ‘here’ learn to love the ‘strange language’ that put to suffer the torture and struggle for identity. The poem does not have a traditional structure in terms of stanzas or the rhyme scheme in it. The complex ideas of religion, beliefs, values, culture and loving foreign language might be the reasons for composing it with no rhyme and irregular parts. The first 18 lines run in religious and reverential tone but the poet immediately shifts to bitterness and wonder.
The first part begins with an introduction to the Nature god, Great Pan, who assumed to be dead to rest of the world. But Bhatt reminds the world that India welcomed this ‘immigrant’. The phrase,’Great Pan is not dead’, conveys the world that the culture of worshipping “Nature’ gets home in India. The word ‘emigrated’ shows us that this emigrant is neither dead nor has intensions to return to his country. Thus, she makes a point that the culture in India is unique with ‘A Different History’; a history which respects and worships the Nature and the environment around without somebody gives any awareness.
Introducing the word ‘India’, she touches the living values and culture in this country. She tries to conjure the readers into understanding how the people ‘here’ believe in ‘snakes and monkeys as gods’. She explores on the values and beliefs of the people ‘here’. The word ‘sacred’ allows the readers understand the inherited values and beliefs here about worshipping ‘trees’. She brings out the picture of togetherness in animals and trees. The simile ‘disguised as snakes and monkeys’ provides us the clue to the belief of sacredness.
Bhatt explains the fact that ‘sin’ doesn’t need to be a serious wrong act in ‘this culture’ but a small act can be ‘sin’. Bhatt uses three verbs that denote rudeness in behavior towards books. She uses ‘shove’ , ‘slam’, and ‘toss’ to explain how the culture ‘Here’ values knowledge. Though treating a book rudely is not an act of disrespect but an act of ‘sin’ here’; a serious connotation. Bhatt uses the word ‘sin’ three times to mean more than a wrong act in life. This throws light on the culture of ‘India’ and values observed here.
Bhatt gives a hint of religious beliefs in her though not really enthusiastically to prevent the idea of negativity in her ideas. She introduces ‘Sarasvati’ to the readers of English as a ‘goddess of Arts’ – knowledge, painting and music. She conveys that the people( ‘soul’) enjoy endless freedom ‘here’ but they are bound to observe the beliefs of this culture. The line ‘You must……….. disturbing Sarasvati’ highlights the idea the freedom is in respecting one’s culture and self but not enjoying oneself which is selfishness. There is a hint of dualism in 17th and 18th lines.
These lines express the value system which is an ‘obligation’ in this culture. We can understand this with the word ‘must’ in the poem. Bhatt suddenly shifts her tone from reverential attitude to bitter and emotional tone in the second part of the poem. She questions all the histories in the world to recollect how different ‘oppressors’ and ‘conquerors’ left their ‘tongues’ to destroy other cultures. The metaphor ‘oppressor’s tongue’ and two rhetorical questions in the second part make the readers feel guilty of human history. It is a history of oppression which left dark chapters.
The word ‘murder’ makes it very clear that the history of ‘oppressors’ is not very appreciable. She expresses her bitterness and shows aggressiveness for forcing the ‘tongue’ on ‘a different culture’. Bhatt closes the poem with amazement in the last 7 lines. She uses enjambment to compose the complex idea of acquisition of ‘strange language’. She asks ‘how does it happen’ but continues to answer her own question with wonder and amazement. Bhatt feels that it is quiet difficult to understand how people love the language left by the ‘conquerors’ face’ after the ‘soul’ borne the torture.
It becomes wonder for the poet to notice that the people here were left with ‘cropped soul’ but they stepped into future to love ‘the strange tongue’. English language must be the strange language that she refers in the poem. Maybe, people here welcome the change with time and life and they are kind to forgive or forget the past as it is no more important in the present. She uses ‘the unborn grandchildren’ which allows the readers to understand that the present generations are living in a different culture where everyone ccepts other cultures. Bhatt seems to be fearful to see the danger of forgetting the language of origin.
Because the ‘strange language’ is lovable now, it may lead to the disappearance of mother tongue. She uses ‘unborn grandchildren’ to mean the generations who would come in this world. She also hints that these generations would accept and welcome all the cultures that they live in. Today, the world is not left with a culture that is purely not affected. So the poet thinks one might live and accept different cultures that affect them.
The poet gives us the universal theme of ‘acceptance of all the cultures’. Though one would love his/her own culture, it also happens that people(souls) accept and begin to love other language(strange language). In conclusion, I think that the poem explores the ideas from culture to values and oppression to loving strange language. Readers also understand the ideas of culture, religion, beliefs and ‘a history with difference’; where people are kind and modest to accept different culture and their language yet continue to have ‘a different history’ for themselves.
Courtney from Study Moose
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