Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Poetry Analysis: Kamala Das’ “The Sunshine Cat”

In the poem “The Sunshine Cat”, the poetess rants over the disillusionment in her yearning for love. Those who took advantage of her emotional instability are termed ‘men’ in general ;it inevitably includes her husband too. He turned out to be a mere objective observer without emotional attachment. His being selfish, he did not exhibit the slightest display of love. And, his being cowardly, he did not dare to give in sexually to her, for it would mark the relegation of his ego: his perspective of masculinity..He was a relentless onlooker to the extent of being insensitive for he watched her encounters with other men like a carnival affair. This is why Kamala Das employs the word ‘band.’

She ‘clinged’ on to this band of ‘cynics.’ The word “cling” is very significant, as one clings out of desperation, as in clinging onto dear life. A cynic is a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions. Her life revolved around these egocentric people. Nevertheless, she “burrows’ herself in the chest of these men. Note the word “burrow” is generally used with reference to mongooses or rats that dig holes to hide themselves for security. For the poetess, this was a temporary refuge to make herself secure as long as it lasted. The hair on their chest were like “great-winged moths” that came like parasites between them. The lovers were younger than herself and told her that they could not love her, but could be ‘kind’ to her. The word ‘kind’ is utilized to connote condescension: a patronizing attitude on part of these superior lovers.

In Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala, Appanna locks Rani in the house, as he leaves for work. In the case of the speaker,the husband jails her in a room full of books. However, Kamala Das does not crave for intellectual company, but emotional companionship. She seeks solace in the streak of sunlight beneath the door. This is her ray of hope:her Sunshine Cat: the sunny impulse in her. Nevertheless, as her life approached its winter, her husband notices her while locking her one day,that this streak had reduced to a thin line. The evening made him realize that she had mellowed down,partly due to age and partly owing to her despondency. The fire in her (evocative of the Sunshine Cat) had died away. Hence, she was of no use to any man, as though the sole purpose of the woman in a man’s life is for sex.

©Rukhaya MK 2010

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