‘Search for My Tongue’ by Sujata Bhatt is a poem about the feelings and experiences that an individual may encounter when they move to a foreign country, significantly different from their home country and cultural background. In the poem, Bhatt skillfully describes her personal struggle of embracing a new culture and “tongue” while having the ongoing fear of deserting the core details of her true identity in the process. She portrays her situation in ways that create desperation to hold on to the ‘mother tongue’, however, towards the end, her fear of “losing” it is proved to be unfounded.
In the first stanza of the poem, the “two tongues in Bhatt’s mouth” are referred to as her “mother tongue” and “foreign tongue”. This creates a strong contrast between the two languages the poet speaks and portrays the struggle she is facing with managing to speak these distinct languages. Furthermore, with the usage of conversational tone, Bhatt implies that this is a universal topic, hence allowing multiple readers to relate with her situation. In lines 10 and 13, Bhatt insists that “living in a place where you have to speak a foreign tongue” would make “your mother tongue” “rot, rot and die in your mouth.” The repetition of the word, “rot,” exemplifies how horrific Bhatt believes the damage to be as stating the verb once is not sufficient enough to get the point across.
At the core of the poem, the stanza written in Gujarati, Bhatt’s “mother tongue”, represents her true identity. The positioning of these few lines as being implanted between the “foreign tongue” stanzas, symbolizes that her true culture/nature is implanted in an irreversible way within her.
In the last stanza, the implanted concept from the previous lines “grows” into the final idea of the poem. The notion that her mother tongue’s “bud opens” represents new life. Essentially, with this concept of life, Bhatt finds that even when she “thinks she is forgotten” it, she learns that her “mother tongue” is still alive and well within her. This process of forgetting and remembering alludes to the natural elements that are at play within this section. Plants have a cycle of life that leads to “buds” and “blossoms,” and similarly this circular pattern – feeling as though “the mother tongue” has “rot” only to discover that it is alive – continues to endure in Bhatt’s life.
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