Copyright©Yogesh Patel & all respective copyright holders of the material published
Before she stepped into the classroom:
she removed coat, mittens and chunni;
mentally undid her shoes for entry
to a temple of secular mystery.
She also shed her:
language, name, identity;
donned the mask of neat conformity,
prepared for lessons in cultural anonymity.
Note Chunni: A long scarf worn with some South Asian clothes
She is a Patron of Survivors' Poetry and Life Member of the Poetry Society in India and the UK.
A former Royal Literary Fund Fellow, Chair of the National Association of Writers in Education and the Arts Council of England's Translations Panel, she has held writing residencies at Sheffield Children's Hospital and York St John and Leeds Trinity universities.
She has won many major prizes. She received an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University in 2002 and an MBE in 2008. For more information see
An Asian Child Enters a British Classroom
My poem is about many schools showing no understanding of the fact that Asian British children are living in two or more cultures. They are immersed in one culture at home, another at school, and perhaps yet another in the playground. -
I am proud to have published Debjani Chatterjee's latest poetry collection. It has an impressive range of subjects and styles, and the standard, as always, is high. -
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The book retails at £8.99, but the publisher offers Word Masala readers the discount price of £6 only, inclusive of p&p (UK only).
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When you know yourself
You have nothing to lose
So you give light
Borrowed from the Olympic torch
You carried once
The warmth, of course, from the tea
You had with One!
Isolation bothers you
So you have become an anthology
And not forgetting friends
You always put me
between the pages
of your anthologies:
Like a leaf, tree unknown
But a page unforgotten
For many of us in Diaspora, poetry often arises from an alteration or a juxtaposition that we find ourselves in, with our incongruity Foundationing two uncompromising sides of a coin. Only the receiver in this drama gets hurt or becomes a loser. And yet the host never understands the human being at the opposite end. A loss of identity, or alteration, or a compromise that many of us have made still leaves us wondering who we are, perhaps unforgettably scarred. I am always keen on finding a poem that can be simple but haunting and telling, yet touching the core of my pain as a permanent immigrant, neither here nor there, with a sense of belonging to the divide that we are constantly reminded of. If Maya Angelou can sing about the freedom in a ‘Caged Bird’ in a very simplistic tone, capturing the spirit of the point in question, then Debjani also does not disappoint us with this simple and hauntingly disturbing poem, precise in its lesson about losing one’s identity! She proves again Jeremy Paxman’s point, poetry needs to come out of the clutches of the dry academic poets. Bravo to this poem….
Word Masala Award
Debjani Chatterjee, MBE
A Lifetime Achievement of Excellence as a Poet
Patrons: Lord Parekh & Lord Dholakia