“I run just one ov my daddy’s shops from 9 o’clock to 9 o’clock…”Singh Song – Daljit Nagra
Beyond English returns to offer an in-depth analysis of Daljit Nagra’s Singh Song poem, as part of AQA’s Love and Relationship anthology. Our Singh Song poem blog will focus on:
- Singh Song context
- Singh Song structure
- Singh Song analysis
Shall we begin? Oh, alright…
Singh Song Context
Singh Song is a contemporary poem by the poet Daljit Nagra, an English man of Indian descent. The poem first appeared in Look We Have Coming to Dover!, a collection of poems published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Nagra chooses the world of the Punjabi immigrant as his inspiration. He attempts to create the realistic voice of the Punjabi narrator in a number of his poems. This can be heard in Darling & Me! as well as his Singh Song poem.
Nagra chooses a pun for the title of this poem. He uses the words ‘sing-song’, often used to describe the up and down inflection of the native Punjabi speaker speaking English. The word ‘sing’ is changed to ‘Singh’ to reflect the Punjabi descent of his narrator. Singh is a traditional Sikh last name for a male once they have become khalsa or initiates of Sikhism. The name means ‘lion’ and was traditionally intended to replace the caste surname of the man to reflect the egalitarian nature of Sikhism. The corresponding female name is ‘Kaur’ meaning ‘princess’. By stating that this is a ‘song’ Nagra references odes and traditional British poems of the Romantics. The name also reflects the poem’s nature as a love song to the narrator’s new bride.
- Singh Song is a contemporary poem
- The poet is Daljit Nagraan, an English man of Indian descent
- Nagra chooses the world of the Punjabi immigrant as his inspiration for Singh Song poem
- The title of the poem is a pun, reflecting Punjabi influences
- By stating that this is a ‘song’ Nagra references odes and traditional British poems of the Romantics
Singh Song Structure
Singh Song uses a varied stanza form which reflects the pitch and change of the narrator’s voice and attitude. He spends a number of lines reflecting on the complaints of his customers in their own voices and, later, adds his bride’s voice to the writing.
In line 43, the style changes with the narrator reflecting more romantically on the magical nature of the shop at night. A calm comes over the poem just as calm comes to the shop.
The final lines (from 51 to 58) use repetition for a more soothing quality to the end of the poem. Here, the use of rhyming couplets (each line spoken alternately by the narrator and his bride) show the romantic nature of the poem and the closeness of the pair of young lovers. The technique echoes the use of rhyming couplets in the ballroom scene in ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
Towards the end of the poem, when the shop is closed, the narrator allows us to see the couple together. The language becomes more romantic and magical in nature: the shoppers are ‘wrap up quiet’ like characters in Sleeping Beauty and the couple come down ‘whispering stairs’ and sit together on a ‘silver stool’ looking at the moon. The two transform the common-place setting into something magical with their love for one another. The last lines are a set of rhyming couplets, an interchange between the pair showing their closeness and attachment. They use the language of the shop ‘How much do yoo charge’ and ‘How much does dat come to’ to discuss their love for each other.
- Singh Song uses varied stanza forms
- This varitiation could reflect the change in pitch of the narrator’s voice
- In line 43, the Singh Song poem changes to a more romantic tone
- The final lines (51 to 58) reptition is used, along with rhyming couplets
Singh Song Analysis
The syntax of the poem is meant to reflect the “Punglish’ voice of the narrator with the change of ‘w’ to ‘y’ and the odd addition of adverbial phrasing: ‘my newly bride’ and ‘brightey moon’. There are a number of other elements that reflect the unusual accent of the native Punjabi speaker here.
The characters in the poem are surprising. The narrator is a second generation child. He resents the work in his father’s shop which is long and arduous: ‘from 9 o’clock to 9 o’clock/and he vunt me not to hav a break’. He runs only one of his father’s (“daddy’s) shops, implying that the previous generation is hard working and committed and has created something of an empire. The narrator seems far more interested in his ‘newly bride’ who is always referred to as ‘my bride’ rather than as a wife. This increases the impression that the pair are only recently married. There is a possessiveness to the use of ‘my’ and the use of ‘bride’ implies that the narrator thinks of her as different from a ‘wife’ which is a more solid, lasting familial connection. The narrator makes clear distinctions between his mother and father as well, calling his mother ‘my mum’ (a rather western, adult term of endearment) and his father ‘daddy’, implying that, although grown, the narrator still feels like a little boy in the presence of his father.
The bride herself is intriguing. With her ‘red crew cut’ and her ‘Tartan sari’ she appears in the mind’s eye as a punk Indian, far removed from the stereotype of an Indian bride that one might have. She is disrespectful to both the narrator’s father and mother: ‘effing at my mum’ and ‘making fun at my daddy’. She spends her spare time on the computer. This section of the poem is interesting as it seems to deal with the bride trapping young Sikhs on some type of dating site. There are plays on the word ‘web’ (since she is ‘netting’ the men) and also the word ‘mouse’ here (since she is ‘playing wid di mouse’ and trapping ‘two cat’ for ‘di meat at di cheese ov her price’). She has the ‘tiny eyes ov a gun’ implying sureness and cold precision but also the ‘tummy ov a teddy’ which reflects comfort and warmth. Neither of these metaphors is particularly attractive or expected. She is a creature of contradictions, clearly fascinating to the narrator of the poem.
- The syntax of the poem is meant to reflect the “Punglish’ voice of the narrator with the change of ‘w’ to ‘y’
- The narrator runs only one of his father’s (“daddy’s) shops, implying that the previous generation is hard working
- The narrator seems far more interested in his ‘newly bride’ who is always referred to as ‘my bride’ rather than as a wife
- There is a possessiveness to the use of ‘my’ and the use of ‘bride’ implies that the narrator thinks of her as different from a ‘wife’ which is a more solid, lasting familial connection
- With her ‘red crew cut’ and her ‘Tartan sari’ she appears in the mind’s eye as a punk Indian, far removed from the stereotype of an Indian bride that one might have
- She has the ‘tiny eyes ov a gun’ implying sureness and cold precision but also the ‘tummy ov a teddy’ which reflects comfort and warmth
Singh Song Poem Revision from Beyond
If you’re after an even closer look at Singh Song, the lesson below might help!
“[…] cum down whispering stairs and sit on my silver stool, from behind di chocolate bars…”Singh Song – Daljit Nagra
Explore even more set texts from the AQA GCSE English syllabus here.