Sunday, June 2, 2013

'Nani' by Kamala Das: A Short Introduction


Nani the pregnant maid hanged herself
In the privy one day. For three long hours
Until the police came, she was hanging there
A clumsy puppet, and when the wind blew
Turning her gently on the rope, it seemed
To us who were children then, that Nani
Was doing, to delight us, a comic
Dance.....The shrubs grew fast. Before the summer’s end,
The yellow flowers had hugged the doorway
and the walls. The privy, so abandoned,
Became an altar then, a lonely shrine
For a goddess who was dead.

Year or two, and, I asked my grandmother
One day, don’t you remember Nani, the dark
Plump one who bathed me near the well? Grandmother
Shifted the reading glasses on her nose
And stared at me. Nani, she asked, who is she?
With that question ended Nani. Each truth
Ends thus with a query. It is this designated
Deafness that turns mortality into
Immortality, the definite into
The soft indefinite. They are lucky
Who ask questions and move on before
The answers come, those wise ones who reside
In a blue silent zone, unscratched by doubts
For theirs is the clotted peace embedded
In life, like music in the Koel’s egg,
Like lust in the blood, or like the sap in a tree....

Nani, the maid servant, commits suicide by hanging. The poet who was a child at that time imagines as the dead body turns round on the rope that she (the maid servant) was doing, to delight us a comic dance. In course of tie the poet’s grandmother forgets all about Nany but Kamala Das does not. Perhaps the old woman does not want the child’s mind to be haunted by the thoughts about the dead. The ‘deafness’ on the part of the grand mother is designed as it is also a conscious attempt to forget the dead. Paradoxically the deliberate attempt to forget all that is unpleasant in life makes us all the more conscious of it. The very act of forgetting leads us to the reality of remembrance which cannot be easily put out of our minds. She emphasizes that “a truth forgotten, a fact overlooked is what makes the truth doubly memorable”. It is this “designed deafness” the turns “morality into immorality” the “definite” into the “soft indefinite”