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Kamala Das

Kamala Das, one of the few Women Poets, who munched no words, when it came to men and their so called love.. her poems remain etched on mind and heart long after they are first read.

First time reading her during my Master’s, I was taken aback.. here was a woman, giving voice to sexuality and challenging socially acceptable nuances of love, without battling an eyelid.. and then I immersed head long into her autobiography and realized that Kamala Das, is as bold in her life choices, as in her verse..

Google Doodle brought back her memories.. Let’s read one of her powerful poems with open minds.. I am sure, many wives n husbands would identify with the verse…

“You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky.

It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every
Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow

You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,

I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall.

I remember the rudder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves.
Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Even the air-conditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath.

The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat.
There is
No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out.

The strong man’s technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For, love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.”

Though one must not consider her poems as a generalized commentary on men. I am sure there are many sensitive men around us, who genuinely love and care for their women, and not treat them as a sex object. But, yes then again, there is no dearth of insensitive men, for whom their wife/beloved/women in general are nothing more than a body. And, it is this second type of men, to whom Kamala Das shows mirror. And I applaud her boldness in doing so.

On the other hand, She shocked me at first, particularly her short poems, like the one below:

“Love became a swivel-door
When one went out,
Another came in
Then I lost count,
For always in my arms
Was a substitute for a substitute…”

At times, she seemed to be an advocate of love and yet confusing it with lust. It was only when I read her longer poems, that I understood her chagrin with men, who use and abuse women, leaving her with nothing more than bitter memories.

She is at her best when she shows mirror to men, who consider women as nothing but body. Nevertheless, a bold poet, whose verses came straight from heart and pierce the reader’s conscience…

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