Kamala Das belongs to the Modern Indian English Poets who has brought into English Poetry the concept of Confessional Poetry which we ordinarily do not find among other Indian English poets particularly the woman poets.
In Kerala, her birthplace, she gained fame by her short stories and autobiographies written in the local language (Malayalam) whereas, in English Language, it is the poetry that has given her a significant place.
Her family has a considerable influence on her literary career. Her mother was a writer and was no doubt her first role model in the world of literature. However, it was her uncle and later her husband under whom she became a prominent and renowned poet of English. In 2009, The Times called her “the mother of Modern Indian English Poetry”
Being a woman and born in India, she was well aware of the fact that it is not so easy for her to succeed in literary career and hence once claimed: “poetry does not sell in this county (India)”. However, she was quite wrong in her perception as her poetry is considered to be one of its own kinds.
Kamala Das was born in a conservative Hindu family that had royal ancestry but later on, in 1999 she embraced Islam after being influenced by her lover Sadiq Ali. Whether being Hindu or Muslim, she showed stern faith in the Divine and we find instances of Divine obsession in a large number of her writings.
Her Literary Persona
The poetry of Kamala Das mostly represents a realistic and humanistic view of the life of a woman in the society. Being married at an early age to an old person and having suffered a lot in her husband’s family, she was much frustrated by her life and she would often pray to God for peace, equality, and justice in the society regarding the women and sometimes she would even desire for death.
Being frank and truthful in her writings, she presents in plain words, all these social, sexual, religious and household issues in her poetry which Tom Dick and Harry can go through. One finds confessional instances in terms of love, sex, relations, faith etc.
She is a stern feminist, a fighter against the male-centered society that looks down the woman. She is of the view that men are ‘deliberate tacticians’ who tame a bird, turn her into a ‘granite dove’ and make the bird forget her nature: the urge to fly. She writes:
Covering beneath your monstrous ego,
I ate the magic loaf and became a dwarf
Thus she prays to divine to bring justice in the society where the people may treat the woman as they treat the men, where they follow the just laws of nature rather than the prejudiced norms of the society, where the woman may have the freedom to express her sexual desires before the men and not remain dumb. Thus she becomes ‘the every woman’, who is silenced by the orthodox principles of the Indian society and prays to God,
I am a million million silences(Summer in Calcutta, 1965)
Strung like crystal beads
Onto someone else’s