Kamala Das

(31 March 1934 – 31 May 2009 / Punnayurkulam, Thrissur District in Kerala)

An Introduction


I don't know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru.
I amIndian, very brown, born inMalabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Don't write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
It is half English, halfIndian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don't
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
WhenI asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.
Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother's trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don't sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don't play pretending games.
Don't play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don't cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love … I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants. a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans' tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I
In this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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  • Bijay Kant Dubey (5/10/2014 9:35:00 AM)

    Though she says she is no at all involved in politics, but instead of it can tell about those in power or whose names doing the rounds in the Indian political circles, is in the know of three languages, but can write in two and dream in one. She is a Malabari, a Malayali, Madhavikutty by her maiden name, later to be named Kamala Das, changing colours like a chameleon. Her histrionics is one of an opera girl; the dramatics of hers theatrical. She is not a simple girl to be taken simply. Though poses like Radha or Mira, but is not, a Rajneeshite is she with a rudrakshamala. Kamala may not know politics, but she does the politics of poetry, the politics of coming into limelight. She need not give any introduction. We have known what she is in reality. (Report) Reply

  • Soumita Sarkar (6/12/2013 12:34:00 AM)

    Wonderful...........beautiful..........you are a woman, all woman...all mind and all soul.Hats off to your voice of revolt. (Report) Reply

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