Ode to a Poet

Kamala Das’s admirers came together to remember a poet who sought love,rebelliously,in life and in literature.

Written by RICHA BHATIA | Published:July 11, 2009 11:04 pm

Kamala Das’s admirers came together to remember a poet who sought love,rebelliously,in life and in literature. The writers Keki N Daruwalla,K Satchidanandan and Rukmini Bhaya Nair were at the India International Centre on Thursday,memories trailing them.

Nair said she had known Das since she went to the famed literary soirees at Das’s Mumbai home many decades ago. Daruwalla lingered over the sense of persecution and insecurity in her poems except the joyous Summer in Calcutta,while Satchidanandan traced her confessional and deeply personal poetry to her solitary childhood. “Her last poems on Sri Lanka seem very prophetic today seen in the light of the recent events,” observed Satchidanandan,reading from After July,a poem on the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Nair dwelt on the earthy metaphor in her unpublished poem Driving to the Airport where Das envisions her mother sitting in a cab next to her — “ashen faced,loose skinned and smelling of age”. “She wrote that at a time when marital hypocrisy prevailed in feminine writing,” said Nair.

A 28-minute film Kamala Das: An Introduction made by Suresh Kohli at her Kochi home in 2006 was also screened. The film opens with shots of Das’s ancestral home in Kerala,the visuals overlapped by Das speaking about her works. In one scene,Das,in a headscarf,sits at a table under a life-size portrait and says about poetry,“It’s a sad occupation but I wouldn’t choose another.” That was one religion she wouldn’t lose.

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