Search for My Tongue – Sujata Bhatt

You ask me what I mean
external image Honeysuckle_Panel_Complete.jpg
external image Honeysuckle_Panel_Complete.jpg

by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one, the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,

(munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha)

(may thoonky nakhi chay)

(parantoo rattray svupnama mari bhasha pachi aavay chay)

(foolnee jaim mari bhasha nmari jeebh)

(modhama kheelay chay)

(fullnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh)

(modhama pakay chay)

it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I've forgotten,
I think I've lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.

Search for My Tongue – Sujata Bhatt
Possible themes: Identity; Living between two cultures; Language; Race.

1. The poet writes about losing her tongue = forgetting how to speak her Mother tongue.
2. But then, as she dreams, her mother tongue re-asserts itself
3. She writes for a while in Gujarati, then translates it for us.
Comes from when she was in America studying English, and feared she was being ‘Americanised’/losing her Indian identity.
She writes: ‘I have always thought of myself as an Indian who is outside India … That's the deepest layer of my identity."

Feelings of the Poet

1. At first she talks about the two languages as though they were at war, and is fearful the foreign tongue seemed to be winning.
2. However, she finished confidently reasserting her knowledge of her Indian identity.
‘rot and die’
‘I thought I had spit it out’

‘then overnight while I dream’
‘every time I think I've forgotten … it blossoms out of my mouth’

= the foreign tongue is winning by default (‘rot’) or because she is consciously not using it (‘spit it out’)

= the allusion to her ‘dreams’ has TWO meanings one, she speaks Gujarati literally in her dreams, but also, it is her dream (her longing) to speak it always.


1. Free verse
2. One stanza
3. Middle section in Gujarati

4. Transcribed phonetically
5. Then translated

‘munay hutoo’
‘It grows back’

= just her thoughts coming tumbling out
= one long, coherent argument
Represents the Gujarati language re-asserting itself/’growing back’
= pride in her language (she is getting us to read it)
= repeats the triumph of her language for us to read x3

Use of Language

1. First person
2. The image of a ‘tongue’

3. Nasty images of decay

4. Extended metaphor of her ‘tongue’ as a plant

5. Repetition
‘I’ ‘my’
‘I have lost my tongue’

‘rot and die’
‘I thought I had spit it out’

Lines 30-35: ‘grows’, ‘shoots’, ‘buds’, ‘blossoms’

‘grows back … grows longer etc.’
‘the bud opens … the bud opens’

Stresses that this is autobiographical/personal

physical organ we use to speak/

language/ but also = ‘tongue-tied’ and hesitant (reflecting her fear that she was losing her identity and become Americanised.Reflects the horror and disgust she feels at losing her tongue and Indian identity
= the strong growth of the flower choking and replacing the ‘weed’ of the foreign language.
= emphasises the unstoppableness of the growth
= reflects the excitement she feels

YOUR feelings
As we grow older, we lose some of the habits and practices of our childhood – and sometimes we like to return to them!

Sujata Bhatt – Search for my Tongue
This poem is about Sujata Bhatt being afraid that she was losing her identity as a Gujarati-speaking Indian. It comes from a time when she was in America studying English, and feared she was being ‘Americanised’, and forgetting her first language (her ‘mother tongue’)