Major Themes of Kamala Das's Poetry

The Failure of Her Marriage  and Sexual Frustration

The most outstanding and the most striking concern of Kamala Das as a poet is sexual frustration and the failure of marriage as a means of happiness in the life of a woman. The theme, namely the failure of a woman to achieve happiness through her sexual relationship with her husband and even through a similar relationship with other men, recurs in poem after poem by Kamala Das. Her poetry is largely autobiographical and confessional. The frustration resulting from total failure of her marriage and search for  happiness through indiscriminate sexual relationships with other men constitute a very large component of her poetry.

Her Husband’s Shabby Treatment of Her 

The failure of her marriage has most vividly and candidly been described by Kamala Das in the poem entitled The old Playhouse. Addressing her husband in this poem, she bluntly reminds him that he had been allowing his saliva to flow into her  mouth and had poured himself  into every nook and cranny of her body. She points out to  him that, although he used to call her wife,he had compelled her to live under conditions in which she felt almost suffocated. She accuses him of having been  a most self-centred  and egoistical kind of husband who had been tyrannizing over her till she become a dwarf,with all her will power and thinking power completely gone. The result of all his shabby treatment of her is that her mind has become entirely non-function like an old playhouse with all its lights put out. Towards the end of this poem she tells him that,  although he had certainly been gratifying her lust and yearning for sexual pleasure,he had failed to give her the kind of love and affection which a woman expects from her husband.

 The Want of Any Real Love or Affection in Her Husband’s Attitude  Towards Her

In the poem entitled Ghanashyam,Kamala Das is addressing Lord Krisna and, in the course of this monologue, she speaks of the relationship between her husband and herself in terms of disappointment and frustration,saying that she had once played a husk-game because her husband had needed her body to satisfy his lust for her and because,each time his lust had been satisfied, he used to turn his back on her to indicate that he did not want her any more that night. The consequence of her husband’s lack of any real affection for her had led her to believe that,each time he had pressed his mouth against hers. she used to imagine that it was Ghanashyam in disguise who was making love to her. And ,of course,there are several other poems too in which Kamala Das frankly and even bluntly speaks about  total collapse of her conjugal life.

The Failure of Her Relationship with Other Men

In the poem entitled in Love, she tells a lover that,although he had been gratifying her unending lust, he had never felt the kind of love which she expected from him.She describes his sexual desire for her as “this skin-communicated thing”.  In his ralationship with her,she says,there had been no room,no excuse,and even no need for love,and that every embrace between them had beenlike”a finished jigsaw”. In the poem entitled The invitation,Kamala  Das says that her lover had been coming to her in the pauses or intervals of his office-work to make love to her, and that all her pleasure and his own pleasure too had been confined to their bed which, six feet long and two feet wide,had been akind of paradise to them. Her sense of betrayal by him has now produced in her a desire to jump into the sea and first speaks about the sexual relationship between a man and a woman in general terms but towards the end of the poem she left her, never to come back. This is evident a references to some lover’s desertion of Kamala Das after desertion of her.The there is a poem entitled Glass in which Kamala Das again expresses her feelings of disappointment and frustration, comparing herself to glass which is fragile and is easily shatted.A lover of hers had handled her roughly in bed drawing her to himself with lover’s sense of urgency,and treating her like “an armful of splinters”, designed to  hurt her. At the end of all this, she had felt like a person who has misplaced her father faithless from   her unemotional and lustful husband to Lord Krisna, thus turned trying to sublimate her love.In this connection the poem entitled Substitute is also noteworthy. Here she speaks of the anarchy of her sex-life, caused by her feeling of frustration  with every lover with whom she had slept.In this poem her love,or to call it by its proper name,her lust had lrd her into a situation comparable to a swivel-door through which one lover wentout and another came in.

In her Marriage,a Disaster

In connection with her marriage, the poem entitled The Freaks and The Sunshine Cat are also noteworthy. In the former poem Kamala Das says that although she had lived for many years with her husband, she had found no love in this relationship. At end of the poem she calls herself a freak who flaunts, at time, a grand, flamboyant lust. In the second of these poem, she nor describes her husband as as a selfish and cowardly man who neither loved her nor used her properly, and who was a ruthless watcher of the sexual act which she performed unscrupulously with other men. Her husband had been treating her so callously that ultimately the streak of light,which had looked like a yellow cat, become so faint,because of the onset of winter,as to look like a”hair-thin line” .And as a consequence of his having held her as a kind of prisoner,she ultimately become a half-dead woman, of no use at all to any man..In the poem entitled My Grandmother’s House,Kamala Das misses her dead grandmother and says that, having received no loved from her husband,she now feels lost and has therefore to beg at stranger’s doors to receive love,at least in small change. 

 Her Social Concerns  and Two Other Themes

Kamala Das has hardly any other concerns so far as her poetry is concerned  . There are certainly two poems in which she tries to express her awareness of the social conditions in this country . One is a poem entitled The Flag which is about the Indian poor , and the other is entitled Sepia , dealing with the Indian rich . But boh there poems are full , in the words of a critic*, of cliched observations and sentiments which cannot compare with the sharpness of other poets such as K . N .Daruwalla . Amore important theme in Kamala Das’s poetry is motherhood , though she has again written only two poems on this subject . One of these poems is entitled Jaisurya which describes the glory of child – birth and expresses , in frank terms , her own feeling when she lay in the delivery-room, suffering from ladour pains and waiting for the child to come out from the darkness of her womb into the golden light of the sun . Then there are two poems in which her grandmother is the central figure . One of them is entitled My Grandmother’s House which opens with the words; “ There  is a house now far away where one/I received love. That women died  .”The other poem is Blood and here , again , Kamala Das recalls her grandmother’s house with its cracked walls and describes her grandmother as a really simple person , “fed on God for year”and proud of her ancient blood . Besides Kamala Das’s sentimental and loving memories of her grandmother  , the poem also expresses Kamala Das’s sense of decay and death.

 Her Spiritual Love for Ghanashyam or Lord Krishna

 Finally, there are the poems of Kamala Das’s later phase of her poetic career. Ghanashyam has already been mentioned: but there are other poems too . All these poems round the divine person of Krishna with whom Radha had fallen deeply in love  .In there poems Kamala Das has tried to transfoem her lust into love and to exalt and glorify that love by dedicating herself to Ghanashyam or Lord Krishna .In other words, Kamala Das has outgrown her lust and has risen above the demands of her body ,thus imparting a spiritual quality to her love. We may regard there poems as representing her spiritual evolution ,and as expressing her devotion to Lord Krishna .