Obituary: Kamala Das

Published June 19, 2009 by Michael C Leeson

Obituary: Kamala Das | World news | The Guardian
The article reports the death of Kamala Das, Indian poet, novelist, short-story writer, essayist and memoirist aged 75. Like many of us her lived experience seemingly inspired her work as the

“vulnerable child-woman trying to create meaning in an inconstant world; nostalgia for a serene, rural past; the unfair privileges of caste and wealth; and the contradictions of motherhood. “

Is this an experience we all share in coming to know ourselves, life seems to be for many a battle, rather than a journey to self. It is the process not the destination which is important and to archive this we need to engage with and confront life.

“Das was at the forefront of a new movement in Indian English poetry, a shift in focus from the colonial experience to the personal.”

Das seemingly was one of those leaders who do so by example, by sharing her wisdom through self-expression to challenge the status quo. In achieving this moved effetely between different mediums, it seems that how something is said is not as important as it being said is.

“Das would move adroitly between genres (poetry, fiction, memoir) and languages (English and Malayalam).”I speak three languages, write in two, dream in one,” she wrote in An Introduction, a poem from her first collection, summer in Calcutta (1965).” She spoke of womanhood in authentic ways

“She began to break taboos with her early poetry, in which she celebrated her sexuality and advised women to “Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of/ Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,/ The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your/ Endless female hungers …” (The Looking Glass, from The Descendants, 1967).”

She also gave voice to women’s experiences under the oppression of men and society

“In My Story (1976), she recounted the trials of her marriage and her painful self-awakening as a woman and writer. She became an icon for women, in India and elsewhere, struggling to liberate themselves from sexual and domestic oppression.”
“Das’s rebellions were more multidimensional than she was given credit for.

“Das’s spontaneity often translated into whimsicality and earned the ire of critics, but it allowed her to explore the paradoxes of life and relationships with emotional honesty.”

Kamala Das, poet and writer, born 31 March 1934; died 31 May 2009

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