Kamala Das: A valiant voice of literature
Kamala Das, also known as Madhavikutty and Surayya, is a confessional poet, prolific writer and memoirist and perhaps a pioneer of feminist writer in Indian literature. She penned in two languages including English and Malayalam. Her writing exclusively reflects the desire of female sexuality and love which created controversy as patriarchal society couldn't accept the tone of sexuality from a female writer.
Among her memoirists, the famous one is My Story (Ente Katha 1973) which was published in 1976. This memoir was published in a journal periodically in 50 fragmented chapters. It unfolds her journey of life including golden childhood memories, early marriage, pain and pleasure of conjugal life, children and many more. The memoir is written artistically and boldly where she has talked about her unfulfilled desire and betrayal. She exposes her husband's incompetency for sex as well as her extra marital relationships. This memoir is appreciated principally because of her courageous way of expressing her 'self', emotions and unrequited love.
Through her writing she reflected different selves of her as lover, poet, child, woman, mother, urbanite and many more. Her poetry is full of contradictions on one side she is patronizing love on the other side she is cursing it. She is hating her husband and again she is yearning for him. Oppression of marriage is there then again she talks about caring family and all that. Rosemary, a professor of English literature, addressed Das as 'consistently being inconsistent'.
She commenced writing from her early years of marriage and her poems were published in PEN (India) for the first time. Summer in Calcutta, anthology of poems, was published in 1965. There's a poem titled ‘Summer in Calcutta’ which reveals a self-contained mood of sensuous luxury through action and gesture. The setting of April sun gives the poet a sense of sensuousness and intoxication which inspire the poet to relax as she says, 'my worries doze'. The poem rejoices the mood of temporary triumph over 'the defeat of love.' The distinguishable fact of Das is in this poem she gives Indian summer a new facet by her elegant verses.
The Old Playhouse and Other Poems came out in 1973. These poems vividly unfolded the theme of love, failure of love or absence of love in a woman who quests for it in a loveless male world, completeness of self by being loved. These poems are categorized by an emotional intensity arising from a deep sense of betrayal, from the feeling that she has been damned to a life of imprisonment in a male-dominated world. Her writing makes the experience recorded in the poem transcend the personal level and become one with which every reader can empathise.
Collected Poems, a volume of poems, was published in 1984 and for it she won Sahitya Academy Award of 1985. She has been categorised as a confessional poet for her frankness and mastery over verse which shocked and attracted the readers. In this collection her poems reflected the theme of sexual frustration and desire, loneliness and neurosis, lust, trauma of arranged loveless marriage, sorrow of not finding love and affairs.
Her works of Malyalam languages are also very much concrete and well-wrought. Her noteworthy Malayalam works are --- stories and memoirs --- Balyakala Smaranakal, Varshangalkku Mumbu, Neermaathalam Pootha Kaalam, Thanuppu, Nashtapetta Neelambari, Chandanamarangal which showed sheer magic of the writer in expressions and writing style.
She was born on March 31, 1934 in Punnayurkulam, Kerala and died on May 31, 2009 in Pune. We remember her with reverence on her birthday and rejoice her with love!