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"A Different History" is about language as well as history. Sujata Bhatt is said to write in Indian-English rather than Anglo-Indian. In other words, she positions her Indian culture and language in the primary position in opposition to the cultural effects of the historical British colonization of India. The two stanzas could represent India before British imperialism and then India during and after the British presence there.
In the first stanza, the "gods roamed freely" and to kill a tree is a sin. Their cultural and spiritual ideas were free: not subject to any outside law or regulation. And sometimes, the colonizing country would suppress the occupied country's language and impose their own as a way of enforcing their (the colonizer's) culture. There is a reverence for language, books and the Indian culture they represented. Therefore it is a sin to be violent and/or destroy the sanctity of that culture and the knowledge from those books and ideas. (Sarasvati is the goddess of knowledge).
You must learn how to turn the pages gently
Without disturbing Sarasvati,
Without offending the tree
From whose wood the paper was made.
In the second stanza, we see the clash of the two cultures and therefore, the clash of two languages. In this stanza, the speaker asks how future generations can grow to love the language of the historical oppressor. By presenting these two contrasting histories, the speaker reluctantly acknowledges the modern, Post-colonial India, but implores the reader to have a historical awareness of the peaceful India before colonialism and the colonization that led to the integration of British and Indian cultures.
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