Search For My Tongue

Poet Sujata Bhatt, writes a poem which explores the difficulties she has faced in maintaining her ‘mother tongue’ Gujurati her first language, since living in the west. Key themes within her poem focus of loss of identity, through inheriting the surrounding cultures of her environment, becoming ‘Americanised’. She speaks about the two languages ‘mother’ and ‘foreign’ as if they are battling to consume her mind, but in her dreams she regains the sense of her ‘mother’ identity, which is able to flourish and put her at ease:

‘You ask me what I mean
by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one, the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,
it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I’ve forgotten,
I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.’

This poem relates to some of the themes I aim to convey in my documentary- cultural preservation, loss and the attempts to retain cultural identity through visual and audio clips. Language is a key contributor to the shaping of ones cultural identity, therefore language in my documentary will be a prominent element which will be explored in how the family adapted to different societies by overcoming the language barriers and how it has shaped their modern identity.


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