An Unknown Girl, Moniza Alvi

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      • 'NOZZLE...ICING MY HAND'- the nozzle placed between the henna (east) and the icing (west). Metaphor of 'icing' her hand compares the application of henna to the piping of icing. Icing suggests skilled decorative art, that takes time. The poet remarks on how she paid 'few rupees' for such a special experience.
      • 'WESTERN PERMS'- juxtaposition between east and west and also between the natural henna and the chemical perms. Sense of cultures meeting and mixing.
      • 'FOR CURTAIN CLOTH AND SOFA CLOTH CANOPY ME'- Sense of abundance in bazaar and a sense of the displays overhanging into the market. There is a sense of protection here (hiding from the stares) and the alliteration of the 'C' suggests layers of cloth.
      • 'PEOPLE WHO CLING TO THE SIDES OF A TRAIN' Simile here refers to a common image of sub continent transport, again showing the poet is seeking to identify herself with and immerse herself in there culture. Holding on for her life.
    • QUOTES
      • The Unknown Girl= The unknown girl is both the henna artist and the poet herself.
      • 'A PEACOCK SPREADS ITS LINE ACROSS MY PALM'- Peacock is the national symbol of India. This is a powerful exotic image describing the pattern being hennaed.
      • 'COLOURS LEAVE THE STREET FLOAT UP IN BALLOONS'- colour images, giving a sense of a dreamy but vibrant atmosphere, also the sense of night drawing in. Also there is a sense of the colour of Indian culture drawing away with Western influence, this links ahead to the next few lines to come.
      • 'I HAVE NEW BROWN VEINS'- Powerful line shows the poet feeling a sense of identity with the culture she is visiting. It is as if the henna lines on her hand transform her and give her 'Indian blood'/ Powerful.
      • 'THE AMBER BIRD...IT WILL FADE'- even when the surface is scratched off a mark remains under, metaphor for poet's sense of identity. however 'fade in a week' suggests a sense of loss realising that her transformation is still only temporary
      • 'LONGING FOR THE UNKNOWN GIRL'- Sense of longing and yearning to be part of the Indian Culture she has experienced but at the same time she shows her distance from it as if it is something she can never truly grasp in her hands. The poet herself is the unknown girl suggesting she can never truly be the Indian version of herself.
      • Written in free  verse, no rhyme scheme/regular scheme. Presented on page as an artistic wavy line, meant to represent henna.


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