Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Moniza Alvis Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan Essay -- English Lite
Moniza Alvi's Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, in Pakistan, the daughter of a Pakistani father and an English mother. She moved to Hatfield in England when she was a few months old. She didn't revisit Pakistan until after the publication of her first book of poems, The Country over my Shoulder, from which this poem comes. The poet says: '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 thirteen. 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.' Subject Matter What is Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan all about? * The speaker in the poem, who is of mixed race, describes the gifts of clothes and jewellery sent to her in England by her Pakistani relatives. * She is drawn to the loveliness of these things, but feels awkward wearing them. She feels more comfortable in English clothes - denim and corduroy. * She contrasts the beautiful clothes and jewellery of India with boring English cardigans/from Marks and Spencer. * She tries to remember what it was like for her family to travel to England. * Her knowledge of her birthplace, which she left as a baby, comes to her only through old photographs and newspaper reports. * She tries to imagine what that world might be like. Glossary Sa... ...n Hatfield at that time, of a mixed race background or indeed from any other race, so I felt there was a bit of a blank drawn over that. I think I had a fairly typically English 50s/60s upbringing. When I eventually went to Pakistan I certainly didn't feel that was home, I'd never felt so English. But I never feel entirely at home in England, and of course I'm not part of the Asian community at all. And it feels a bit odd sometimes that because of the group of poems that I've written about my Asian background, I sometimes tend to be identified as a black writer. I tend to think of England as being very culturally mixed now. But it's important to know where you come from, which is perhaps what I was lacking as a child. I think it's important to know what has gone into your making, even quite far back, I think it gives you a sense perhaps of richness.'