An Introduction (Kamala Das)

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An Introduction (Kamala Das)

By | Feb. 2013
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AN INTRODUCTION
Kamala Das

I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them life
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with
Nehru. I am Indian, very brown, born in
Malabar, 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
Become 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 muttering 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. When
I 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 trouser, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreler 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 a 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...
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