Shodh, Samiksha aur Mulyankan (International Research Journal)—ISSN-0974-2832 Vol. II, Issue-6 (Feb.09-April.09)
AGONY AND FRUSTRATION IN THE POETRY OF KAMALA DAS
* Dr. Bhosale B. S.
The poetry of Kamala Das has the unique place in Indian poetry in English particularly written by women poets. She has developed the feminine poetic sensibility. There is an expression of her personal and public experiences in her poetry. The ideas, which she has expressed in her poems and in her autobiography, My Story, appear to be similar. She has written a great deal of inward - looking or ‘confessional poetry’. Her poetry is confessional because therein she has revealed her secret thoughts and feelings. Whatever she has disclosed about herself does not carry any sense of guilt or shame. Disclosure makes her feel easy. In her autobiography, My Story, she says, “I wanted to empty myself of all the secrets” (Das, Kamala, 1988: Preface). She doesn’t like to hide anything. She would like to disclose all her secrets. She feels happy by confessing her secret thoughts and feelings. The opening poem of the first volume of poetry, Summer in Calcutta (1965), is The Dance of the Eunuchs which sets the tone and temper of all the poems of this volume. “‘The Dance of the Eunuchs’ is a poem that successfully delineates the contrast between the superficial joy and the inner depravity. The eunuchs become the objective correlative of suppressed desires” (Datta, Vandana: 1995-96:20). Actually she would like to present her inner feelings of frustration through the dance of the eunuchs. “ ‘The Dance of Eunuchs’ objectifies through an external, familiar situation the poet’s strangled desire within … judgment of the sterile, unfulfilled, eunuchlike desires of the woman within the poet”(Kohli, Devindra, 1968:4). It was the summer season in which Kamala Das was looking at the dance of the eunuchs in Calcutta. The eunuch is incapable of performing the sexual act, therefore, of producing a child. She symbolically uses the eunuch because the eunuch has been regarded as a symbol of unproductiveness. In this poem the eunuch is a metaphor of barrenness and of futility of love. She would like to express the feelings of frustration in love. She wants to give the outlet to her feeling of the futility of all her sexual experiences. She thinks that all her sexual experiences have failed to satisfy her emotional demands. Her sexual demands are not fulfilled. But in this frustrated, painful and agonized mood there is the vacant ecstasy, like that in the eunuchs. “Some beat their drums; others beat their sorry breasts And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy.” (Sarang, Vilas, 1989: 78) There is the restless turmoil experienced by the poetess. She has expressed the pain through the sterility. The dance is not a dance but a continuous convulsion. She shows the sympathy with the eunuchs. There is the emotional participation in their agony. She thinks that she is in the vacant ecstasy because of the sterility of her life for love. “The eunuchs stand for infertility and unfulfilled desire. They present the ‘vacant ecstasy’ of the narrator” (Raveendran, N. V, 2001:23). Her desires of sex are not fulfilled but there is the only emptiness. “Selfidentification becomes a primary goal in Kamala’s first book” (Nabar, Vrinda, 1994:22). The gist of the first book of her poetry is self-revealing reality.She realizes the fact that her marriage with this man had failed but they have been living together from a very long time. They have not really been able to achieve conjugal happiness. There is no emotional or spiritual bond between them. That is why she becomes frustrated in love and sex with her husband and says: “… The heart, An empty cistern, waiting Through long hours, fills itself With coiling snakes of silence.” (Das, Kamala, 1973: 11) Kamala Das here compares her heart to an empty tank waiting to be filled. This tank is fitted in toilet and lavatories. But here she says...