Kamala Das’s poem “An Introduction”-a review


Kamala Das is one of the prominent writers of India writing in English. She was born at Punnayurkulam, Kerala, in 1934. She was brought up in the warmth of a close-knit Kerala matrilineal society and she felt uprooted when she had to move to Kolkata with her father who was a salesman. At Kolkata, she attended a Catholic boarding school for some days but suddenly at a very young age she had to get married. In the poem ‘An Introduction’, we can clearly observe autobiographical and confessional elements that are a striking quality of Kamala Das’s poems.

In ‘An Introduction’ included in ‘Summer in Calcutta'(1965), autobiographical elements reveal a gender bias and the poet’s assertion in favour of living spontaneously in her own way. She was quite frequently advised by her friends and relatives not to write in English because English was not her mother tongue and her retort turns out to be a definition of language. Her English may be half-English and half-Indian and it may be queer and distorted, but it is her language when she uses it. It is as natural to her as crawing is to crows and roaring to the lion. Kamala Das’s arguments in favour of uring English make clear that there is obviously a need to adapt the language to serve the purpose of Indian writers in English. The use of the language need not be in the way that the British use it; English has to be acclimatized to the Indian condition. What Kamala Das calls queerness and distortions may be read as local idioms and cultural referents to which English is acclimatized. Elleke Boehmer finds Kamala Das echoing R.K. Narayan who called English ‘a swadeshi language’: ‘To her English represents a valid personal choice: “half English, half Indian,” the language with “its distortions, its queerness” is there for the taking.’

In her early youth the poet got no love when she asked for it and the woman in he was insulted in the name of love. In sheer disgust she began to ingnore her womanliness but society would not let her have her way of wearing clothes like a boy. She was suggested to perform the role of a traditional woman. She could be a girl, a wife, a cook or a housekeeper but she could not be herself and an individual. The poet feels that man-woman relationships cannot endure because all men want a woman and all women want love. The poet says that she cannot love without being deceived. She asserts herself, takes initiative and finds to her disappointment that she is let down. However, she does not admit defeat and asserts her determination to live spontaneously a life of intense passions and emotions. She wants to be herself and live her life.

Bibliography: Poems Old and New