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Search for My Tongue Essay

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'Culture is an intrinsic part of one’s identity.' 
Discuss regarding the poem, ‘Search for my Tongue’.

Individuality is predominantly derived from one’s ethnicity and nationality. In ‘Search for My Tongue’, the composer Sujata Bhatt conveys her emotions towards being a foreigner and the difficulties she faces to remember her ‘mother tongue’, her original language. The poet’s feelings of loss of identity, whilst abroad, is captured through the poem’s structure and techniques. Bhatt provides the audience with a refreshing and original perspective on the value of sustaining one’s language and culture.

Loss of identity due to living in a foreign country can be a daunting experience for many individuals. Bhatt’s poem is written in a structured manner to demonstrate her distress over the possibility of losing her mother tongue. Language can symbolise more than just a means of communication, but can also be linked to cultural heritage, values and ways of thinking. To compel the audience to see the significance of language, Bhatt uses 2nd person narration to express, ‘You ask me what I mean by saying I have lost my tongue…’. By using this conversational style, Bhatt draws in the audience in a more personal manner, causing for the audience to feel empathic towards the issue. Furthermore, Bhatt uses this conversational way of speaking to express her conflicted feelings when she says, ‘Your mother tongue would rot, rot and die in your mouth.’ This imagery compares the mother tongue to a kind of plant that is dying as the foreign tongue tries to take over, which is seen in the first stanza as a kind of parasite. Bhatt’s conflicted emotions over learning a new language overwhelm her as feels disconnected with her original identity. The importance of sustaining a language is represented through her unique style in the use of imagery.

Keeping your language alive is a vital process in maintaining your cultural identity. By writing in her own language in the next stanza, Bhatt displays that her original language is still alive within her dreams and subconscious. In her dreams, her mother tongue isn’t rotting but thriving as the ‘bud’ of the mother tongue re-opens. The repetition in, “grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins...”, emphasizes Bhatt’s strong connection to her mother tongue in her dreams. This encapsulates the composer’s confidence in reasserting her knowledge of her Indian identity. The imagery of the flower captures the concept of the eternal, natural, beauty that she finds in her first language. This is clearly seen when Bhatt says, ‘Every time I think I've forgotten it blossoms out of my mouth’. This notion forces the audience to question their view of language as for Bhatt language will always be an essential aspect of who she is as a person.

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