Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Story - Kamala Das

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My obsession with the memoirs of writers and artists made me pick this book..Though I was not well acquainted with the author's works,the controversy tag of the book was enough to tempt me..'My Story' is an autobiography of Kamala Das (Kamala Surayya or Madhavi Kutty), a renowned Malayali  poetess,novelist and short story writer..This autobiography depicts her intensely personal and most private relations and experiences in her passage to womanhood..
Copyright A Homemaker's Utopia
Like all my earlier readings,I started reading her with a blank impression..I set aside all the preconceived notions on her controversial life..The memoir starts when she was a child and her suffering under the racial discrimination in British colonial and missionary schools in Kolkata..When I finished half of the book,I started hating her..Though I'm a woman,I completely failed to understand her loneliness and pain in her marital canopy which made her choose the path she lived..She tried to define the term 'Love' several times in the book but all I felt,it was not love but carnal desires and infatuations..She also blames her husband for not giving the emotional kind of love or he doesn't know what is love..In the process she completely ignores the freedom he gave her to be herself..Instead of all her misdeeds she was bestowed by enormous freedom from him which none can allow in any relationship..She says that he is the reason for her to decide "to be unfaithful to him atleast physically.." I'm not going to discuss this autobiography on moral grounds any further,as it's much repulsive to the traditional and moral aspects of society..In this work,she unfolds the most intimate,private life of a woman with brutal honesty which can not be digested or appreciated by the common class..

Anyways, I can't be totally rude to her..She was neglected by her parents..Also her childhood marriage is one of the primary reasons for her demeanor,but her matured years with three beautiful kids couldn't satisfy her longing for love hitherto..So what kind of love she is looking for,I wonder!! Her husband allowed her to be herself atleast..It would be ideal if she would come out of the painful relationship with dignity and lived her life the way she wants..But she shared  the same roof  with the person she disliked and had extramarital affairs and she tried to convince the readers that she was constantly in search of love(?)..One more thing is,being married to a RBI employee she enjoyed the luxuries and company of  high class society,but still,she says that they never had enough money to lead their life in a better way..

I truely appreciate her honesty with which she revealed the dark corners of her life in the society of double standards..Such kind of work usually couldn't be expected by an Indian woman..I bow to her courage in this regard..I haven't found a single point where she tried to project her as the poor victim of a typical society..Some praised her writing as bold and rebellious..But I believe,the beauty in feminism lies in patience,commitment and above all dignity..Anyways,I'll stop my rude conclusions about this book for I strongly disliked her..Perhaps nobody has any right to judge her,particularly on moral grounds.Because it's her life..I felt,this book is a best example for showing the necessity of emotional control in the civilized society..This memoir was far ahead of its time and is now acknowledged as a bonafide masterpiece..I would like to say that this is the most straight forward and extremely honest memoir I've ever read.Would like to read some of her works,probably reading her works might help me understand her a little more.

Here are few lines from the book,
Society can well ask me how I could become what I became,although born to parents as high-principled as mine were.Ask the books that I read why I changed.Ask the authors dead and alive who communicated with me and gave me the courage to be myself.The books like a mother-cow licked the calf of my thought in to shape and left me to lie at the altar of the world as a sacrificial gift'..

If my desires were lotuses in a pond,closing their petals at dusk and opening out at dawn once upon a time,they were now totally dead,rotted and dissolved,and for them there was no more to be  a re-sprouting.The pond had cleared itself of all growth.It was placid. 

There was Carlo,the dark haired young man who loved me enough to want to marry me;there was in another city the one I was infatuated with ,and of course at home there was my husband,passionate and eager as a lover.I was a poor girl who found rich all of sudden.I was drunk with power.

With words I had destroyed my life.I had used them like swords in what was meant to be a purification dance,but blood was unwittingly shed.

She always knew she was a poet and thus different from others:
They cannot close shops like shop-men and return home.Their shop is their mind and as long as they carry it with them,they feel the pressures and torments.A poet's raw material is not stone or clay;It is her personality.I could not escape from my predicament even for a moment.

The essence of the writer eludes the non-writer. All that the writer reveals to such people are her oddities of dress and her emotional excesses.Finally when the muscles of the mind have picked up enough to read people's secret thoughts,the writer shies away from the invisible hostility and clings to her own type,those dreaming ones,born with a fragment of wing still attached to a shoulder.As I wrote more and more,in the circles I was compelled to move in,I became lonelier and lonelier.I felt that my loneliness was like a red brand on my face.


Barbara Fisher said...

I feel I should try to like this person. I do have a certain sympathy for her but maybe (in the words of my dad) she is her own worst enemy. Life would be so simple if we could all accept the life we’ve been given rather than wanting more. The excerpts you’ve shared are very powerful, but it doesn’t make me want to read the book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Nagini

Indrani said...

A strong character. This should make an interesting read to 'think', but not to like or dislike may be.

Ananya Tales said...

An extremely strong personality, Thanks for introducing me to her!

Would u like to follow each other n stay in touch.

Found In Folsom said...

Hey Nagini,

ee post first day ne cell lo chadivanu...aa peru choosina ventane...endukante naku ee book chala istam :) I know, neeku asalu nachaledu ani ardham aindi...nenu 10th class pre-finals ki preparation days lone chadivanu....appudu secret ga books madyalo pettukuni mari....later, I read it 3 years back again. The way I looked at the book then and now is so different. I don't want to judge her kani I like her writings...her poems..:) I bought that book for a keepsake.

Neenu said...

I read this book a long time ago. And I had never come across a book as honest and shocking as this one. The courage that she must have had to publish a book of this nature at the time she did, must have taken a lot of mettle. I admire her for that quality. I never judged her on moral grounds because I believe nobody can understand another's struggle completely.:)
The quotes from the book were really good. Quotes are my favorite part in all your book reviews. :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Found in Folsom,
Latha Jee..:)Hmm నరనరాల్లోనూ జీర్ణించుకుపోయిన కల్చరల్ అండ్ traditional చట్రాల్లోంచి ఇంకా బయటకి రాలేకపోయానండీ..కొంతకాలం పడుతుందేమో !! పుస్తకం ఉంది కాబట్టి మీరన్నట్లు కొన్నేళ్ళాగి చదివితే బహుశా ఆవిణ్ణి అర్థం చేసుకోగలనేమో అనిపించింది.. Unfortunately ఆవిడ వర్క్స్ ఏమీ చదవలేదు నేను.బహుశా ఇది రాంగ్ బుక్ to start with :)) Thanks అండీ :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Barbara,Indrani,Ananya,Latha Jee and Neenu,
Thank you so much for your valuable inputs :) :)

Found In Folsom said...

ala emi ledu Nagini...okko book nachutundi..okko book nachadu anthe..nenu vere works emi chadavaledu...except random poetry akkada akada...:)

shreya said...

Very interesting article...I loved reading each line mentioned....thank u for the post.....

Saru Singhal said...

I want to read it. It's rare Indian woman speaks/writes without any inhibition.