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Presents From My Aunts In Pakistan by Moniza Alvi.

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1 Presents From My Aunts In Pakistan by Moniza Alvi

2 Learning Objectives As we study this poem you will learn: The story of the poem Cultural alienation More about the terms, Metaphor: Tone: Key Phrases & Colour Imagery. You will also complete some mini tasks, a test and an assignment on the poem.

3 Starter Write down what you know about Salwar Kameez.

4 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi They sent me a salwar kameez peacock-blue, and another glistening like an orange split open, embossed slippers, gold and black points curling. Candy-striped glass bangles snapped, drew blood Like at school, fashions changed in Pakistan - the salwar bottoms were broad and stiff, then narrow. My aunts chose an apple-green sari, silver-bordered for my teens. I tried each satin-silken top - was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. I wanted my parents' camel-skin lamp - switching it on in my bedroom, to consider the cruelty and the transformation from camel to shade, marvel at the colours like stained glass. My mother cherished her jewellery - Indian gold, dangling, filigree. But it was stolen from our car. The presents were radiant in my wardrobe. My aunts requested cardigans from Marks and Spencers. My salwar kameez didn't impress the schoolfriend who sat on my bed, asked to see my weekend clothes. But often I admired the mirror-work, tried to glimpse myself in the miniature glass circles, recall the story how the three of us sailed to England. Prickly heat had me screaming on the way. I ended up in a cot in my English grandmother's dining-room, found myself alone, playing with a tin boat. I pictured my birthplace from fifties' photographs. When I was older there was conflict, a fractured land throbbing through newsprint. Sometimes I saw Lahore - my aunts in shaded rooms, screened from male visitors, sorting presents, wrapping them in tissue. Or there were beggars, sweeper-girls and I was there - of no fixed nationality, staring through fretwork at the Shalimar Gardens.

5 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Background To The Poem Moniza Alvi was born in 1968 of mixed parentage, her father being Pakistani and her mother English. She was born in Pakistan but moved to England at a young age. The poem 'Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan' expresses her confusion in her search for her identity. The traditional clothes that her aunts sent her from Pakistan are a symbol of a part of her, but only a part of her, and one that she does not feel entirely comfortable with..

6 Mini Task 1 Write down what you think is the ‘story of the poem.’

7 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Story Of The Poem A young girl of mixed race, half English, half Pakistani, is sent vey colourful clothes as presents for her birthday by her Aunts who still live in Pakistan. Although she appreciates the beauty of the clothes she does not feel she can wear them. She wants to wear ‘ordinary’ clothes like her school-friends and feels embarrassed when she has to wear her Pakistani clothes. She is reminded of her birthplace, Lahore and her journey from there to England where her family had nowhere to stay but her English grandparents once they arrived. She remembers a ‘fractured land’, a reference to Bangladesh’s war for independence in 1971 when she was 3 years old. At the end of the poem she is forced to conclude that that she feels that she doesn't belong anywhere and is of ‘no fixed nationality’.

8 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning We know who ‘they’ are from the title of the poem, but calling her Aunts ‘they’ in this manner is impolite and sets the tone for her negative attitude towards the gifts she is sent. ‘peacock blue’ & ‘glistening orange are vibrant colours and are the first examples of the use of colour imagery in the poem. And colour imagery dominates this stanza ~ blue, orange, gold, black, candy striped & blood red. The bangles drawing blood is a more sinister use of colour imagery. But how did the bangles snap? I don’t think it happened accidently, I think she snapped them and in doing so cut herself. If this is so then the question is, why? Note the shape of the poem. The poet has set it out on a sort of spiral form, not left justified as most poems are. They sent me a salwar kameez peacock-blue, Candy-striped glass bangles snapped, drew blood and another glistening like an orange split open, embossed slippers, gold and black points curling.

9 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning This is the first reference to her ‘everyday’ life and the effect that fashion is having on her and her cultural identity. Note the enjambment on the two lines and the emphasis it places on ‘in Pakistan’.. The poet then details the changing fashions in Pakistan, ironically these mirror the changing fashions in the UK. She then describes the sari she got for her thirteenth birthday, which may have been appropriate for a teenager in Pakistan, but she clearly feels it was not appropriate for her. Like at school, fashions changed in Pakistan - the salwar bottoms were broad and stiff, then narrow. My aunts chose an apple-green sari, silver-bordered for my teens.

10 Mini Task 2 I tried each satin-silken top – was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. In this stanza spot examples of : alliteration irony metaphor alienation key phrases

11 Mini Task 2 I tried each satin-silken top – was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. In this stanza spot examples of : alliteration

12 Mini Task 2 I tried each satin-silken top – was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. In this stanza spot examples of : irony

13 Mini Task 2 I tried each satin-silken top – was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. In this stanza spot examples of : metaphor

14 Mini Task 2 I tried each satin-silken top – was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. In this stanza spot examples of : key phrases

15 Mini Task 2 I tried each satin-silken top – was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. In this stanza spot examples of : alienation

16 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning She tries on the clothes she is sent more out of duty than because she wants to wear them…. ….because they make her feel ‘alien’. They don’t belong in the English life she is now living and consequently she doesn't belong in them. Ironically she does recognize their beauty but does not feel that she is beautiful enough to wear them. What she wants is the dull blue, black or brown clothes that ordinary English people wear. She describes the clothes she has been sent as a ‘costume’, like something she wears when he has to ‘act’ being Pakistani. They embarrass her so much she feels like she is on fire when she wears them and she feels she cannot escape from this metaphorical & literal torment. Interestingly she feels ‘half-English’ not half- Pakistani. Again enjambment draws attention to this line, giving it importance. Note the rhyme/alliteration on ‘satin-silken’ & ‘costume clung’ and the fire metaphor. half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. I tried each satin-silken top - was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as lovely as those clothes – I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire,

17 Mini Task 3 I wanted my parents' camel-skin lamp - switching it on in my bedroom, to consider the cruelty and the transformation from camel to shade, marvel at the colours Write down what you think the metaphor of the Came Skin Lamp is.

18 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning Decorated camel skin lamps are a traditional handicraft item given as a gift in Pakistan. Presumably her parents would have brought this with them when they left Pakistan so it must be valuable or have some sentimental value. In the same way as she is attracted to and simultaneously repelled by the clothes her aunts send her, she responds in a similar way to her parents camel skin lamp; she recognizes its beauty, but is appalled by the cruelty involved in its creation. The importance of these lines to the poem is they are a metaphor for her own experience and the ‘cruelty’ of her own transformation from an English schoolgirl to Pakistani maiden. Also there is a sense here that the skin belongs on the camel so making a lamp out of it is wrong; in the same way she belongs in hr English clothes not transformed by those he aunts send her. I wanted my parents' camel-skin lamp - switching it on in my bedroom, to consider the cruelty and the transformation from camel to shade, marvel at the colours

19 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning Her mother was English but seems at home with her dual nationality as she cherishes her Indian jewellery. and does not reject it, or the culture it represents, unlike her daughter.. Ironically the jewellery is stolen, perhaps this a metaphor for cultural identity being stolen, it is also a reminder of the reality of life in England. Another reference to the colour and the beauty of the clothes her Aunts send her….. …..yet ironically it is boring, dull M&S cardis they want in return! My mother cherished her jewellery - Indian gold, dangling, filigree. But it was stolen from our car.. The presents were radiant in my wardrobe. My aunts requested cardigans from Marks and Spencers

20 Mini Task 4 My salwar kameez didn't impress the schoolfriend who sat on my bed, asked to see my weekend clothes. But often I admired the mirror-work, tried to glimpse myself in the miniature glass circles, recall the story Write down what you think the metaphor the poet uses here is.

21 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning Another reason for her to reject her cultural roots ~ her Pakistani clothes do not ‘impress’ her English friends; and peer acceptance is very important at this age as teenagers try to establish their own, unique identity. In the week she would presumably wear school uniform but at the weekend she is free to wear what she wants; and what she wants is to be a ‘normal’ English girl, not some ‘freak’ decked out in multi coloured saris. Once again she finds something to admire in the clothes she has been given. This time it is the tiny mirrors that are sown into some of these garments. But her reflection would not be whole, it would be fractured as she would not be able to see all of herself in anyone of these mirrors. This notion also reflects her own view of herself and her cultural identity. My salwar kameez didn't impress the schoolfriend But often I admired the mirror-work, tried to glimpse myself in the miniature glass circles, recall the story who sat on my bed, asked to see my weekend clothes

22 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning Looking at her fractured reflection reminds her of her early childhood and the journey to England by boat (not by air). This is the first hint that they left, or were evacuated from Pakistan in a rush. She remembers the physical pain the journey caused her, but the emotional pain has probably been much greater. She ends up in a cot in her grandmother’s dining room. More evidence that the journey had been rushed and unplanned because her parents hadn’t even had time to find somewhere to live before they arrived. She finds herself alone, but this is just the beginning of what will be her cultural isolation. This is quite a strong image to end the stanza. ` glass circles, recall the story how the three of us sailed to England.. Prickly heat had me screaming on the way. found myself alone, playing with a tin boat I ended up in a cot in my English grandmother's dining-room

23 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning I pictured my birthplace from fifties' photographs. When I was older there was conflict, a fractured land throbbing through newsprint. Sometimes I saw Lahore - my aunts in shaded rooms, screened from male visitors, sorting presents, wrapping them in tissue She is left imagining her identity through old photographs her parents took of her birthplace. She is then reminded of the Pakistan/ Bangladesh war in 1971 when she was 3 years old. It was this conflict that probably forced her parents to leave Pakistan when she was so young. The reference to 'a fractured land', also helps reinforce the feeling she creates in the poem of her own fractured identity Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in Pakistan. The poet sees Lahore in her memory (not the photographs) and is remembers her Aunts wrapping presents, like the ones they sent her. The screening would imply that she comes from a Muslim family, perhaps another source of conflict for her.

24 Mini Task 5 Or there were beggars, sweeper-girls and I was there - of no fixed nationality staring through fretwork at the Shalimar Gardens Write down what you think is the Key Phrase in this final ‘stanza.’ Explain why you think it is the key phrase.

25 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi The Poem ~ Structure & Meaning An interesting contrast is introduced on this line. Her family is obviously fairly well off, rich enough at least to send her all these fabulous clothes; but as well as remembering her Aunts, she also remembers the beggars, a symbol of the poverty of her birthplace. ‘of no fixed nationality’. Is probably the most important line in the poem and sums up what the poet has been trying to say in the rest of the poem. She knows where she was born and remembers her life and the culture there, but she feels her cultural ties to her past also prevent her feeling completely at home in England; so she feels she belongs to neither country or culture. However interestingly her final thought is of a beautiful part of Pakistan, not of England. Or there were beggars, sweeper-girls. and I was there - of no fixed nationality, staring through fretwork at the Shalimar Gardens

26 Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi What The Poet Says About The Poem Presents from My Aunts...was one of the first poems I wrote. When I wrote this poem, I hadn't actually been back to Pakistan. The girl in the poem would be me at about 13. The clothes seem to stick to her in an uncomfortable way, a bit like a kind of false skin, and she thinks things aren't straightforward for her. I found it was important to write the Pakistan poems because I was getting in touch with my background. And maybe there's a bit of a message behind the poems about something I went through, that I want to maybe open a few doors if possible.


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