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In the poem “A Different History” by Sujata Bhatt, the poet speaks about culture identity, the importance of language, and religion. Bhatt describes the history of India during the British colonization days, from her point of view – from the side of the oppressed. Her strong diction portrays her emotions clearly. The varied structure and tone between the two stanzas of the poem highlights the differences between the cultures and emotions she feels. Bhatt creates an impression of freedom and peace when she describes her country in the first stanza.
The two lines, “Here, the gods roam freely,” “Every tree is sacred” describe the Indian culture. They represent the “old India”, before the British had conquered it. However, in the next line, the mood of the poem differs. The poet emphasizes how wrong it is to disrespect books (nature) with the repetition of the words “a sin”. It portrays a different side to the Indian culture – one with customs and rules that must be followed. Bhatt addresses her own culture, (ll. 9-14) as it could symbolize the importance of maintaining the firm and religious beliefs of the Indian culture.
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Towards the end of the first stanza, the poem’s tone changes into one that is very pleading. There is a distinct change from a very calm tone to an interrogative one. “You must learn how to turn the pages gently / without disturbing Sarasvati, / without offending the tree / from whose wood the paper was made.” She seems as though she is commanding, or rather begging the oppressors to tread lightly, to adjust slowly to her culture, and to learn how to be gentle with it. This is the difference between the previous lines – at first she was addressing her culture, but in these lines she is referring to the British. She uses the terms “books”, “paper”, and “wood” to refer to her culture. The “tree” represents her ancestors, and “the paper” represents the future generation.
These comparisons have a strong effect; they make the reader think about the way he or she is treating nature. In the second stanza, Bhatt indents to highlight the difference between the two things she’s talking about. The first stanza talks about how precious books are and how they should be respected. It gives us an insight to India’s old culture. On the other hand, in the beginning of the next stanza, she speaks about language and the “new India”. Bhatt begins the second stanza with rhetorical questions. “Which language / has not been the oppressor’s tongue? / Which language / truly meant to murder someone?”
The poet is trying to point out that many languages become the language of a country because they were once the language of the people that conquered them. She is referring to the loss of her native language. It adds a tinge of humor and mockery, since she is already speaking in English. The poem ends with an ironic statement. “the unborn grandchildren / grow to love that strange language.” Bhatt refers to herself as the “unborn grandchildren”. After expressing her feelings of anger about the murder of her language, she still writes in English – she still grew to love the English language. Bhatt clearly expresses what she feels about her culture. She shows that even though her culture is being destroyed and left behind because of foreign conquerors, she still remembers her motherland and the roots that link her to it. Through the different structured sections, she was able to show the readers the difference in culture and feelings she has.