In my opinion, the poet wrote the poem to try and help people understand the difficulty of speaking two languages. I think she is trying to get across the message that you will never loose something that is such a big part of who you are.
There are different emotions throughout the poem. At first, the girl feels confused and sad, as she is scared of losing her native language of Indian: “…and lost the first one, the mother tongue, and could not really know the other”. Towards the middle, the girl speaks quite angrily and fiercely: “rot and die in your mouth, until you had to spit it out”, using negative words such as “rot” and “die”. This could be because she is frustrated with herself for not practicing the Indian language, and therefore feeling like she has forgotten it.
However, at the end of the poem, the girl realises that she dreams in Indian, and so has not lost her mother tongue: “the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth”. She is full of joy, and is much more confident. This time she uses happier words, like “blossoms”. With all these different emotions, I think the poet is trying to get the reader to feel the confusion the girl is going through.
There are no stanzas or rhyme in the poem (which adds to the confused feelings of the girl), but the lines are roughly the same length. The image of a tongue is powerful all the way through. The word “tongue” has two relevant meanings in this poem – an organ which enables you to speak, and a language. The tongue is cleverly compared to a plant by using words and phrases such as “rot”, “bud” and “a stump of a shoot”. A plant and a tongue both have one important thing in common – if you don’t give them attention, they will die. For the plant, this is in the form of water and light. But for the tongue you must practice speaking your language. This use of imagery reinforces what the girl is saying.
The poem beings with normal, everyday language to draw the reader in, so they feel on the same level as the girl. The girl asks the reader a question: “I ask you, what would you do if you had two tongues in your mouth”. By talking directly to the reader, it makes them feel involved, as though they are part of the poem.
An interesting feature of the poem is the use of another language. The Indian writing is placed in the middle of the poem. This is symbolic as it shows it is central to the girl. Underneath the Indian script is the phonetic translation, which gives the reader the chance to try speaking her mother tongue, showing them how hard it is to speak another language. Also, with out the pronunciation, the flow of the poem is interrupted, as most readers won’t be able to read Indian.
The impact of the whole poem for me, overall, is happiness because the girl realises that her mother tongue will always be present in her heart and head – she hasn’t lost it after all. It is also interesting to try speaking the Indian language. It makes me feel as though I can relate to the girl, as the difficulty I have trying speak Indian must be how she felt learning English for the first time. Because of this I think the poem is successful in achieving its purpose.
A phrase that stands out to me is “grows strong veins”. It is referring to the girl’s native language coming back to her, but could also be a way of saying the girl is growing more confident. She now feels like a stronger person, because she knows that her mother tongue is still there. A vein is a tube that takes blood to the heart – in this case the vein is bringing more confidence into the girl’s heart.