The poem begins with “Great Pan is not dead; he simply emigrated to India” The delivery of this line as well as the meaning of these opening lines should be noted: where the confidently stated sentence creates a critical tone. The pause mode shows how the narrator firstly wants to dismiss any misconception regarding the Ancient Greek god of nature and that the truth is that “emigrated to India”. With this short and brief opening the reader is able to know that the poem deals with conflicting theories on tradition and culture.
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The narrator then continues to speak against untraditional behavior with the repetition of the phrase “a sin” due to how wrongful acts as listed in lines 9-14. The sins include actions such as “to shove a book aside with your foot”, “to slam books down hard on a table, a sin to toss one carelessly across 0a room.”With repeating the phrase, Bhatt manages to reinforce the negative commentary and intensifies the critical tone of the poem with each sin described. What is also to be recognized is how the narrator does not specify and indentify responsible for the committing of these sins, but still communicates a sense of tension towards other cultures who have disrespected traditional literature and therefore the meanings within the theme. Perhaps what is also meant by featuring a list of sins is to empahsise the wrong in mistreating books, to the extent of religious injustice which could evoke emotion and thought into anyone within the large and dominating Christian religion which crosses international borders.
In line fifteen, the narrator tells the readers that they “must learn how to turn the pages gently”- use of second person narration. This language feature is greatly effective with how it speaks to the reader directly and includes them in the issue, whatever culture they may be. The line is a universal message, for how the narrator wishes to communicate the immense importance and urgency of having a respectful approach towards books. The line is also an imperative, where the commanding word “must” seems to give the readers no option but to obey. What this language feature contributes to the theme of cross cultural differences, is not an explanation or description but a universal solution to maintain the heritage within the books.
One of the key aspects of the poem is Bhatt’s notable efforts to
not disturb identities such as “Sarasvati”, the Hindu goddess of arts and knowledge, due to her extreme importance to the Indian culture. But what is interesting as well, is how the narrator says “without offending the tree/from whose wood the paper is made” It is through this personification that the non human object is acknowledged as a figure which deserves as an individual, for the significant role it plays in the nation’s culture. The personification also emphasizes to perhaps anyone of a different nationality, that as an individual, the tree should be seen with a sense of humanity- a sense which anyone from any culture could accomplish.
Towards the end of the poem, comes the rhetorical questioning of the cross cultural issue. The narrator provocatively asks, “Which language has not been the oppressor’s tongue? Which language truly meant to murder someone?” The questions not only indentifies a harmful and dangerous oppressor or colonist but it shows how the Indian culture has been part of the damaged cultures and tongues that have been lost due to colonialism, which is also becomes a prominent theme in the poem. The tone of the questions should also be considered, the passion and sadness of the narrator is given through the questioning of the current world order.
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An extended metaphor also exists within the closing lines of the poem, where the parallels between the agriculture and the cross cultural difference are drawn, This is done with “after the soul has been cropped with a long scythe” and how they grow to love that “strange language”. The suggested outcome that the traditions, culture and language will fade into the words of other foreign language is made to seem sad, but with more analysis one could see that the narrator is indeed sad, but seems to accept the idea. This makes the final tone of “history”- where the pain and hurt has turned into peace. The peace may come from the narrator’s relations that the plant of Indian Culture has in fact, not died as suggested before, but that the plant has always been growing and developing even before the narrators time. The narrator may have realised that there was one moment where the traditions and language they held dear was once seen as radical by those further in the past.
Through a well selected series of language and literary techniques/terms, Bhatt achieves to produce a poem which discusses the mistake made after the collision of very different cultures and then explains the truth and proper customs which have been lost. The narrator, in the process of this discussion also resolved the intense emotions they once had, by accepting that cross- cultural consequences such as colonialism do not ruin a history, but creates a different tone. The aspect of the poem which makes it so abundantly powerful is how the poet uses their own personal life experiences to write from the narrator’s perspective. Bhatt was born and spent her childhood in India and then moved to the united states of America for her education- knows best of the cultural difference between two vastly distinct nations and writes the poem as one of the “unborn grandchildren” hoping to hold on to the past, as she goes on into the unknown future.
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