How much personas can a human being possibly have?
Madhavikutty, Kamala Das, Amy, Kamala Suarayya. Each equally hated and loved. She was the eternal seeker of love. The most famous Indian English writer. Critics couldn’t categorize her and so they hated her for it. Most of the famous writers in India grudged her fame and they secretly hated her, the very same people must now be pouring out glowing tributes to her.
She was crazy, they said. She was a bad influence on the ‘pativratha’, the traditional Indian woman. What would happen if the women whose role in society was to stay in kitchens and prepare food and raise children were to go out in the streets and write about what happened in their bedrooms? She shocked the conservatives by writing her open feelings on love - what her mind searched and how her body felt.
“Gift him all,
Gift him what makes you woman,
The scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between
The warm shock of menstrual blood
And all your
Endless female hungers. Oh, yes,
Getting a man to love is easy but living
Without him afterwards may have to be faced.” (‘The Looking Glass’)
All her poems were on love. Robert Lowell once said “Kamala, all your poems are one poem”. Her autobiographical ‘My Story’ (1976) whipped up a hurricane in the Indian literary scene. She destroyed the image of what an Indian woman writer should be – built up by writers like Sarojini Naidu. Dr. Ayappa Panikker described her poetry as “the true voice of feeling.”
“It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then feel shame, it is I, dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.” (“Introduction”)
She would be the last person to approve of meaningless tributes. But then this is our (timid young men and women of the ‘modern’ generation) last chance to say so. We admire your decisions. We are awed and inspired by your poetry. We are boldened by your honesty. Your courage gives us strength to seek, to find, to write and, above all, to love.
With all the love in the world - Rest in peace.