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The poem describes the poets visit to

India and the time she had her hand


hennaed by a girl in the market
place.
It has proved to be an
experience she has never forgotten.

There are a number of themes covered


in this poem:
cultural identity
sense of belonging
loss
relationship between the familiar and
the unknown

Check your understanding of the


language used in the poem.
Write a definition in your anthology for
anything you are unsure about.

In the evening bazaar


studded with neon
an unknown girl
is hennaing my hand.

a temporary colouring of the skin

An Indian market
place

She squeezes a wet brown line


from a nozzle.
She is icing my hand
which she steadies with hers
on her satin-peach knee.
Baking metaphor
used shows the
cultural contrasts

intimate
image
shows care
and
attention

In the evening bazaar


for a few rupees
an unknown girl
is hennaing my hand

repetition of first
stanza
emphasises the
alienation, also
gives the poem a
chorus-like
simplicity

As a little air catches


my shadow-stitched kameez
a peacock spreads its lines
across my palm.

the tattoo comes


alive
she is absorbing part
of the culture

a loose fitting Indian tunic

Colours leave the street


float up in balloons.
Dummies in shop-fronts
tilt and stare personification
with their Western perms.

vivid imagery Alzi uses these


images to create a sense of wonder
and delight. The dummies show
irony why are they not Indian?

Banners for Miss India 1993.


for curtain cloth
and sofa cloth
alien to the culture
Western influence
canopy me.

she feels covered by these


things suffocated and
uncomfortable, or at home
and welcome? In the shade
or visible?

I have new brown veins.


this is an important line dual
meaning
a metaphor for the tattoo she has
just received but also feels as if she
has assimilated some of the culture
of India it is now running through
her veins

In the evening bazaar


very deftly
an unknown girl
is hennaing my hand.

repetition however, notice the extra


detail very deftly as the narrator is
observing all that is going on around
her, the unknown girl is taking extra
care and is an expert

I am clinging
to these firm peacock lines
like people who cling
to the sides of a train.
simile she
wants to
hold on to
these
memories

Now the furious streets


the streets were harsh &
are
hushed.
angry note how the tone
changes becomes quiet Ill scrape off
with night clever
juxtaposition usingthe dry brown lines
personification
before I sleep.
reveal soft as a snail trail
the amber bird beneath.
gentle
simile
It will fade in a week.

she thinks the tattoo will fade


like her memories and the
India in her

scrape
a harsh
verb which
contrasts
with the
amber bird
she is
scraping
off the
excess

When India appears and reappears


Ill lean across a country
with my hands outstretched
longing for the unknown girl
in the neon bazaar
India is represented by the tattoo
Her memories will go just as the tattoo
will gradually fade it is not
permanent, yet the process can be
repeated.
Ends in a yearning tone.

1.

2.
3.

How many times does Alvi use the


phrase an unknown girl? Why is
this repeated so often?
What do the colours in this poem
signify?
The poem is laid out unusually and
has no pattern or obvious rhythm.
What could you write about this?