In the poem Summer in Calcutta, Kamala Das memorises a summer day which she spent in Calcutta. As described in the poem, it is the month of April and the poet was enjoying her time. Even she forgot her husband while under the sun.
As we know that Kamala Das is a confessional poet, this poem also expresses the poet’s hidden sexual desires and her escapism from the slavery of patriarchal society.
The words are very complex and highly figurative and symbolic in the poem. I will try to make them as easy as possible for you to understand this poem easily. The poem consists of a single stanza. However, I have divided it into three main parts.
In the first part, the poet explains how she felt in the sun. In the second part, she asks her husband’s (I think in thoughts) forgiveness for forgetting him while being intoxicated in the sunshine. In the third part, she describes the short span of that pleasurable moment.
Summer in Calcutta Summary
What is this drink but
The April sun…….
……mind with unhurried
laughter? My worries
The first line What is this drink is a direct attack on patriarchal society. In Indian society, during the time of Kamala Das and even today, a woman is not allowed to drink. Now it is not the actually the drink but the summer of April.
According to the poet, the
The poet says that she is sipping the fire. She is continuously drinking and is fully intoxicated. The fire here symbolises the sunlight which is falling on her like fire. However rather than being irritated by it, she feels good as it has soothing effect on the poet.
Again the poet repeats that though she is intoxicated, it is not because of wine but because of the gold of suns. One thing becomes quite clear, that Kamala has mentioned drinking several times in the poem which worries her.
She explains again and again that it is not wine but the sun. Hence she is afraid of the society. Thus it is one of the themes of the poem. She expresses her frustration against the society to which she has to justify something again and again though she has not done it.
The sunlight is like venom which is now flowing through her body. She raises a rhetorical questions why it has intoxicated effect and why it has made her to laugh unhurriedly. The sunlight is like “venom” yet it gives her comfort and a way to laugh.
The poet says that the bubbles of her drink (I guess in her memories) are quite small just like a brides nervous smile. and meet her lips. These lines symbolise poet’s sexual desires. While sipping the drink, she perhaps memorises her own condition when she was a bride.
She was nervous and hence had a small smile similar to the small bubbles. She feels the pleasure of lip-kiss. Next she asks her husband to forgive her for this particular movement in which she has tasted the sexual pleasure and forgotten him.
These lines explain a number of things. I think she is describing this joy as pleasurable because her sexual desires were not fulfilled by her husband (as she describes in the poem An Introduction). In this summer sun, she has enjoyed sexual pleasure.
Again she describes why she does not need her husband. She has totally forgotten him and is busy enjoying the pleasures of summer.
…….drink again this
Juice of April suns.
Now the poet comes to reality of this world – Nothing lasts forever. According to her, the time of her devotion and pleasure is quite brief. It is a short period of time in which she is continuously drinking the juice of April Suns i.e. she is enjoying the summer.