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Analysis of Women Voices in Kamala Das Poetry: An Introduction

(A Feminist Critical Essay)



Analysis of Women Voices in Kamala Das Poetry: An Introduction

-HERU SAPUTRAMA English Student of Post-Graduate College OU, Secunderabad

Women account for a half of population of the world. Therefore, gender equality is
inevitably needed as the discrimination toward women means discrimination toward half of
world population. Women should be in the same position with men in every aspect of life such as
politics, social, economy, and in every institution such as family, society and the higher
institution such country. There must be an official and cultural protection toward the women
right to make sure that every single woman is eluded from bad treatment only because of
biological matter.
Patriarchal system in India which places the women as subordinate and inferior to men
has brought the women to be victimized in exploitation and oppression both physically and
mentally. Even though moving away from that male dominated culture into gender equality,
discrimination is still highly visible in rural as well as in urban areas, throughout all strata of
society. While women are guaranteed equality under the constitution, legal protection has a
limited effect, where patriarchal traditions prevail.
The education development and the influence of feminist movement in the postindependence era give raise to awareness to the liberation for Indian womens slavery and
subjugation. Feminist literature comes up with its idea pervading the sense of alienation,

different treatment, physical and mental violence, and many others. The voices dont belong only
to the writers, but those are voices of discredited human beings called women.
Kamala Das is one of the most distinctive and original of Indian poets writing in English
today. She is well-known by feminist voices-themed-poetries such as unfulfilled love and
yearning for love, the conflict between passivity and male oriented universe, the charge of
obscenity and she also deals with the tension between love and lust. All her poetry is not the
result of her imagination, but rather from her own experience of her live as a child, woman, and
wife. This essay is aimed to portray the female voices contained in one Kamala Dass poetry
entitled An Introduction.

The poem Introduction talks much about Kamalas thought. She, through the poem,
wants to emphasize her identity as both a feminine and personal. The poem also talks about the
patriarchal society, the shackle to women in daily life, fulfillment love and the superiority of
males in a relationship. It begins colloquially with the poet introducing herself as innocent Indian
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
(Das, 8)
The poet shows her ignorance of politics, portraying the perceived general ignorance of
women about politics. However, as educated woman she knows those who are in power. This
ignorance can show his idea that politics becomes unimportant since it doesnt change the

women condition. Moreover, the political system itself is still male-dominated, so the
impossibility of using politics to drive the discrimination away is like sweeping a dirty floor with
dirty broom. The names of the politicians are remembered as names of the months are which
shows the futility of the nomenclature.
I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,
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, half Indian, 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
(Das, 8)

Beauty is one of the most important considerations qualifying women for the good
prospect marriage. In context of Indian society, brown can disqualify the prospect of good

marriage for woman. But here, Das introduces herself as brown woman. She tries to negate to
prevailing mindset of domination. Women in India were not supposed to be educated and even if
by mistake they must not write, and if they write they must write in English. Kamala Das is
educated. She is writing and that too in English. She has to face many problems because of this.
She is criticized by critics, friends, and even cousins. This choice of language shows the
rebellious voice of women who choose the path contrary to what the society has designed;
Kamala Das refers her choice of her language to be natural to her as roaring to lions and cawing
to crows.
Kamala Das here perhaps refers language to the way she writes. She doesnt want to
restrict her writing by following the prevailing male-writing norms and viewpoints. The concept
of debunking the male tradition in writing and adopting female way of writing which is
conceptualized by Elaine Showalter in her idea of gynocticism. Showalter in her essay
Toward the Feminist Poetic says that gynocritics begins at the point where the women writes
free their selves from the linear absolutes of male literary history, stop trying to fit women
between the lines of the male tradition, and focus instead on the newly visible world of female
culture (Showalter, 1)
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
(Das, 8)
Kamala Das negates the taboo related to the description of a womans pubic hair and her
sexual maturity and openly talks about these issues in the poem. Kamala Das also talks about the
problem of marriage. The women in India are supposed to get married early otherwise they
might be considered as either bad women or women with defect. There is also a reason of
children marriage based on the financial aspect. Due to the dowry tradition women are prone to
be a burden for their families, thus seen as a liability. If the match is made at an early age, the
dowry is usually much lower, as the dowry is calculated on the future husband's societal status
and education, which obviously would be much lower at an early age. In addition marrying
off girls at an early age, ensures, that they marry as virgins, thus protecting the girl's and their
family's honour.
Marrying at an early age creates a lot of problem for the young lady whose mind is not
prepared for the responsibilities of neither family nor sexuality forced sexual relations destroy

the body and the mind of the woman. Girls between 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die of
pregnancy-related reasons as girls between 20 and 24. Girls married off as children sometimes
stay in their parents' house until puberty, but it is just as common, that they move in with their
husband and in-laws right after marriage. In that case, many child wives are inclined to
experience domestic violence, marital rape, deprivation of food, and lack of access to
information, healthcare, and education. Thus, the vicious cycle of illiteracy and abuse is likely to
be continued and passed on to their own daughter. (Saarthak, 1).
The society wants her to be a proper woman who wears sarees and ornaments and
quarrels with her servants. This desire for identity on the part of the society comes from the
threat that a truant woman poses to the established order of the society.
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.

(Das, 9)
Kamala Das opposes a man whom she generalizes by using a noun everyone. Its a
universal noun that Kamala uses to reflect the general man who is always proud of his
superiority and he think that anything can be done since he gets inherent advantage for belonging
to stronger sex. He defines himself by the I, the supreme male ego. He brings credit to himself
as the sword in its sheath. It portrays his power of the patriarchal society that thrive in that is
all about control. It is this I that stays long away without any restrictions, is free to laugh at his
own will, succumbs to a woman only out of lust and later feels ashamed of his own weakness
that lets himself to lode to woman. Towards the end of the poem, a role-reversal occurs as this
I gradually transitions to the poetess herself. She pronounces ho this I is also sinner and
saint, beloved and betrayed. As the role-reversal occurs, the woman too becomes the I
reaching the pinnacle of self-assertion.
The poem talks much about Kamalas feeling and self experiences. She, through the
poem, wants to emphasize her identity as both a feminine and personal. The poem also talks
about the patriarchal society which places the male into the superiority. Afterward, it reveals the
shackle to women in daily life. Then, Kamala expresses her fulfillment love and the superiority
of males in a relationship.
Even though the poem takes place in Indian context, the discrimination and inequality
towards the women happen not only in India, but also in any other regions of the worlds.
Cultural and mental revolution is needed accompanying constitutional protection for women


Das, Kamala. Summer in Calcutta. New Delhi: Everest Press. 1965. Print
Iyengar, K.R.Srinivas. Indian Writing in English. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1985. Print
Khobragade, Grishma. Feminine Sensibility of Kamala Dass Poetry. Maharashtra: Galaxy
International Multidisciplinary Research Journal, 2012. Print

Saarthak, Indian. Womens situation in India. Saarthak initiative and relevance. Website.
Accessed on 19 November 2014
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Showalter, Elaine. Towards The Feminist Poetics. Histria Cultural - Gnero, Subjetividades
E Cultura Material Ifch Instituto De Filosofia E Cincias Humanas Unicamp. Website.
Accessed on 19 November 2014