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Explore Context in 'Singh Song!'

In this worksheet, students will learn to explore the context in the poem 'Singh Song!' and understand a little bit about the poet's background and the nature of the poem.

'Explore Context in 'Singh Song!'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Love and Relationships: 'Singh Song!'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

 

Would you like to work on your understanding of context in the poem 'Singh Song!'?

 

Thought bubble

 

 

Well, you've come to the right place! 

 

This activity is quite simple: we're going to look at the background of the poem, the themes the poet uses, and the context behind 'Singh Song!'.

 

Daljit Nagra was born to Punjabi parents in 1966, and his poems are usually associated with being British-Asian. His own parents ran a corner shop. Growing up, Nagra experienced quite a lot of racism. It was a hard time, growing up as an ethnic or religious minority in Britain in the 60's.

 

Nagra's own experiences as a British-Asian definitely impact his poetry. Let's see if we can identify some contextual factors within 'Singh Song!'.

 

As you do this activity, jot down some important facts that you notice along the way. It can help with your exam and your general knowledge.

 

 

Spiral notebook with pen

 

 

Just a reminder: context is the background, environment and setting of a poem. 

 

 

'Singh Song!' is written in 'Punglish', a mix of Punjabi and English dialect.

 

Tick the one example of Punglish from the options below.

"She effing at my mum"

"And sit on my silver stool"

"Is half di cost of yoo baby"

Nagra usually writes about the mix of Indian and British culture in his poetry. More specifically, he presents crossovers between the two cultures.

 

Pick one number from the options below which illustrates the mixture of Indian and UK culture? 

 

1. "Vee share in chapatti"

 

2. "After vee have made luv"

 

3. "And she wear a tartan sari"

What can we infer about the overall meaning of the poem?

 

Tick the three answers that you think are the most logical.

'Singh Song!' presents the idea of duties and responsibilities being important

'Singh Song!' is about a man who prioritises his wife over his shopkeeping duties

'Singh Song!' is about the importance of love

'Singh Song!' is about reinforcing Indian stereotypes and making fun of Indians

'Singh Song!' breaks down Indian stereotypes

Why is it important for us to know that Nagra, himself is a British-Asian man whose parents were shopkeepers. How does this add to the poem?

 

Shopping trolley

 

Pick one number out of the options below:

 

1. Because the poem is more relatable

 

2. Because Nagra himself understands what it's like to be a shopkeeper, and he uses this poem to break down stereotypes around his culture

 

3. Because Nagra probably worked as a shopkeeper and met his wife this way, so the poem allows us to understand his life better

In many interviews, Nagra has said that he prefers to be regarded as a British poet. However, he is proud of his Indian heritage.

 

Traditional Indian fabric

 

Below, tick the one box that best explains how the British-Indian connection is illustrated in the poem.

 

Nagra connects British and Indian cultures by writing in English but using Indian dialect; i.e, writing in Punglish

Nagra connects British and Indian cultures by writing about an Indian shopkeeper

Nagra connects British and Indian cultures by tackling racism in his poems

What one quote illustrates Indian duties/stereotypes?

 

"From 9 o'clock to 9 o'clock"

"Ven I return vid my pinnie untied"

"Above my head high heel tap di ground"

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

Column A

Column B

Indian stereotypes
"Vee share in chapatti"
Shopkeeping duties
"I run just one ov my daddy's shops"
UK/Indian culture
"Vee stare past di half-price signs ... at di beac...

We're moving along quickly, with just a few more questions to go. You've got this!

 

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

Column A

Column B

Love and marriage
"Vee have made luv like vee rowing through Putney"
Unconventionality
"She effing at my mum..."
Humour and exaggeration
"My bride"

Nearly finished!

 

Tick one theme that's not in the poem.

 

Love

Separation

Culture

From the options below, what idea seems to be the most important one in the poem?

 

Magnifying glass

 

That marriage is universal

That sex is universal

That love and sex happen in all marriages

That love is a universal emotion, regardless of culture

That stereotypes are important

  • Question 1

'Singh Song!' is written in 'Punglish', a mix of Punjabi and English dialect.

 

Tick the one example of Punglish from the options below.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Is half di cost of yoo baby"
EDDIE SAYS
Nagra's use of Punglish is present in most of the poem. Here, we have unconventional and non-standard English within the words "di", "ov" and "yoo", imitating the accent of the speaker!
  • Question 2

Nagra usually writes about the mix of Indian and British culture in his poetry. More specifically, he presents crossovers between the two cultures.

 

Pick one number from the options below which illustrates the mixture of Indian and UK culture? 

 

1. "Vee share in chapatti"

 

2. "After vee have made luv"

 

3. "And she wear a tartan sari"

CORRECT ANSWER
3
EDDIE SAYS
This question is a little bit tricky, so don't worry if you haven't captured the right answer straight away. The quote "she wear a tartan sari" is the correct answer here. The bride's fashion illustrates interesting things about stereotypes and conventionality. It also showcases a crossover between Indian culture ("sari") and UK culture ("tartan"). Now, think about what the bride's fashion symbolises. That's the most important thing to take from this question. Jot your thoughts down on a piece of paper to help you later.
  • Question 3

What can we infer about the overall meaning of the poem?

 

Tick the three answers that you think are the most logical.

CORRECT ANSWER
'Singh Song!' is about a man who prioritises his wife over his shopkeeping duties
'Singh Song!' is about the importance of love
'Singh Song!' breaks down Indian stereotypes
EDDIE SAYS
Nagra uses 'Singh Song!' as a way of reinforcing and then breaking down Indian stereotypes. Throughout the poem, it is quite easy to empathise with Mr Singh, the speaker, who seems to be so in love with his wife that he forgets about his duties as a shopkeeper. Not only are generational differences reinforced in the poem (by the idea that the speaker's father probably wants him to work long shifts just as he did, because he is used to hard work), but they are also broken down. Look at the way the speaker seems to forget about his duties because he wants to spend time with his wife. This is a relatable feeling! Also, look at the way Nagra uses Indian dialect to invoke humour at the beginning of the poem, only to break down this stereotype by the end of the poem, as we see how deeply he loves his unconventional wife. The poem's tone shifts from humorous and silly to romantic, just as our understanding of the poem shifts and we begin to connect with Mr Singh and his bride. He is more than a shopkeeper. He is a man with feelings and emotions.
  • Question 4

Why is it important for us to know that Nagra, himself is a British-Asian man whose parents were shopkeepers. How does this add to the poem?

 

Shopping trolley

 

Pick one number out of the options below:

 

1. Because the poem is more relatable

 

2. Because Nagra himself understands what it's like to be a shopkeeper, and he uses this poem to break down stereotypes around his culture

 

3. Because Nagra probably worked as a shopkeeper and met his wife this way, so the poem allows us to understand his life better

CORRECT ANSWER
2
EDDIE SAYS
The fact that Nagra's parents were shopkeepers means that the stereotypical edge to the poem is probably done ironically, only to be broken down so that we understand the human emotions and feelings underneath the surface.
  • Question 5

In many interviews, Nagra has said that he prefers to be regarded as a British poet. However, he is proud of his Indian heritage.

 

Traditional Indian fabric

 

Below, tick the one box that best explains how the British-Indian connection is illustrated in the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Nagra connects British and Indian cultures by writing in English but using Indian dialect; i.e, writing in Punglish
EDDIE SAYS
Nagra purposefully uses Punglish (Indian dialect, but written English) to showcase his speaker's combination of Indian and English.
  • Question 6

What one quote illustrates Indian duties/stereotypes?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"From 9 o'clock to 9 o'clock"
EDDIE SAYS
The first quote, with the repetition of "9 o'clock" emphasises the long hours that Indian shopkeepers work in order to maintain their businesses. So what may seem like a more menial job actually takes a lot of hard work and maintenance to uphold. The repetition emphasises how long and monotonous the hours seem to be.
  • Question 7

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Indian stereotypes
"Vee share in chapatti"
Shopkeeping duties
"I run just one ov my daddy's sho...
UK/Indian culture
"Vee stare past di half-price sig...
EDDIE SAYS
Think about the overall meaning of the poem and the tone you think it conveys about Indian culture/duties/stereotypes. What do you think Nagra is trying to suggest, as a British-Indian himself? What can we pick up about the universality of duties/emotions/love versus the specificity of Indian culture/dialect/experiences?
  • Question 8

We're moving along quickly, with just a few more questions to go. You've got this!

 

Match each contextual idea with a quote from the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Love and marriage
"My bride"
Unconventionality
"She effing at my mum..."
Humour and exaggeration
"Vee have made luv like vee rowin...
EDDIE SAYS
Linking meanings to quotes will greatly enhance your understanding of contextual ideas. Take love and marriage, for example. How do the themes of love and stereotypes connect? What is Nagra emphasising in making his humorous and slightly irresponsible shopkeeper, Mr Singh, so in love with his wife?
  • Question 9

Nearly finished!

 

Tick one theme that's not in the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Separation
EDDIE SAYS
Nagra's poem is quite positive, with themes bouncing off each other. Separation isn't part of the poem!
  • Question 10

From the options below, what idea seems to be the most important one in the poem?

 

Magnifying glass

 

CORRECT ANSWER
That love is a universal emotion, regardless of culture
EDDIE SAYS
The universality of love is a running theme in the poem. It is what breaks down the stereotypes that may have initially distanced us from Mr Singh, the speaker. You might disagree, though, and that's totally okay. If you do disagree, jot down your own ideas about what you believe Nagra is implying, implicitly or explicitly, and write down some quotes to back up why you think this. Whatever you believe the poem is really about, think about this: how does knowing Nagra is British-Indian, himself, make us assess the poem? Are we able to relate to the speaker and his culture more effectively? Does the poem unify us with the speaker? What about the way that Indian and British culture are portrayed? Are the two separate or unified? Lots of questions, but they are intended to get you thinking! Well done, that's another activity completed, we hope you are feeling more confident with each one you do!
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