Presents from my aunts in pakistan moniza alvi
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Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Presents from my aunts in pakistan moniza alvi
Presents from my aunts in Pakistan – Moniza Alvi
They sent me a salwar kameez peacock-blue, 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, silver-bordered
for my teens.
I tried each satin-silken top - was alien in the sitting-room. I could never be as
lovely as thoseclothes - I longed for denim and corduroy. My costume clung to me and I
was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila.
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.
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
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.
I pictured my birthplace 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, sweeper-girls and I was there - of no fixed nationality, staring
through Fretworkat the ShalimarGardens