An Unknown Girl

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An unknown Girl

Moniza Alvi was born in Pakistan .Her father was Pakistani and mother English. She left Pakistan when she was a baby for England. The poet is thus caught between two worlds and her poems exemplify her quest for her cultural identity. The prescribed poem appears to be set in India. Pakistan was a part of India before the partition, therefore the setting may be a symbolic thirst for her motherland. The title of the poem is “The Unknown Girl”, though it may refer to the girl in the poem, it may be a pointer to the poetess herself as she is unknown to the roots, the unconscious culture and heritage ingrained in her. The poetess states how her neon studded jewelry glared at her in the evening bazaar. A woman in India is closely associated with elaborate jewelry and embellishment. This forms a part of her individuality, and her feminity. The act of hennaing is a form of body decoration with the dye of a plant. With the act of Hennaing, she seems to impart to the speaker significant feminine aspects of the culture. The hennaing comes out of a nozzle, slowly descending on her as her tradition was. The semi-solid henna is cool and a good conditioner, and therefore the girl feels her hands being ‘iced’. The warmth of the hand of the girl applying the Henna steadies or balances the effect, echoing the equilibrium of the ethnicity there. The salwar-kameez is a loose fitting garment that is like her shadow, larger than herself. Nevertheless, it may also point to the shadow of her identity, that she cannot deny in spite of herself. Therefore, the phrase ’shadow-stitched’. The peacock is the national bird of India, and therefore an eloquent emblem of Indian culture. This explains the peacock henna-tattoo spreading its lines over her palms. The poetess thus is caught in the spiritual pulse of her tradition. The colours leave the streets and float above as balloons. Dummies in shop-fronts

tilt and stare
with their Western perms.
The dummies mirror the...
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