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Slide 1

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Presents from my Aunts in
By Moniza Alvi…read more

Slide 2

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Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan
They sent me a salwar kameez
and another
glistening like an orange split open,
embossed slippers, gold and black
points curling.
Candy-striped glass bangles
snapped, drew blood.
Like at school, fashions changed
in Pakistan -
the salwar bottoms were broad and stiff,
then narrow.
My aunts chose an apple-green sari,
for my teens.…read more

Slide 3

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I tried each satin-silken
top -
was alien in the sitting-room.
I could never be as lovely
as those clothes -
I longed
for denim and corduroy.
My costume clung to me
and I was aflame,
I couldn't rise up out of its fire,
unlike Aunt Jamila.…read more

Slide 4

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I wanted my parents'
camel-skin lamp -
switching it on in my bedroom,
to consider the cruelty
and the transformation
from camel to shade,
marvel at the colours
like stained glass.
My mother cherished her
jewellery -
Indian gold, dangling, filigree,
But it was stolen from our car.
The presents were radiant in my wardrobe.
My aunts requested cardigans
from Marks and Spencers.…read more

Slide 5

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My salwar kameez
didn't impress the schoolfriend
who sat on my bed, asked to see
my weekend clothes.
But often I admired the mirror-work,
tried to glimpse myself
in the miniature
glass circles, recall the story
how the three of us
sailed to England.
Prickly heat had me screaming on the way.
I ended up in a cot
In my English grandmother's dining-room,
found myself alone,
playing with a tin-boat.…read more

Slide 6

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I pictured my
from fifties' photographs.
When I was older
there was conflict, a fractured land
throbbing through newsprint.
Sometimes I saw Lahore -
my aunts in shaded rooms,
screened from male visitors,
sorting presents,
wrapping them in tissue.
Or there were beggars,
and I was there -
of no fixed nationality,
staring through fretwork
at the Shalimar Gardens.…read more


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