Kamala Das recalls her ancestral house that was filled with the all-pervading presence of her grandmother And this is why her grandmother’s house is singular: Kamala Das received ‘love’ there. When the poetess speaks of ‘love’ in particular she ascertains that it is unconditional and selfless. With the death of the Grandmother, the house ceased being inhabited. It now became an isolated and remote entity, echoed by the phrase ‘far away.’ The poetess asserts that with the death of her grandmother silence began to sink in the house. Kamala Das, at that juncture, was too small to read books, but emotional enough to comprehend the true feeling of love.
With the death of the Grandmother, her life that was hitherto filled only with emotions becomes numb. Her veins thus become cold rather than warm. It is as cold as the moon, the moon being an emblem of love. The worms on the books seem like snakes at that moment, in comparison to the size of the little girl; and in keeping with the eeriness of the situation. The poetess also implies that the deserted house is like a desert with reptiles crawling over. The poetess now longs to ‘peer’ at a house that was once her own. She has to peek through the ‘blind eyes’ of the windows as the windows are permanently closed. The air is frozen now, as contrasted to when the grandmother was alive-the surroundings were filled with the warmth of empathy. Kamala Das pleads with us to “listen” to the “frozen” air; that is an impossibility. Neither is the air a visual medium, nor can air cause any displacement because it is “frozen”. It is an example of synesthesia.
In wild despair, she longs to bring in an “armful of darkness.” Note firstly, that it is not a ‘handful’ but an armful. Secondly, ‘darkness’ that generally has negative shades to it, has positive connotations here of a protective shadow. It also reflects the ‘coziness’ inside the house.This armful of darkness is her essence of nostalgia. With this piece of darkness, she can lie down for hours, like a brooding dog behind the door, lost in contemplation.
The speaker claims that in her quest for love she had now become wayward. The poetess speaks to her husband that she who is now thirsty for genuine love, received at one point in her life, absolute love in the form of her grandmother. Ironically, she addresses her husband as “Darling”, and talks of the lack of love in her life in the same breath and tone.
Her pursuit of love has driven her to the doors of strangers to receive love at least in the form of ‘a tip.’ Previously she was ‘proud’, as she did not have to compromise on her self-respect. Now she has to move in the maze of male monopolistic chauvinism, and beg for love in the form of change.
©Rukhaya MK 2010
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