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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Linguistic dislocation By Rizwan Akhtar

Sujata Bhatt is the living example of a cosmopolitan writer staunchly attached to her native culture and language. Born in Ahmedabad in 1956 and brought up in Pune, she relocated herself in 1968 to the United States and went on to settle in Germany where she lives with her German husband. Bhatt and Anita Desai share Euro-Indian and German-Indian literary heritage. Having all the trappings of an international poet and a postcolonial literary identity, she depicts her love for the native culture and language. Gujarati is the most recurrent point of reference in her poetry. Poised to address the cultural and lingual issues of the Asian and particularly Indian immigrants living in European and North American landscapes, Bhatt has shown an extraordinary interest in the subtleties of language. Her primary preoccupation is to use language for purely creative purpose, realising that language cannot be separated from the issues of identity and culture.

Following the footsteps of the twentieth century English poets, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, Bhatt manipulates English language for a creative purpose but also relishes the instinctive pleasure of a native language. Often with a great aplomb she uses Gujarati words with English and creates a poly-lingual text. A poem for Bhatt comes into being either through a word or an image and these are more easily available in one's native expression but this does not mean that she plans to think in the Gujarati language. In the beginning a poem is a loose skeleton and the flesh comes around only as a lateral development. Many of Bhatt's poems confirm that imagination and language are interminably linked and neither phases out the other. Her images are recurrently sinuous, physical, erotic and meditative. Her thematic concerns complement her poetic diction but the form and the content are independent of each other. She sounds exceedingly traditional when she translates and uses actual Gujarati words in poems written in English. Similarly the readers cannot restrain from feeling that the bi-lingual mesh of languages also gave her poetry a depth and profundity:

(kahi nahi,hoo nathi boli shakti)

I search for my tongue


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