Let’s start with a quick one-sentence summary of Arundhati Subramaniam’s poem “To the Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian.” With a sarcastic and assured tone, and with precise and emphatic details, the speaker exposes and ridicules a critic’s attempts to define her cultural identity for her.
Here’s a slightly longer summary. Basically, the speaker addresses an unnamed critic, the critic she references in the poem’s title, who is someone born into Western culture, saying, in essence, “You think you know me, who I am, what I dream of, and how my use of language is flawed. You think you’re allowed to define me. Fine, go ahead. Analyze me and categorize me. Maybe then I can assume an important place in the history of the world, like you’ve assumed for yourself.”
Finally, let’s get a bit more detailed, summarizing one stanza at a time:
In the first stanza, the speaker confronts the critic’s impression of her as a naïve girl from India who has no business being so immersed in European literature.
In the second stanza, the speaker goes into detail about the critic’s impression of her as someone who wants to be part of European culture.
In the third stanza, the speaker acknowledges her own cultural complexity, offering details that reveal how she is neither fully Indian nor fully European.
In the fourth stanza, the speaker addresses the broad issue of language, implying that language belongs to everyone and that her own use of language has been overanalyzed by critics.
In the fifth stanza, which closes the poem, the speaker issues her final thoughts to the critic, sarcastically inviting him or her to analyze her, scrutinize her, label her, pity her, exert authority over her, and, somehow, in this process, confer on her the importance that the critic has given his or her own culture “on every page of world history.”