Chapter - 1 “Women do not set themselves up as subject and hence have erected to virile myth in which their projects are reflected; they have no religion or poetry of their own : they still through the dreams of men” writes Simone de Beauvoir in THE SECOND SEX as early as 1949 and sincethen feminist criticism have taken several directions , but the need for the women writer toexpress herself is for grounded by major critics. Only by writing an expression could the womanwriter succeed in breaking down existing social power structure and create a place for herself inthe world of masculine hierarchies: the women writer could thereby alter her existingmarginalized position and accept her rightful role as a significant part of society . by writingabout the self, the women writer could challenge the accepted notions of the female andredraft general opinion of the feminine mystique . as the emphasis on demystifying the myth offemale and generating, a new role for the woman in society because popular and more womenwriting began to appear in public . Indian English Literature has succeed to paint a picture offeminine soul through the Indian English poetry . women’s poetry in India has a distinct tradition of its own that seems tobegan with the tribal songs of early inhabitants , the Pali songs of the Buddhist nuns of the 6 thcentury B.C , the sangam poets of Tamil like Andal and Auvaiyar , the devotional poets of themiddle ages loke Mirabai, Ratnabai, Janabai, Autukri Molla and Akkamahadevi , Mudduppalani,Bahinabai , Mahlaq Bai Chanda and Sanciya Hosannama of the 17 th and 18th centuries andreaches up to Kamala Das’s mother Balamani Amma. Indian women poets writing in English to
whose ever grooving tribe Kamala Das belongs , from a little tradition of their own related invarious ways to this great tradition. Among the Indian writers of English, there are not many to whom English is as natural amedium of expression in both prose and poetry as it is to Kamala Das(1934-2009). The sixties ofthe twentieth century saw a poet writing in English from India and in Indian English and writingas a woman on the themes and issues that directly related to women. Bold, free, frank andunconventional in expression and resentment and protest about how the male-world hasabused the female body and restricted its freedom of the soul , she made poetry the veryinstrument with which much could be achieved .Poetry to her was a tool to work towardsfreedom. . Not immediately, adequately, sympathetically evaluated and appreciated, this poetbeing a woman herself made it her mission to expose the hypocrisy of the husband-wiferelationship in the Hindu society - almost a manipulative and coercive practice to keep womansubjugated in all matters including the area of sex life. There is in her poetry an awareness ofhuman rights and her judicious views about how the world could be properly reset, readjustedand reformed.. She wrote for women’s cause in most clear-cut language - appearing to most tobe quarrelling while writing. Kamala Das , who has published only three slendes volumes of poetry SUMMER INCALCUTTA , THE DESCENDANTS , and THE OLD PLAYHOUSE AND OTHER POEMS , hasestablished her reputation as the ‘Female Fetal’ of Indian English poetry . her poetry expressesthe best expression of FEMININE SENSIBILITY . Being a woman and wife , she has a minute andtrough knowledge of feminine sensibility, its exploitations, its hurts , its anguishes and itssuppression in a male dominated society . Das as a poet of talent has achieved internationalattention by virtue of her bold , uninhibited articulation of Feminine urges along with otherwomen poets like Guary Deshpade ,Mamta Kalia , De Souza and others . Kamala Das stands tallamong all of the creative writers who are so passionately involved in their craft that they do notbrook the idea of deviation or deception . Feminist consciousness and language find anexponent of sensuality and spirituality in Kamala Das who unmindful of brickbats or accoladescarried o untiringly creating poems of abiding charm , enduring empathy and inconceivable
audacity . She is not an exhibitionist nor is a moralist . The pulpit was never her platform . Sherepresents essential woman and her ordinary desire most of the times and extraordinary fadsat others …….. The Making of Kamala Das / Life of Kamala Das Kamala Das whose maiden name was Madhavikutty , was born in March 31,1934 at Punnayurulam, a village in Malabar, Southern Kerala. She was fortunate enough to takebirth in a family who were totally devoted to art and literature . Her father Mr. V.M.Nair hadbeen an employee in a British automobile firm in Calcutta , where he sold Rolls Royces ,Hombres and Bentleys to the Indian princes and their relatives. Her mother Balamani Ammawas however , a poet of great distinction speaking of her parents’ unsuited alliance , Das writes: “ My mother did not fall in love with My father . They were dissimilar and Horribly mismatched” ( My Story- pg 5) But her mother’s timidity created an illusion of domestic harmony andproduced some half a dozen children of swarthy skin and ordinary features . As her autobiography MY STORY suggests Das first attended a European schoolat her birth place, Punnayurkulam and then a boarding school run by the Roman catholic nuns.However in each of these institutions , she stayed for a short while. At the boarding school , shegot ill and was removed to Calcutta where private tutors were engaged to teach her fine arts .Apart from all these , the fact is Das received her education for the most part at her home. Thusmost of the knowledge of life , society and surroundings , she got from not school but from herpersonal experiences in her childhood and her life and though she had a short experience of
schooling , she made such a vital place among the Indian English Poets along with NizzimEzekiel. K . Ayyappa Paniker has introduced her in the following words “ Her formal education has not gone beyond the portals of a high school but sheis perhaps the most widely known of all Indian women writers in English today. Her language has a freshness and vitality lacking in writing of the ‘over educated’ compatriots of hers. ” Das’s parental home was influenced by the Indian national list movement ledby Mahatma Gandhi and his followers who used to wear ‘Khali’ clothes and even spin ‘Khadi’yarn , especially her grandmother , to whom this girl was deeply attached in her early age andwhom she remembered so sweetly in her later life in such poems as ‘ A HOT NOOON INMALABAE ’ and ‘ MY DRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE.’ Das hails from a family of poets and writes. Her grand uncle Nalapat NarayanaMenon was a poet and philosopher while her mother Balamani Amma was a renewed poet inMalayalam. Because of her grand uncle she got acquainted with the great writers in Malayalamand English Literature at the tender age and had enough exposure due to her stay at Calcuttaand Kerala . The young Das red the Malayalam translation of Victor Hugo’s ‘ LES MISERABLE’ byNalapattu Narayana Menon at the age of eight. Das started writing poetry at the age of six andher first poem was as we gather from MY STORY , about a doll that had lost its head and “ hadto remain headless for eternity.” (pg 8) At the age of fifteen , she was married to Mr.K.Madhava Das , an officer in theReserve Bank of India , Bombay , where her life became miserable in the company of her lustfulhusband. Her husband was much elder than Kamala Das . According to her , Mr. Das alwaysremained indifferent to her . he never tried to fulfill her desire of conversation companionship
and warmth. As Mr . Das was experienced in sex with his maidservants, his treatment of hiswife was usually cruel and brutal . he had no soothing words for her , no time to spare for her .He was ever busy with his files and as a traditional wife, she was expected to discharge all herdomestic duties well and to look to the needs and comforts of her husband. Her marriage lifewas totally full of lust and pain . she , through out her life searched for love in which she neversucceed and this search for love n pain of female sensibility later became the subject for herpoetry in which she became confessional and frank to her readers.But When Das wished to begin writing, her husband supported her decision to augment thefamilys income. Because Das was a woman, however, she could not use the morning-till-nightschedule enjoyed by her great uncle. She would wait until nightfall after her family had gone tosleep and would write until morning: "There was only the kitchen table where I would cutvegetables, and after all the plates and things were cleared, I would sit there and start typing"(Warrior interview). This rigorous schedule took its toll upon Das health, but she views herillness optimistically. It gave her more time at home, and thus, more time to write.As her career progressed, her greatest supporter was always her husband. Even whencontroversy swirled around Das sexually charged poetry and her unabashed autobiography, MyStory, Das husband was "very proud" of her (Warrior interview). Though he was sick for 3 yearsbefore he passed away, his presence brought her tremendous joy and comfort. She stated thatthere "shall not be another person so proud of me and my achievements" (Warrior interview).And Das achievements extend well beyond her verses of poetry. Das says, "I wanted to fill mylife with as many experiences as I can manage to garner because I do not believe that one canget born again" (Warrior interview). True to her word, Das has dabbled in painting, fiction(Warrior interview), and even politics (Raveendran 53). Though Das failed to win a place inParliament in 1984, she has been much more successful of late as a syndicated columnist(Raveendran 53). She has moved away from poetry because she claims that "poetry does not
sell in this country [India]," but fortunately her forthright columns do (Warrior interview). Dascolumns sound off on everything from womens issues and child care to politics.Kamala Das is the inheritor of many traditions, the regional, cultural traditions of Kerala andthe Pan-Indian tradition: and within the regional tradition, she has a specifically matrilinealback- ground provided by her caste and especially provincial background offered by Malabar,where she spent her childhood . she is also heir to two poetic traditions, that of Malayalamwhose roots go back into the ancient Tamil sangam poets and medieval folklore , and that ofIndian English poetry beginning with Henri Derozio and Toru Dutt; she herself had two poets inthe family , Balamani Amma, her mother and Nalapatt Narayan Menon her maternal uncle. As a child she felt tortured by ‘subtle sadism’ of her teachers who were oldmaids turned sour with dejection and found refuge in her grandmother and company in thefemale servants at home . Das is a bilingual writers writing mostly stories and memories in Malayalamand mostly poems in English. All these have directly or indirectly gone into the making of herpoems .Kamala das’s contribution to the Indian English Literature.Her Works In English:
Poetic works: - The Sirens (1964) - Summer in Calcutta (1965) - The Descendents (1967) - The old Playhouse and Other Poems (1973) - Only the Soul Knows How to Sing (1996) - Tonight , This Savage Rite (1979) ( a collection of Das and Pritish Nandy )Autobiography: My Story (1971)Novels : Alphabet of Lust (1977) Daughter of Immortality (1985)Short Stories; A Doll for the Child Prostitute (1977) Padmabati, the Harlot and Other Stories (1992) Sandal Trees and Other Stories (1995)Her Works in Malayalam :-Short stories : Pakshiyade Maranam (1964)
Naricheerukal parakkumbol (1966) Thanappu (1968) Chekkerunna Pakshikal (1996) Nashtapettu Neelamban (1998)Novels : Palayam (1990) Dayarikkurippukal (1992) Neemathalam pooth kalam (1994) Madhavikkuttiyude Ummakkadhokal (20005) Vandikkalakal(2005) Memorie : Balyokala Smarankal (1987) Besides her poetical and prose works , she had written extensively for variouspopular magazine and periodicals , such as OPINION , THE ILLUSTRATED WEEKALY OF INDIA,POETRY EAST AND WEST , DEBONAIR, EVE’s WEEKLY, FEMINA , IMPRINT , WEEKLY ROUNDTABLE , LOVE and FRIENDSHIP e.t.c. most of these writings are however, controversial in nature. Such essays like I STUDIED ALL MEM, WHY NOT MORE THAN ONE HUSBANT? , WHAT WOMENEXPECT OUT OF MARRIEGE AND WHAT THAY GET , I HAVE LIVED BEAUTIFULLY tend toconsolidate her image in public as feminine yet straightforward , unconventional yet honest,jovial yet insecure – an image also projected by her poems. Her other works like Only thoseabove 55, OBSESSED WITH SEX, IQBAL , SEX:MINDLESS surrender or humming FIESTA? ,KALYANI, THE UNINVITED POETS, THE INVISIBLE POETS are also quite popular and raised muchdebate.
Das is the only woman poet of Indian writing in English today who hasattended world wide recognition. She has been given prominent place in all the leadinganthologies of Indo-English Poetry . She was offered the P.E.N’s Asian Poetry Prize in 1969 forTHANUPPA ( meaning “cold” ) , a collection of stories in Malayalam . She was also awarded forthe Chaman Lal award for journalism in 1971, the Asian World Prize for Literature in 1985 andIndira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award in 1988. Moreover, Das had been a ‘ mover and shaker – not only as an author but asa person also . Recently in `1999 she has converted herself to Islam and has become Surraya.She said “Two plain reasons lured me to Islam One is the Purdah. Second is the security that Islam provides to women. In fact, both these reasons are complementary. Purdah is the most wonderful dress for women in the world. And I have always loved to wear the Purdah. It gives women a sense of security. Only Islam gives protection to women. I have been lonely all through my life. At nights, I used to sleep by embracing a pillow. But I am no longer a loner. Islam is my company. Islam is the only religion in the world that gives love and protection to women. Therefore, I have converted.’’ The fact is Kamala Das loves to court controversy and sensationalism oftencaused by her forceful assertion and dazzling frankness and it had always been a par of her intentneed a part and strategy to jolt a co placement patriarchy and orthodoxy . However , personal
idiosyncrasies never outweighed the public concerns of her art , which assumes greatersignificant through its rich- sub- texts. Kamala Das has been ill for a greater part of her life, mentally and physically .she has suffered from heart problem depressions and various other illness but she has railed backeach time and continues creating poetry , short stories , novels , paintings . she never gave in orley herself be cowed down by such factors . her mother Balamani Amma noticed this spark inher and wrote, “ your mind may grow restless with Sad thoughts. Your body may be weary of household task’ But about You . I hold no fear ‘ Your power of turning worms into butterflies, Comforts me.’’ On 30 May. 2009 , aged 75 , she passed away at the hospital in Pune . Herbody was flown to her home state Kerala . She has working on two books in her last day; FROMMALBAR to MANTREAL , a collaborative work on women’s empowerment and a book onIslam for Harper Collins . They may still be incomplete but the task she completed during herlife , are enough to guarantee her place among the most prominent women writers of our time , amodel especially for evary honest women writer with a story to tell, “a song to sing or a shackleto break.’’ Themes of expectations of Love , Lust and Sexuality Kamala Das is one of the best-known contemporary Indian women writers, albeit largely for the controversy that her candid, confessional writing has sparked in the relatively traditional context of Indian academia. Since the publication of her first collection of poetry, Summer in Calcutta (1965), Das has been considered an important voice of her generation. Her provocative poems are known for their unflinchingly honest explorations of the self and female sexuality, urban life, and women’s roles in traditional Indian society. Critics have expressed a range of opinions on her work: some laud her boldness, compelling sincerity and
striking originality, while others dismiss her work as sensationalist, limited in scope and unsophisticated. Das’s first volume of poems SUMMER IN CALCUTTA contains fifty poemsand with a few exceptions the theme of all of them is love or failure in love . this volume reallysets the tone for her entire poetic out put . here she has described a world which is harsh , sun-scorched, tropical world , heavy with the smell of rotting garbage and death, where even menhave limbs like ‘carnivorous plants’. The volume opens with the poem THE DANCE OF THEEUNUCHS, which objectifies through an external, familiar situation, the poet’s strangled desirewithin . it is highly symbolic poems which reveals her emotional sterility and sharp sense ofaguish hidden under the whirling movement and extended frenzy of the dancing eunuchs: “ Beneath the fiery gulmohur, with, Long braids flying, dark eyes flashing, they danced and, They danced , oh they danced till they bled …” Moreover, most of the poems in this volume are dominated by a tone ofbetrayal and present the poet as a prisoner of her own loneliness and complex moods. Her second poetic work THE DESCENDENTS has twenty nine poems in all ,aand most of these poems are further variations on her favorite theme, sexuality and love . thiscollection is bitterly death- conscious, also perhaps death obsessed. JAISURYA one of the finestlyric of this volume, explores both , the maternal love and the feminine sensibility to its mostexcellent form , the poem combines the narrative and the meditative and nicely details thewhole gamut of feelings preceding and following the birth of a child . in fact the themes ofsexuality and love , here receives a grater relevance from the glory of creation; “ They raised him To me then, proud Jaisurya , my son Separated from darkness that was mine
And in me .” Das suffered in childbirth but this suffering is seen as a commonfeminine experience. In fact , here Das , the woman and Das the artist become one and thepersonal experience is universalized. Her third volume is of poems , THE OLD PLAY HOUSE AND PTHERPOEMS contains 33 poems in all of these ,fourteen were published earlier in SUMMER INCALCUTTA and six were in THE DESCENDANTS . the title piece THE OLD PLAYHOUSE tells us thatlove is perhaps no more than a way of learning about one’s self or the competition of one’sown personality . it addresses presumably to her husband and is largely personal. It lodges aprotest against the constraint of the married life ; the fever of domesticity, the routine of lust ,artificial comfort and male domination: “ You called me wife ….. Kamala Das’s poetry as well as prose too , articulates the restless of asensitivity , woman moving in the male dominated society . in most of her poems , she raisesher forceful voice against the gender discrimination in a patriarchal society . in them , she reallycomes out as an ardent spokesman or spokeswoman of woman’s Lib movement. Thus sheexpresses the secret desire of womanhood to be free from the monotony and tiresomeness ofa hollow married life .
Quotation Das is a poet of love and sex . And as an honest poet of love, she always looks very frankand naïve without the intellectual pride of being a poet . but she writes about the power of loveand the appeal of body against the background of the conservative and orthodox Indian society. She says mainly about the pathos of a Woman , emerging from passive role to the point ofdiscovering and asserting her individual liberty and identity . hence , her love poems usuallybreathe an air of unconventionality and urgency . “ Kamala Das is a pre-eminently a poet of Love and pain . One stalking the other Through a near neurotic world . There Is an all pervasive sense of hurt throughout . Love, the lazy animal hungers for the flesh, hurt and humiliation are the warp and woof of her poetic fabric . She seldom Ventures outside the personal world .” - K.N.Daruvalla Most of her poems reveals her personal experiences and her poemsalso deal with the bold subjects of love , sexuality, quest for self, her passion for freedom, lust,gender discrimination , rebel against male dominated society, sensuality , politics of conversion,feminine sensibility e.t.c