In the poem Punishment in Kindergarten, Kamala Das memorizes a childhood experience that was quite painful for her. She was scolded by her teacher for being alone and her schoolmates also laughed at her that made her weep.
The poem has been divided into three parts. In the first part, the poet discusses how her teacher scolded her. In the second part, she memorizes her schoolmates laughing her making her weep and in the final part she says that being an adult there is no need for her to memorize this experience. Now I will discuss each stanza in detail.
Stanza 1: Encounter With her Teacher
The poet begins with the line “Today the world is a little more my own”that makes it clear that she is going to talk about a past event which was not pleasant for her. Next, she begins by narrating the day in her childhood (in Kindergarten) when she went to a picnic along with other students.
The poet uses ample of symbols like a blue-frocked woman for her teacher, throwing words at me like pots and pans, to make us feel the intensity of teacher’s words, the honey-colored for the day which was ruined by the harsh words of her teacher.
While other students were merrymaking and playing together, Kamala Das was sitting alone that was not liked by her blue-frocked teacher and she scolded her by calling her a peculiar child. The in the first part the poet narrates the day which was quite pleasant and ultimately ruined by her teacher.
Stanza 2: Laughing of Students
In the second part, the poet says when the teacher scolded her, other students who were sipping sugarcane started laughing at her. The children, according to Kamala are funny creatures. They laugh at others pains and they did the same when she was scolded without realizing how much she was hurt.
Being hurt, she hid her face in the sun-warmed hedge and smelt the flowers and the pain. The poet associates flowers with pain. I think she has tried to compare her childhood with the flower which is quite delicate. Hence she probably wants to convey that this event shook her innocent childhood.
Stanza 3: Adulthood and Peace
In the final stanza, the poet says that now that she is grown up, the memory of that event has faded away because there is nothing in her childhood to cherish and desire for.
She has now found adult peace i.e. Ironically be saying again and again “No need to remember” her helplessness in forgetting it is quite visible. The memory has not faded away but quite clear in her mind (as she remembers very well everything of that day).
In her poem My Grandmother’s House she desires to memorize everything while in this poem the situation is quite the opposite. The same helpless can be found in her poem My Mother at Sixty Six. Refer to this site to read further or learn about the Features of Kamala Das Poetry.