Posts Tagged ‘Kamala Das’

Being a student of English literature, an encounter with Kamala Das’ works was inevitable. I was in the second year of my graduation when I first  read a piece of Kamala Das’ prolific work.  My first impression after reading ” summer in Calcutta” was that of  an awe !!  I was mesmerized by her boldness in terms of expression and her thought which I felt was so profound.  Her poetry had an immediate  impact on me and I could never stop loving Kamala Das thereafter.. My classes got over and we moved on to the next,  …..but somewhere I was still stuck there trying to comprehend what this author was all about and why I felt that her prose and poetry were different from many others I read. I read  “My Story ” and all I realised was Kamala Das spoke about things which are omnipresent in our lives, the basic truths with immense dignity and poise. Thereafter I went on reading her literature and found her enigmatic all through.
Kamala Das was born on March 31, 1934 in Malabar in Kerala. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayan Menon,and her mother  Nalapat Balamani Amma. Kamala Das was privately educated until the age of 15 when she was married to K. Madhava Das. Literary works both in English and Malayalam, Kamala Das enjoys a wide readership throughout the world.
When Kamala Das wished to begin writing, she was graciously supported by her husband to augment the family’s income. Because she was a woman, however, she could not do the morning-till-night schedule enjoyed by many others. She would wait until nightfall after her family had gone to sleep and would write until morning: “There was only the kitchen table where I would cut vegetables, and after all the plates and things were cleared, I would sit there and start typing”, she once said.This hectic schedule took its toll upon her health, but she viewed her illness optimistically. It gave her more time at home, and thus, more time to write,  an approach of hers towards life which I deeply admired.
To me,  Kamala Das was someone who had this uncanny honesty  towards her exploration of womanhood and love. In her poem “An Introduction” from Summer in Calcutta,  she says, “I am every Woman who seeks love”. According to her, womanhood involves certain collective experiences throughout her life which makes her omnipotent. Indian women, however, do not discuss these experiences in deference to social mores. She explained,  what is supposedly a taboo in our society , is the first thing which is highly expected of any woman. Along with her expression on woman wood, Kamala Das poignanatly dealt with eroticism and feminism too. She urges woman to give their man ” what make you a women” , a thought which is a clear indication of the fact that she literally broke free from the shackles of the societal norms and emerged as someone bold enough to confront the obvious. Kamala Das ventured into a very restricted territory, but successfully managed to make a point and strike a chord with her readers.She is someone who has  portrayed woman’s love in the most touching manner. Perhaps someone who spoke on behalf of the whole woman fraternity. As puts Shaashi Tharoor, ” Kamala Surayya was a pathbreaker in Indian English writing and translated Indian English. She has left a lasting legacy on literature.”
In December, 1999 Kamala Das converted to Islam sending a whole new message to the world about religion. “The animals of this world did not go into a Christian heaven, a Moslem heaven or a Hindu paradise. They did not claim any God as their own.” Kamala Das. ( http://www.gaia.com/quotes/kamala_das )
Her first English poetry was ‘The Sirens’, published in 1964, followed by Summer In Calcutta. She received many awards and accolades including Asian Poetry Prize, Kent award for English writing from Asian countries, Asan World Prize, Sahitya Academy award and Vayalar award. Her major works include:
The Sirens
Summer In Calcutta
The Descendants
The Old Playhouse And Other Poems
My Story
Alphabet of Lust
The Anamalai Poems
Padmavati The Harlot and Other Stories
Only The Soul Knows How To Sing
Yaa Allah
Pakshiyude Manam
Neermathalam Pootha Kalam
Madhavikkuttiyude Unmakkadhakal
On 31st may, 2009 as Kamala Das returned  to rest , I quietly admired her and felt happy about the legacy of  literature she has left behind us.She is someone I would always respect for her take on womanhood and  who has taught me the meaning of love though in a different connotation yet clearly defined….
May her soul rest in peace !!!!

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