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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
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
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

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

shows care

In the evening bazaar

for a few rupees
an unknown girl
is hennaing my hand

repetition of first
emphasises the
alienation, also
gives the poem a

As a little air catches

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

the tattoo comes

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
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

Now the furious streets

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

she thinks the tattoo will fade

like her memories and the
India in her

a harsh
verb which
with the
amber bird
she is
off the

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
Ends in a yearning tone.



How many times does Alvi use the

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