About the poet...Sujata Bhatts multicultural perspectiveson language, culture, art and historysurely originate in her own lifeexperiences.Born in India in 1956, her mother tongueGujerati, she has studied in Britain andthe USA (at the famed Iowa WritersWorkshop), taught in Canada, travelledwidely, and now lives and works inGermany.
Brief Context“A Different History” explores the relationship betweencultural identity and language. Bhatt was born in Indiain 1956, studied in the United Kingdom and UnitedStates, and lives now in Germany.
Listen to the audio recitation of “ ADifferent History”.Think of the following questions:What is being compared in the poem?What is the attitudes towards books?Is there a change of mood in thepoem?
DiscussionWhat is being compared in the poem?• Comparison is made between Greek and Indian gods:‘*Pan+ simply emigrated / to India’, and ‘Here *in India+,the gods roam freely’. What is the attitudes towards books?• Next the poem focuses on the reverential attitudetowards books in a country where ‘every tree is sacred’. Is there a change of mood in the poem?• A clear shift in mood comes at the start of the secondsection with the first rhetorical question which takes usto the heart of what the poem is about: ‘Whichlanguage / has not been the oppressor’s tongue?’
Your task...• Read the poem and underline any wordsthat you find difficult or are unfamiliar with.• Consult a dictionary to find the meaning.• This will help you to further understand thepoem.
The goddess plays a particularlysignificant role in the first stanzaGreek GodPanHindu GodSarasvati
ToneListen to the poem again...Do you feel that a particular point has beenclarified by the tone of voice in which Bhattreads the poem?
GraphologyThe lineation of the poem makes the twosections of the poem stand out visually.What differences can you see between the twosections. Look both at the content and thelanguage Bhatt uses.
LanguageLook more closely at the language of the firstsection (up until ‘from whose wood the paperwas made’).How does Bhatt use words and phrases toconvey how sacred trees and books are?
Poetic TechniquesIn pairs, try to find as many poetic techniques asyou can in the poem.You have 5 minutes.
Repetition / Rhetorical Question• In pairs, read the poem again.• Consider the effects of the repetition of ‘a sin’and ‘without’ in the first section• and of the rhetorical flourish ‘Whichlanguage…’ in the second section.
Mood / Tone• Consider more closely the different mood ofthe second section, exploring the preciseeffects of particular words that you findstriking.• How do you think these lines should be read?Is the tone bitter or sad? Does the tone ofvoice change at any stage – and, if it does,why?
Metaphors• Consider the following metaphors: ‘tongue’for language, and the soul ‘cropped / with along scythe swooping out / of the conqueror’sface’.• Probe closely the meanings and effects of theunderlined words.• How effective do you find the final two lines ofthe poem? Do you find anything amusing inthe poem?
ThemesWhat do you think are the common ideas foundwithin this poem?• Identity and language• Time• Religion
Your Task...First: Write a short poem about your culture andIdentity.Second: Compare and contrast your cultureand Identity to that of Sujata Bhatts.The poems will be judged by teachers and thebest poem will win a prize and be presented inAssembly.