Singh_Song!

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Singh Song!
Daljit Nagra
Singh Song!
i run just one ov my daddy’s shops
from 9 o’clock to 9 o’clock
and he vunt me not to hav a break
but ven nobody in, I do di lock –
as my vife on di web is playing wid di mouse
ven she netting two cat on her Sikh lover site
she book dem for di meat at di cheese ov her price-
cos up di stairs is my newly bride
vee share in chapatti
vee share in di chutney
after vee hav made luv
like ve rowing through Putney –
my bride
she effing at my mum
in all di colours of Punjabi
den stumble like a drunk
making fun at my daddy
ven I return vid my pinnie untied
di shoppers always point and cry:
Hey Singh, ver yoo bin?
yor lemons are limes
yor bananas are plantain,
dis dirty little floor need a little bit of mop
in di worst Indian shop
on di whole Indian road –
above my head high heel tap di ground
my bride
tiny eyes ov a gun
and di tummy ov a teddy
my bride
she hav a red crew cut
and she wear a Tartan sari
a donkey jacket and some pumps
on di squeak ov di girls dat are pinching my sweeties –
ven I return from di tickle ov my bride
di shoppers always point and cry:
Hey Singh, ver yoo bin?
Di milk is out ov date
and di bread is alvays stale,
di tings yo hav on offer yoo never got in stock
in di worst Indian shop
on di Indian road –
late in di midnight hour
ven yoo are wrap up quiet
ven di precinct is concrete-cool
vee cum down whispering stairs
and sit on my stool,
from behind di chocolate bars
vee stare past di half-price window signs
at di beaches ov di UK in di brighty moon –
from di stool each night she say,
How much do yoo charge for dat moon baby?
from di stool each night I say,
Is half di cost ov yoo baby,
from di stool each night she say,
How much does dat come to baby?
from di stool each night I say,
is priceless baby -
this poem is a song - it
has a strong lyrical
voice, and depends on
rhyme and rhythm, as
well as repetition to
create a sense of a
refrain or chorus.
Singh Song!
I run just one ov my daddy’s shops
from 9 o’clock
and he vunt me not to hav a break
but ven nobody in, I do di lock -
phonetic spellings in places to
represent 'Punglish' - English spoken in
a Punjabi accent. This increases the
number of 'd' and 'v' sounds in the
song, and creates an alliterative,
rhythmic effect.
The name 'Singh'
comes from a
Sanskrit word
meaning 'lion' and
it is an essential
part of the name
of any Sikh male.
The narrator is the son – he
will inherit the shop. he only has
limited accountability; perhaps
this is the first time he has been
entrusted with responsibility
highlights the father’s need for the son to
take this hard-earned responsibility
seriously
limited knowledge of English –this shows the
idiolect of the character.
cos up di stairs is my newly bride
vee share in chapatti
vee share in di chutney
after vee hav made luv
like ve rowing through Putney -
repetition of ‘share’ suggests that the
couple have an equal partnership
play on words: ‘Putney’ is
Punjabi for ‘wife’, and also an
area of south-west
London
Ven I return vid my pinnie untied
di shoppers always point and cry:
Hey Singh, ver yoo bin?
Yor lemons are limes
yor bananas are plantain,
dis dirty little floor need a little bit of mop
in di worst Indian shop
on di whole Indian road -
italicised refrain to present the
perspective of other shoppers, who act
like a chorus commentary in classical
Greek theatre. All speak with an Indian
accent
She runs an online dating site for Sikhs; the modern way of arranging marriages. She is
also running a business – part of the Indian work ethic. Nagra plays with the metaphor
of the cat and mouse, as the narrator's wife is on what could be an internet dating site.
The men she is catching are both mice, which she is playing with as a cat might. But they
could also be cats. 'Cat' is a fairly common but old-fashioned slang term for a man. The
confusion of who is the cat and who is the mouse reflects the situation the metaphor
describes, where we might expect the bride to be the victim, but she is not! There may
also be some punning here on the idea of the 'web' and her "netting" her prey.
Above my head high heel tap di ground
as my vife on di web is playing wid di mouse
ven she netting two cat on her Sikh lover site
she book dem for di meat at di cheese ov her price imagery to suggest the wife is dangerous and
powerful (‘on di web’, ‘netting’ and ‘playing vid
di mouse’) the customers are her ‘meat’ and
she tempts them with ‘cheese’ − this could
also hint at the dynamic in their relationship.
She also appears more westernised.
my bride
she effing at my mum
in all di colours of Punjabi
den stumble like a drunk
making fun at my daddy
my bride
tiny eyes ov a gun
and di tummy ov a teddy
my bride
sums up the ideas behind the poem: draws on the
idea of colourful language, but it also suggests the
idea of variety, and that behind the stereotype of the
Indian immigrant, there are many different individual
lives.
metaphors used to describe the narrator's
bride are quite unexpected. Neither the "tiny
eyes ov a gun" and the "tummy ov a teddy"
sound particularly attractive, but it is clear
that he loves her. They also tell us a lot about
his wife: using the comparison of the gun
tells us she's assertive, but "teddy" suggests
affection and softness.
she hav a red crew cut
and she wear a Tartan sari
a donkey jacket and some pumps
on di squeak ov di girls dat are pinching my contrast of ‘gun’ and ‘teddy’
suggests conflicting feelings
sweeties towards her;
she is both comforting and
dangerous?
Repetition of the customers’
complaints works like a chorus
in a song
Ven I return from di tickle ov my bride
di shoppers always point and cry:
Hey Singh,ver yoo bin?
Di milk is out ov date
and di bread is alvays stale,
di tings yoo hav on offer yoo hav never got in stock
in di worst Indian shop
on di whole Indian road -
‘midnight’ gives suggestion of magic;
extended metaphor of moon (‘cool’,
‘whispering’ and ‘silver’); moon
imagery links to the idea of
honeymoon
change of voice to second person,
speaking directly to shoppers
The shop at night becomes a
romantic destination. The
personification of the "whispering
stairs" gives a beautiful sense of
secrecy
Late in di midnight hour
ven yoo shoppers are wrap up quiet
ven di precinct is concrete-cool
the shopkeeper's stool is elevated
vee cum down whispering stairs
with the adjective "silver",
and sit on my silver stool,
from behind di chocolate bars
vee stare past di half-price window signs
suggestion of
at di beaches ov di UK in di brightey moon ‘Blighty’
they look out past the things which represent their daily life - the "half-price
window signs" - to the "brightey moon", a romantic icon.
series of couplets with repeated refrains, giving the
impression that the couple are ‘in tune’ with each other
from di stool each night she say,
How much do yoo charge for dat moon baby?
from di stool each night I say,
Is half di cost ov yoo baby,
from di stool each night she say,
How much does dat come to baby?
from di stool each night I say,
Is priceless baby -
their love is ‘priceless’, contrasting directly with
the ‘priced’ items in the shop
Attitudes and Ideas
• As well as exploring the experience of the main character, this poem
challenges the conventional expectations other people might have of him.
These expectations are set up in the first stanza, in which the narrator tells
us his father wants him to work twelve-hour days in the shop, playing on
the idea of the immigrant work ethic. But he constantly upsets and
challenges these expectations through the image of his wife: she is
"netting two cat on her Sikh lover site", and swearing at his mother, which
are both unexpected, but not as much as her punk appearance, with a
"red crew cut" and a "Tartan sari".
• The focus on the love between them and the human aspect of their
experience conveys very powerfully the idea that you can't use
stereotypical expectations to judge what a person will be like.
• The poem is playful. The rhyme, the subversion of expectations and the
comic images that seem created just for the rhyme (making love "like vee
rowing through Putney"), all create a light-hearted poem and prevent the
end from becoming sentimental.
Context
• Daljit Nagra is a British poet of Indian descent born in Bradford in
1966, who now lives and works in London. Look We Have Coming
to Dover was his first collection, published in 2007, and the title
poem won the Forward Poetry Prize. His poetry explores the
experiences of first generation immigrants to Britain and those of
their children and grandchildren.
• He often uses language and spelling that reflects the English of
people whose first language is Punjabi, describing attempts to
represent his community’s experiences in English as 'overheating'.
The name 'Singh' comes from a Sanskrit word meaning 'lion' and it
is an essential part of the name of any Sikh male.
Subject
Singh Song is a first-person love song by a young man about his wife. He
manages his father's shop but keeps sneaking upstairs to see her
instead. He paints a colourful picture of their love and lives, challenging
stereotypical ideas about Indian culture.
Form and structure
• As it says in the title, this poem is a song - it has a
strong lyrical voice, and depends on rhyme and
rhythm, as well as repetition to create a sense of
a refrain or chorus. The structure does not stay
the same throughout, but cycles through a
number of different stanza patterns, finishing in
four two-line stanzas that follow a conversation
between the narrator and his bride. The structure
is highly repetitive, creating a sense of closeness
between the two speakers.
Comparison
Checking Out Me History
• Both poems use non-standard spelling to suggest
an accent for the voice of the narrator.
• These narrators both bring the voices of others
into their poetry - in Checking Out Me History it's
the authority behind 'dem' and in this poem it's
the voice of the complaining customers.
• Although both these poems challenge
assumptions, Singh Song! is not as obviously
political as Checking Out Me History.

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