There is a house now far away where once
I received love……. That woman died,
The house withdrew into silence, snakes moved
Among books, I was then too young
To read, and my blood turned cold like the moon
How often I think of going
There, to peer through blind eyes of windows or
Just listen to the frozen air,
Or in wild despair, pick an armful of
Darkness to bring it here to lie
Behind my bedroom door like a brooding
Dog…you cannot believe, darling,
Can you, that I lived in such a house and
Was proud, and loved…. I who have lost
My way and beg now at strangers' doors to
Receive love, at least in small change?
Kamala Das here in this poem is very nostalgic and homesick and keeps brooding over the ancestral house all through the poem which it was in Malabar. She remembers her days passed with the grandmother in close affinity and affection which, but she cannot forget it. This is a picture of how man moves ahead with time, what does it take place in the life of a woman? Which is her home, how to say it? Above all, in this age of employment and job-seeking, displacement and dislocation which are but the common feature taking us. We do not know it which place we belong to.
When she ceased to be, a silence took it upon, a darkness prevailed it upon. But whenever she gets time managing from the busy schedule and routine work of life, she looks back upon to gather to confide in reflections and memories to drive from. She was proud when she used to be and used to bask in her affection, sympathy and bonding. But where is that sympathy gone? Where that love? Do the things remain the same over a passage of time?
The grandmother’ house under our perusal is the scene of the poem which the poetess takes to for a deliberation. How was it one day? How is it now? Who used to be in? Who are now in? How her sympathies and bonding too connected with it? A Malayali poetess, she talks of Malabar. But where did she move away from? How the situations of life, how the times of life? Where does one get born and where does one move away to?
The life of a woman, where does she her earlier days as a girl child and where does she go to finally? Is the father’s home not her home though all of us are we displaced and dislocated to some extent?
After the death of the grandmother, the house turned into a neglected house as there was none to look it after, none was there to take care of, the same which had been vibrant with turned into a deserted and abandoned mansion. The house where she received love lost it its lustre and finally withdrew into silence. Snakes moved among books and the things lay in at sixes and sevens as it happens with.
When she was there, she had been very happy. She grew up under the shade of her grandmother’s love but the conspiracies of love she heard it like Hamlet overhearing his uncle and mother, the whispers of love she in the talks of the drunken persona into the late-night closed and dark bazaars of Araby the oriental fair in James Joyce. Macbeth seemed to be talking with the walls and the stars after the murder of Duncan and such is the guilty conscience of man. Sylvia Plath’s babbling she heard it relating to otherwise.
If the own house cannot be own, what to say it and how to if the things keep changing with time, memories and remembrances start getting dissociated? The same house does not remain a house if uncared for, if there is nobody to take care of. The same people turn away from when got distanced. Things too are the same, if handled with care or looked after will remain otherwise not.
We are not sure if she had been quite innocent then or a notorious one. Why does she refer to love life? Is it parental love which one gets in one’s ancestral house? Or is it a hushed love-affair? Or, maybe it that love sprouted in between and so in order to relate to she goes back to there as for her attachment.
The image of a dog looks it strange. Is it Bhairava vahana’s attendant or the dog of the house acting as a guard indirectly? It is definitely not the mystic dog of the mystic master in Harindranath Chattopadhyaya’s poem called Noon. It is but Kamala Das’ dog marking Summer in Calcutta and Malabar House. What dog has she petted it, we do not know it.
And suppose you if the master abandons it the pet dog, where will it go, if the house is closed down forever?
The poem is a story of love lost. How does the heart break it? How is the heart broken? How situations compel and force one to be? Playing in the courtyard she grew up innocently, but the whispers, conspiracies of time she heard it into the dark corridors of the dwelling hatching plots of feminine displacement and dislocation.
But now she is at the strangers’ doors begging for love having lost her innocence. Where is that love? And who that lover? Who loves whom actually? What is it loved, the body or the soul?
The grandmother’s love, who to give to, the mother’s love? Where the house she was born? Where did she grow up? Where did she go to? Who was it her guardian and who did it turn into her guardian finally? Who to give her true love? Is the feminine self-subject to torture? When will she be liberated? When will the womankind get rid of?
But what it adds to her poetic anecdote and memoir is the love story, the story of sexual satisfaction. The obsession with sex, how to override it? Sexual life, how to take to it? Sexual love, how to describe it? The dark consciousness matter, how to dip into? What does a human mind think it consciously or unconsciously? Can devotion digress one’s mind from sex? Had it been not, why would we have sculpted, inscribed the figures and figurines in love and sex over the outer panels of the temple walls?
In the poem, we can see the pictures and images of several literary pieces and sketches, Thomas Hood’s Childhood, Charles Lamb’s Dream Children: A Reverie, Sylvia Plath’s Daddy, Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners, Dilip Chitre’s Felling of the Bunyan Tree and so on.
While describing anecdotes and memoirs, she lapses into overtones and undertones of love and sex. To read her is to go after Vatsyayana, Freud, Lawrence and Rajneesh.
The dog she mentions, is it the dog of the grandmother or that of hers, whose dog s this or just is this a poetic persona?
Kamala Das as a poetess, what to say it about her? Who she is, how her mind and consciousness? How to delve it deep into her consciousness, mind and psyche? Who she is? Is she a Radha? Or, Mira? Or, Draupadi? Or, is Kunti? Who she is? How her character? How the poetic persona of hers? No Juliette is she at all, but it appears to be.
The pains of Mira, how to know it? How to feel them? And who cared to know them, whoever to feel them? But s she a medieval time Mira? Or, modern Mira? Only a Mira can know a Mira. The pains of heart, It is very difficult to know it. A few can feel it exactly.
Kamala Das as a poetess is the most autobiographical and the most confessional one of the Indian English poetesses, so intriguing, coquettish, intricate and media-savvy at the same when we sit to read her or take up for a discussion. To read is to know her psyche and persona. A poet of love, she is of the body in which is the soul. From sambhoga to samadhi is the thought of her and she appears to be Rajneeshite, a modern woman with a rudraksha rosary. Or, to change the metaphor, she is but a sevadasi, a Vaishnavite disciple of a Vaishnava sadhu who is but a grihatyagi otherwise and the tulsimala is around her neck.
It is but sex satisfaction which, but she discusses it in her poetry, it is but Lawrentine give and take, love and hate relationship, flesh and blood contact and the bonds of intimacy. How is our story of love? Love and sex? How does the mind feel it? Take to? How is our impulse? What to say it about physical love? Love and sex? What about our sensuality?
Can sex be suppressed? Can intellectuality calm it the fire of love, the fire catching it the inward within? The fire of love burns it. The fire and fever of love, how to say it about? The frenzy of intimacy it is difficult to cut it the whims. And Kamala burns from it within.
How to quench the thirst of love? How to satisfy the hunger of love? The hunger of the body? The hunger of the stomach?
How the feelings of a woman, the feminine self and persona? How the times of her life? How the story of her life? The autobiography of hers?
Can a tender girl take to japa and dhyana? Can a young girl a nun’s life? It is indeed difficult to be a nun or an ascetic. The young age is not to be a sadhu, not for taking to rudraksha. This is not the age of bhajan and kirtan, but of Raslila, Premlila, Krishnalila.