Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Introduction by Kamala Das

An Introduction
Kamala Das

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.

16 comments:

nirupam said...

The poem introduces Kamala Das as a rebellious poet in the tradition of confessional poetry. It deals very frankly with the poet's search for cultural-linguistic as well as sexual identity in a post-colonial reality so oppressive and overbearing.

babyla said...

Gyatso speaks...
Extremely quintessential poem embodying the strict traditions and confessions of a true Indianess.

in a bucket of paint said...

being indian, of the same orgin as her, i ve often quoted her to a close writing of my own, her writings are somethings that open the loneliness of not just indian women but women of many a nation, a poem of crankiness, distority, honesty and brutual frankness and a tradition and culture of that time and the earnest rebellion of a growing girl who was trapped in a time zone different from her mental time. kamala has grown to see her rebellion in many a women now. trousers, short hair, funeral pyres, young wombs and heavy breasts...

ambika said...

This poem is truth at its best that flows out with a mixture of rebelliousness and helplesness at the same time...extremely well-written,perhaps only kamala das could have written with so much of boldness and clarity about the compulsions faced by women...very inspiring..

avdi said...

This is the first thing I have read by Kamla Das. Scintillating.

prem said...

this is the poem which i understood very well
and i hope i write such poems which can be understood by all...........

TOJIN JOSE said...

as an Indian woman, she has shown the confidence to speak against the things which are not to be spoken by a woman in india. That is Kamla Das and her complete works.

Vajira said...

you are correct.Still we are struggling... i don't see any end..everyday women are suffering with their role.Its a shitt..

choekyi said...

i m quite confused as to how n why das refers to a man(specific or general)as the HE n den further calls herself(n women like her) the HE. will someone throw light on this? someone has said he has undstood this poem very well. i hope i receive quick response. thanks.

adam said...

the poem has quoted the deep sorrow faced by kamala das. It has reflected the suffering of a thousands of lady who has no choice in that existed patriarchy-dominated society.

Indian Girl said...

thnks for sharing

PRIYA said...

Kamala Das brings forward dilemmas of any Indian writer of English and shows the lack of freedom of speech in an independent country.And, the problems she faces, regarding her identity, are universal ones faced by women worldwide till today.

ASH said...

its really beautiful and simple one.
easy to understand every one.
thanks to share.....

rajeev said...

kamala das's style is dufferent from other wrters of India and she makes use of the poetic genre which is well knwn as confessional poetry, her couragious attempt which invites many criticisms from the confined literary circle of Kerala

mary_mfb said...

i m quite confused as to how n why das refers to a man(specific or general)as the HE n den further calls herself(n women like her) the HE. will someone throw light on this? someone has said he has undstood this poem very well. i hope i receive quick response. thanks.

August 26, 2010 9:04 AM

adam said...
the poem has quoted the deep sorrow faced by kamala das. It has reflected the suffering of a thousands of lady who has no choice in that existed patriarchy-dominated society.

September 19, 2010 3:33 AM




I think I agree with adam. And it occurs to me as well that she might mean she is Other, she is never "I" because "real" I's can also be He's, and she's... well, a woman, not a He. So she may be You, but never really I

marinn said...

From 'politics' to 'language', from 'human speech' to 'blazing funeral pyre', from a 'child' to a 'youth' into the bedroom, from 'sprouted hair' to cutting 'hair short',from 'jilted in love' to calling oneself 'I'....indeed the 'honest' speech of a deprived woman...it is 'time to choose a name, a role'....unconventional clarity...a blend of simplicity and acuity...it is more human than feminine...a must-read for all 'schizophrenics'!!