My Grandmother’s House (representative)
Kamala Das is one of the three most popular Indian poets writing in English today, the other being Nissim Ezekiel and Ramanujan. Her poetry is all about herself, her deeply felt desire for love, her emotional involvement, and her inability to achieve such a friendship. In this poem, “My Grandmother’s House,” Kamala Das remembers her ancestral home and her deceased grandmother. This poem takes the form of a confession that contrasts her current fractured state with that of being unconditionally loved by her grandmother.
Summary of the poem
Kamala Das’ s childhood reminiscences are linked to Nalapat House, her family home in Malabar, and her grandmother, whom she loved dearly. These memories are often connected to feelings of nostalgia and wit. In My Story she writes, “from every city, I have lived I have remembered the noons in
Malabar with an acbe growing inside me, a homesickness.” Her family home and her ‘presiding deity’- her gandmother, symbolise the poetry of ‘joy,’ ‘innocence,’ ‘respectability’ and ‘Traditional values’ .
The house is viewed in this poem with care and pathos, and the poet shares her poignant feelings of yearning for this house. She needs to get back to it.
The terms ‘windows’ and ‘air’ are qualified by the two prefixes ‘blind’ and ‘frozen.’ There is a rich ambiguity of the expression which makes the suffering of the poetess very real. Her heart is itself like a dark window where the. ‘fresh air does not blow. Images working on several layers of response, or enrich the poem’s texture. One of the favourite images is that of the window where she sits and enjoys the cool refreshing breeze of the past. This recurs to the extent of becoming an obsessive image.
The image highlights the lingering longing of the poetess for a sentient peep into her past, resurrecting her hopes and desires. With the destruction of the old building, the windows were blind, only the heat of the reunion with the house would melt the ice, and the window would be returned to old life. The crumbling of the old house and the death of the old woman also leave their mark on the poet. With them, her own life of innocence and beloved ideals crumbles.
Themes in the Poetry of Kamala Das
The poetry of Kamala Das is the quest for the essential woman, and hence the woman, the individual of her poems, assumes the numerous roles of the unhappy woman, the unhappy lady, the mistress of the lustful men, the reluctant nymphomaniac, the mute Devdasi and the love-lorn Radha. Kamala Das was also named a confessional poet. Confessional poets struggle with emotional experiences that are usually tabuous. There is a merciless self-analysis and a tone of total honesty. As E.V. Ramakrishnan appropriately points out, “In her poetry, Kamala has always dealt with private humiliations and sufferings which are the stock themes of confessional poetry.”
Reminiscent of the Poet’s Ancestral Home
The poem is reminiscent of the poet’s grandma and her ancestral home in Malabar, Kerala. Her memory of the love she had received from her grandma is associated with the image of her ancestral home, where she had spent some of the happiest days of her life, and where her old grandma had showered her love and affection. The house withdrew into silence with the death of her grandma. When her grandma died, even the house seemed to share her sorrow, which is poignantly reflected in the sentence “the House withdrew”. The house soon became desolate, and the snakes crawled through the books. Her blood was cold like the moon because there was no one to love her the way she wanted to.
Yearning for the Past: Choked with Grief
The poet now lives in another city, a long distance away from her grandmother’s home. But the memories of her ancestral home make her sad. She’s almost heart-broken. The intensity of her emotions is demonstrated by the ellipses in the form of a few dots. Now, in another city, living another life, she’s longing to go home. She knows that she can’t redeem the past, but she wants to go back home, to look through her windows again, and to bring back a handful of darkness – sad and painful memories that she would have made her daily companion, a reminder of her past happiness. For some time, the poet is unable to continue with his thoughts, as shown by the ellipses (dots).
The poet now lives in another city, a long distance away from her grandmother’s house. But the memories of her ancestral house make her sad. She is almost heart-broken. The intensity of her emotions is shown by the ellipses in the form of a few dots. Now, in another city, living another life, she longs to go back. She understands that she cannot reclaim the past but she wants to go back home, look once again through its windows and bring back a handful of darkness – sad and painful memories, which she would have made her constant companion, to keep as a reminder of her past happiness. The poet is unable to proceed with her thoughts for sometime as is indicated by the ellipses (dots).
The poet is now choked with the intensity of his sorrow. She yearns for love like a beggar going from one door to another asking for a little change of love. Her desire for affection and acceptance is not met in marriage, and she follows strangers for love, at least in limited amounts. But even in small changes or coins, she doesn’t get it. Her love-hunger remains unsatisfied, and there is a great loneliness, a void inside her, she tries to fill herself with love, but in vain. The window image is a connection between the past and the present. It means the poet’s urge for a nostalgic peep into his history and to revive his dreams and desires.
The poem springs from her own disillusionment with her expectation of unconditional love from the one she loves. In the poem, the image of the ancestral home stands for the strong support and unconditional love she received from her grandmother. The imagery is personal and beautifully articulates her plight in a loveless marriage. Thus, the old house was for her a place of symbolic retreat to a world of innocence, purity and simplicity, an Edenic world where love and happiness are still possible.