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Saturday, 31 December 2016

‘Surreal’ is the perfect word to sum up year

Merriam-Webster has selected “surreal,” (“marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream”) as 2016’s word of the year – fitting for a year that saw the Chicago Cubs win a World Series and a reality TV star/real estate mogul win the White House.

The dictionary site recorded a significant spike in “surreal” searches compared with 2015, with the largest spike occurring after Election Day.

“The dictionary is a neutral observer of the culture,” Merriam-Webster Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski says in a video announcing the word of the year. “We can’t always know the reason a person looks up a word in the dictionary; we only know when. We’re good at reading data; we’re not good at reading minds.”

Surreal experienced three major spikes in 2016: In March, when the word was used during coverage of the terror attacks in Brussels; in July, when it was used to describe a coup attempt in Turkey and the terrorist attack in Nice; and in November, when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

To select a word of the year, editors zero in on words that are suddenly hot, rather than words that receive the most overall look-ups. That means they rule out so-called “evergreen” words such as democracy, fascism and pragmatic, which are looked up frequently year-round, regardless of specific news events.

(Speaking of regardless: Sokolowski mentions that an unnamed broadcaster used “irregardless” during the World Series coverage, sending many folks straight to their online dictionaries. “Irregardless is indeed a real word,” Sokolowski says. “But we advise strongly against using it. Use regardless instead.”)

Surreal was first defined by Merriam-Webster in 1967 (the same year The Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!”) and is derived from surrealism, the artistic movement associated with Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte.

“Surreal is often looked up spontaneously in moments of both tragedy and surprise, whether or not it is used in speech or writing,” Merriam-Webster said in a statement announcing the selection. “This is not surprising: We often search for just the right word to help us bring order to abstract thoughts, emotions or reactions. Surreal seems to be, for 2016, such a word.”

Last month, Dictionary.com selected “xenophobia” as its word of the year, citing “worldwide interest in the unfortunate rise of fear of otherness in 2016.”

Last week, the Guardian nominated “unpresidented” for word-of-the-year honours, a response to Trump’s weekend tweet in which he wrote, “China steals United States navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.” The tweet was deleted and replaced with one using “unprecedented.”

Among the Guardian’s suggested definitions for “unpresidented” is: “An instance of someone being prepared to say what most of us are thinking, but actually saying things most of us are not thinking.”

Oxford Dictionaries, meanwhile, declared “post-truth” (“relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”) its international word of the year.

It’s hard to imagine a year more surreal than the one drawing to a close, but 2017 is sure to give 2016 a run for its money.

(Source: Gulf Times)

Friday, 30 December 2016

Why we have to fall in love with Rudra and not Kodi?

One of the most memorable Tamil films we watched this year was ‘Kodi’. It’s memorable because it had a surprise, Trisha, top Tamil heroine, playing a vampire, rather say the villain in it. Even though she plays a negative role, we are left nothing, but to fall in love with her.

There are some of the best aspects to like in the movie when it comes to Trisha’s role. First and foremost, Tamil heroines always do a sexy and glamorous or an innocent next-door girl type of roles. They rarely get to do a character which has its own strong mind and behavior. Most of the times, they are etched as mere caricatures. Their characters are so meekly carved out that all they do in a movie dancing, singing or running behind the hero as his love interest.
   
In ‘Kodi’, Trisha plays the character of Rudra. She is an integral part of the flick, not some curry leaf to be thrown away and finish off the food! She is ambitious, ruthless and manipulative like every other politician we have come across.

Even though she is a villain, she doesn’t wear that gaudy make-up or heavy jewelry or rich silk saris. She dons her character like a simple heroine. Her attires are limited to cotton saris and salwar kameez.

We don’t hate her like how we hate Ramya Krishna who played the role of Neelambari, a symbol of evil, in ‘Padayappa’. When we come to know that she is the villain, then also she doesn’t change her dressing style. She continues her simple heroine-worth attire throughout.

For instance, Jothika who has played a negative role of seducing married men and blackmailing them for money in ‘Pachaikilli Muthucharam’, dons a nose ring from the beginning. She changes her simple looks associated with saris and kurtas to a sexier version when we discover her evil intentions.

Rudra doesn’t use her sexuality to get what she wants. She is in relationship with Kodi, played by Dhanush. She never seduces her man or gets sleazy with him to tell us that she is shameless or a characterless woman.

She is not like Eswari, played by Sriya Reddy, in ‘Thimiru’, who tries to seduce the hero to marry her, or like Arundhati, played by Sangeetha, in ‘Uyir’, who shamelessly tries to seduce her own brother-in-law.

In fact, Rudra is a very strong woman and gets outraged when sexual remarks are passed at her. She’s not the one to keep quiet when Kodi wants her to be merely his wife who can look take care of the family affairs. But that doesn’t mean that she’s shown as some old and undesirable woman. She looks the same throughout, young, simple and fresh with the same smile, with the same piercing eyes.

Unlike other villains, Rudra is courageous to speak the TRUTH. She readily and openly accepts that she is the evil. She doesn’t mince her words to accept the truth. She’s an honest villain, indeed. But that doesn’t mean that the honest evil can survive over the good force.

However, the hero doesn’t put an end to the evil, because it’s in the form of a woman! Is it cowardly to kill a woman? Or is it not manly to kill a woman? The hero can slap his wife or girlfriend or sister or relative or even villain, but he won’t kill her… Slapping and abusing is considered a macho act, but killing is cowardly!

That’s the same thing Rajinikanth aka Padayappa does in the movie. He throws a spear towards Neelambari to protect her, not to kill her. To save the grace of the hero, Neelambari chooses to kill herself.

In ‘Kodi’, the hero doesn’t kill Rudra, even though she’s the killer of his twin brother. He leaves her alive. Surprisingly, it is the hero’s friend who kills her tearfully.

In ‘Kodi’ Saranya, who plays hero’s mom, says that Kodi might have died so that his lover Rudra could get what she aspired for. Kodi’s death is shown as a sacrifice to fulfill the ambitions of Rudra.

Fortunately, this film doesn’t take the usual misogynistic route to establish a woman’s capacity for desire and evil. Wish there was some more info on Rudra’s role. Nothing is shown about her family, why she’s so ruthless and what made her tick till the end…

However, it’s a different feel to watch a woman like Rudra carving her own name and place in her own dreamt career when most of the films have heroines with no ambitions or careers or dreams!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Cat in the gutter - Kamala Das

Cat in the gutter 
- Kamala Das

He said I am a red rag wherever I walk
I am recognized.   I cannot so often come
To sit at your bedside get well
Come to my place again as you used to do
He was yesterdays old rag today thrown
On the garbage heap for such who would care?
He need not have feared at all but
Cowardice was his favourite diet
So who would tell him that when he made love
Grunting groaning and sighing
That with no soul to overpower me
Only his robust limbs
I was just a high bred kitten
Rolling for fun in the gutters

Advice to fellow swimmers - Kamala Das

Advice to fellow swimmers
- Kamala Das

When you learn to swim
do not enter a river that has no ocean
to flow into - one ignorant of destinations
and flowing only the flowing as its destiny,
like the weary rivers of the blood
that bear the scum of ancient memories
but go swim in the sea
go swim in the great blue sea.
Where the first tide you meet is your body
that familiar pest
but if you learn to cross it
you are safe yes beyond it you are safe
For even sinking would make no difference then. 

Lines addressed to a Devadasi - Kamala Das

Lines addressed to a Devadasi 
- Kamala Das

Ultimately there comes a time
When all faces look alike
All voices sound similar
And trees and lakes and mountains
Appear to bear a common signature
It is then that you walk past your friends
And do not recognise
And hear their questions but pick
No meaning out of words
It is then that your desires cease
And a homesickness begins
And you sit on the temple steps
A silent Devadasi lovelorn

And aware of her destiny. 

The prisoner - Kamala Das

The prisoner 
- Kamala Das

As the convict studies
His prison‟s geography
I study the trappings
Of your body, dear love
For I must some day find
An escape from its snare.

Words are birds - Kamala Das

Words are birds 
- Kamala Das

Words are birds.
Where have they gone to roost,
Wings tired,
Hiding from the dusk?
Dusk is on my hair,
Dusk is upon my skin;
When I lie down to sleep
I am not sure
That I shall see
The blessed dawn again.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Apple of the eye for some, not quite for others

In the shadow of Apple’s headquarters, an initiative requiring public middle schoolers to use iPads in class and at home has added to a battle over education in the digital age.

School district officials and many teachers say the iPads as innovative learning tools. Students, it seems, are thrilled to have them. But many parents in the affluent district question the benefit of the devices, and hundreds have signed a petition to limit their use.

They say the iPads have introduced new problems, like privacy and video-game distractions. And they resent being asked to pay hundreds of dollars for school equipment that state law says is the district’s responsibility.

“iPads are entertainment devices,” said Noemi Berry, a network engineer and mother of a seventh-grader and two other children. “They’re not designed for education, and they’re very hard to restrict. I have a 12-year-old boy who has a horrible screen-addiction problem.”

So far, the iPad proponents are winning, and soon hundreds more Cupertino middle-schoolers will be expected to use iPads linking them to their lessons, resources and the Internet.
Laura Plamondon teaches her class of iPad-enabled sixth graders at Lawson Middle School in Cupertino, California.
Cupertino Union School District spokesman Jeff Bowman said putting iPads in every middle-schooler’s hands has improved the quality of their work. Language ability, behaviour and organisational skills are better, the district says, although it has no quantifiable evidence of better learning. He said principals talk to parents about how to rein in excessive video-gaming.

Apple had no comment on Cupertino’s programme, and Bowman said the company didn’t influence the district’s decision to use its product.

It’s common for school districts to provide students computers or tablets for class use. A small but growing number now require students to use those devices, or their own, for homework, too.

Few, however, specify a manufacturer such as Apple, whose products tend to cost more than devices like Chromebooks, designed for use with Google software. Bowman said they chose iPads because they considered them more durable and versatile, and to offer instructional advantages.

Cupertino’s 1-to-1 — one device per pupil — programme has cost the district at least $363,000 this school year for hardware, software, management, security and teacher training. The programme is in three middle schools and expanding to two others early next year. Bond proceeds help pay for a supply of loaner iPads for students whose parents do not provide them one.

But school officials, who started the programme three years ago at Lawson Middle School, implied that it was families’ responsibility to provide the devices, which cost $563.

In doing so, they tread carefully around state law mandating free public education and barring districts from making parents pay for required school supplies. The district hasn’t required parents to buy them. With much negotiation, some parents have arranged for their children to use laptops or even paper. But parents say they feel school and social pressure to go along with the iPad programme.
“Nobody wants their kid to be the outlier,” Berry said.

Parents like Vaishnavi Sridhar, mother of a sixth-grader, said Bragg indicated at a meeting that district-owned devices were reserved for needy students.

“A lot of families that day went back home thinking they had to buy an iPad,” Sridhar said.

Victor Leung of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Southern California branch, which sued the state over schools charging fees or requiring supplies, said that, technically, Cupertino complies with the law by offering to provide devices. But he added that, legally, districts cannot pressure students to buy equipment and supplies.

The cost is only a small part of some parents’ objections to the iPad programme. Linda Wang said her son’s grades plummeted after he delightedly received his iPad. She takes the device with her when she leaves the house, and hides it from him at night.

“We cannot control his usage at all,” Wang said. Her family, which moved into the district last year, is now considering leaving out of frustration over the iPad. “I regret so much moving to Cupertino,” she said.

For some instructors, however, the devices have transformed teaching. Andi Jackson, who teaches eighth-grade English and social studies, said iPads offer students many ways to show what they’ve learned.

“Before the iPad,” Jackson said, “there was basically one way — write an essay and turn it in.”

Peter Chu, a software executive whose daughter Ashley is a ninth-grader at Cupertino High School, sees the iPad as a phenomenal education tool that’s “creative, engaging and appropriate for this day and age.”

Ashley said the classes at Lawson in which teachers embraced the iPads were her favourites. One of her memorable assignments was creating a video explaining how palaeontology proves evolution.

“Making a story about an event lets me better remember that,” she said. Of about 180 Lawson parents who responded to a district survey last year, just under half said they valued their children’s’ iPad work. A third said it had improved their kids’ attitude toward school. The district plans to form a task force to review its educational technology use; meanwhile, it’s expanding its iPads-for-all programme to two other middle schools.

But some parents have arranged for their children to use a district-owned iPad while at school. Those devices don’t come home. An online petition is asking the Cupertino district to standardise that practice, providing iPads for students and keeping them in the classroom. It has attracted more than 650 signatures.

Lawson parent Vidya Sundaresan chose to keep her son out of the iPad programme altogether. She and her husband, both scientists, have seen no proof that iPads improve learning and worry the devices could increase risk of ergonomic problems and eye strain. Parent Carrie O’Leary shares their concern.

“I’m not against Apple products at all,” said O’Leary, whose husband is an Apple engineer. “I just want sensible policy.” — The Mercury News (San Jose, California)/TNS

(Source: Gulf Times)

Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English

Schools face relentless pressure to up their offerings in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. Few are making the case for philosophy.

Maybe they should.

Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study.

More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas.

Kids who took the course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw an even bigger leap in performance: reading skills increased by four months, math by three months, and writing by two months. Teachers also reported a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others.

The study was conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a non-profit group that wants to close the gap between family income and educational attainment. The EEF tested the effectiveness of the philosophy intervention through a randomized controlled trial, similar to the way many drugs are tested.

Twenty-two schools acted as a control group, while students at the other 26 took the philosophy class (which met once a week for 40 minutes). The researchers tried to control for school quality: in each one, at least a quarter of students received free lunch and many had significant populations performing below grade level.

The beneficial effects of philosophy lasted for two years, with the intervention group continuing to outperform the control group long after the classes had finished. “They had been given new ways of thinking and expressing themselves,”said Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF. “They had been thinking with more logic and more connected ideas.”

England is not the first country to experiment with teaching kids philosophy. The program the EEF used, called P4C (philosophy for children), was designed by professor Matthew Lippman in New Jersey in the 1970s to teach thinking skills through philosophical dialog. In 1992, the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE) was set up in the UK to emulate that work. P4C has been adopted by schools in 60 countries.

SAPERE’s program does not focus on reading the texts of Plato and Kant, but rather stories, poems, or film clips that prompt discussions about philosophical issues. The goal is to help children reason, formulate and ask questions, engage in constructive conversation, and develop arguments.

Collins hopes the latest evidence will convince heads of schools, who have significantly more power in the UK than in the US, to make room for philosophy in their budgets. The program costs schools £16 ($23) per student to run.

Programs like this “push you toward teaching up, not down, to disadvantaged children,” Collins told Quartz. “It’s not a reductionist, narrow curriculum, but an expansionist broad curriculum.”

According to the EEF, 63% of British 15-year-olds achieve good results on exams, compared with 37% of disadvantaged students. The group hopes that by using evidence-based research and randomized controlled trials, schools will adopt the most effective policies to address the disparity.

Socrates said that “true knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” But to close the gap in education outcomes, some teachers seem to believe that philosophy has an important role to play.

(Source: Quartz)

The Looking Glass - Kamala das

The Looking Glass 
- Kamala das

Getting a man to love you is easy
Only be honest about your wants as
Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him
So that he sees himself the stronger one
And believes it so, and you so much more
Softer, younger, lovelier. Admit your
Admiration. Notice the perfection
Of his limbs, his eyes reddening under
The shower, the shy walk across the bathroom floor, 
Dropping towels, and the jerky way he
Urinates. All the fond details that make
Him male and your only man. Gift him all, 
Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts, 
The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
Endless female hungers. Oh yes, getting
A man to love is easy, but living
Without him afterwards may have to be
Faced. A living without life when you move
Around, meeting strangers, with your eyes that
Gave up their search, with ears that hear only
His last voice calling out your name and your
Body which once under his touch had gleamed
Like burnished brass, now drab and destitute. 

Why my wife committed suicide: Post-Partum Depression and what it does to women

Most films and popular culture fill our minds with images of blissful motherhood but nobody talks about the darkness that sometimes accompanies it.

- Geetika Mantri

Kochi-based Abhilash K had been married to Anu for 7 years in 2012. The couple was based out of Dubai then and Anu was pregnant for the second time. They were overjoyed.

Soon after the pregnancy was confirmed, Anu moved to Kochi, closer to her in-laws, so that she could have help and care at hand. Abhilash was to join them after he fulfilled his work commitments in Dubai. The couple would speak every morning before Abhilash left for work.

But tragedy struck before the family could be reunited.

When their daughter was only 87 days old, Anu committed suicide.

“My mother found Anu hanging in our first-floor house. Anu wasn’t responding to her calls and my mother could hear the baby crying from the ground floor. So, she had to go up and get people to knock the door down,” Abhilash recounts.

Abhilash was told that Anu had been in an accident and that he should rush back. When he found out about the suicide, he was left completely dumbfounded. “We spoke around 7 in the morning that day before I left for office. It was just like a regular conversation. She even went downstairs to visit my mother," he says.

In order to understand what led his otherwise cheerful and outgoing wife to take her life, Abhilash spoke to people close to her and to those from the medical fraternity. While there was nothing outright different about her behaviour, one of her colleagues, a paediatrician, told him that she seemed depressed two weeks before the ill-fated day.

Through the course of these conversations, Abhilash became aware of the term Post-Partum Depression. “I had no idea that there was something like this. There could be no other reason why a person like her, who was always smiling, would do something like this,” he insists.

Abhilash has now started a Facebook page to raise awareness about the issue and insists that it must be mandatory for gynaecologists to give a brief to expecting parents about PPD.

What is PPD?
Most films and popular culture fill our minds with images of blissful motherhood, where the woman appears radiant and fulfilled when she holds her child in her arms. These images conveniently glaze over tougher physical and psychological effects that follow delivery.

Post-Partum Depression (PPD), also known as post-natal depression is one such condition, which while common, is rarely talked of.

Chennai-based gynaecologist V Madhini says that while most women go through post-partum blues, characterised by doubts about child-rearing and nurturing capability, and being emotional and overwhelmed, PPD is rarer.

Dr Jayanthini, a psychiatrist in Chennai, says that in cases where women suffer from PPD, it is likely that they have a family or personal history of depression or other mental illnesses.

However, Dr GK Kannan, a child and adolescent psychiatrist says that while having depression earlier in one's life can increase the risk of going through PPD, it is more important to recognise the groups that are vulnerable to the disorder.

"Those who have low social support, had difficulties in their pregnancy, had marital issues or if the child has medical or developmental problems, fall in the more vulnerable groups," he states.

As per American Psychiatric Association, PPD requires medical intervention and unlike blues, does not go away on its own. It is characterised by loss of interest in things you used to like, drastic change in appetite, anxiety (all or most of the time), feelings of guilt and worthlessness, fear of not being a good mother or disinterest in the baby, sadness, uncontrollable crying, inability to fall asleep or sleeping too much, among others.

PPD can even appear a few months after the delivery and can go on for weeks and months if left untreated.

How does it affect new mothers?
Sarita was 29 when she had Ankita in 2013. She decided to take a break from working as a Chartered Accountant and stay home for a while to take care of the baby. But her newly-attained motherhood was not defined by contentment or happiness. Instead, Sarita was weighed down by a feeling of worthlessness, which she believes came from not working.

Then, Ankita stopped breastfeeding at three months, when Sarita had wanted to breastfeed her for a year at least. Overwhelming feelings of guilt and inefficiency took hold of Sarita. It didn’t help that her in-laws, who lived separately from her husband and she, said in passing that they could now take Ankita to their place for a while because she wasn’t feeding.

Looking back now, she thinks this is when PPD really took hold of her. “I slept and woke up with scary, suicidal thoughts every day. My friends told me to consider therapy but I was too disinterested in my own well-being to care,” Sarita says. It was after two years that she finally went to a therapist and started taking anti-depressants in March this year.

For Ranjana*, who first gave birth in 1993, PPD was triggered by a complicated delivery where she incurred heavy blood loss. Too weak to move, she began having episodes of uncontrollable crying when she was still in the hospital after childbirth.

Once she was discharged, the feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness increased. “I’d cry for everything: being unable to take care of the baby, the housework, even when the child was unable to sleep,” she recounts.

She was diagnosed with PPD a few days later and seemed to have recovered, but it returned when the baby turned three months old. Her husband, while supportive, did not recognise it for what it was. Fortunately, Ranjana went to a doctor for a calcium deficiency and was told that she was suffering from mild depression. Ranjana recovered in a few weeks.

What can be done?
While PPD is treatable, Dr Jayanthini warns that caregivers must ensure that medication is properly administered. Because women suffering from PPD may have suicidal thoughts, the medication must be kept securely so that it is not misused by them to self-harm. Caregivers must also ensure that she takes the medication and does not hoard it.

“Moreover, families need to be educated that this is something biological. It is not in their control. Telling them to not create a fuss or that they’re worrying about nothing will only reinforce the stigma around mental illness, and prevent them from seeking the right help,” Dr Jayanthini warns.

She adds that while self-harming tendencies and neglect to the child are short-term effects, the long-term effects of PPD affect children in the long run.

Sarita for instance, admits that once Ankita was a toddler, Sarita’s frustration and anger would often come out on her in the form of yelling. “I knew she could understand what I was saying, yet she would not listen. I would yell at her a lot. I know it is wrong, but I just wasn’t strong enough,” she says.

Dr Kannan says that a child needs more than just nutritional support from the mother and that PPD can hamper his/her well-rounded growth: “If the mother doesn't give attention or affection to the child, he/she may also show high levels of irritability. In some cases, if the child’s health is neglected, he/she may also suffer from malnutrition. Depression can also lead to marital discord between the spouses which in turn will negatively affect the child. It's a vicious cycle.”

So, how must one know when to seek medical help? Dr Kannan outlines the signs and period:

“If the mother is increasingly crying, showing signs of high irritability, has thoughts of harming herself, shows a lack of interest in the baby but also feels guilty about it and if such symptoms persist for over two weeks, then it is time to see a professional.”

(The names of the women quoted in the story have been changed on request.)

(Source: The News Minute)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Dear Amma, now that you're gone I can finally say this to you: I hate you

My Dear Amma,

Now that you're gone, I can finally express everything I have always felt for you, just like everyone wants to hop on that train to talk about you.

So did you just really kick the bucket Madam Chief Minister? Or should I say "Amma". I know you kept to yourself, and social media probably wasn't really your thing while you were alive. So I should let you know that we, the audience, has upgraded you from the position of being "Amma" to "#RIPAmma" today.

Don't worry, you've still got haters. Plenty of them.

I think some of them would have liked to stab your lifeless body, even. And why shouldn't they? You were corrupt. You had disproportionate assets. Or in the words of your trolls, "How could you not SEE that she had disproportionate 'assets'?" Oh, don't ask me to explain. Of course you know what I mean. What do you mean you don't understand what a "troll" is? They've haunted you all your life, haven't they?

You've been bullied (even without the anonymity of the Internet) for as long as you can remember, for as long as womankind can remember. How dare you be single and childless and not your quiet Brahmin self? What business did a woman who danced with every man in sight have in the running of a government? They were right to push you out of everywhere that wasn't your place.
First, you wanted a place in MGR's funeral, a man who was your senior for 30 years! And then you wanted his life's work for yourself. What kind of a woman are you?

Yet, on your cold, heartless face, you didn't shed a single tear of humiliation. You simply wouldn't take a hint. They didn't want you — nobody wanted you. And you barged in again and again until the assembly floor was yours.

How many times have you worn that green saree that you were buried in, with a sea of men clad in white veshtis sitting behind you, like they knew what their place was, finally? You did it, didn't you? You shredded every principle of human decency to bits to get what you wanted? Absolute, corrosive power — that's your thing. How could you? You are a woman, after all! Seriously, jeez!

You know the actual, real, truth, Amma? India doesn't deserve you. Probably never did.

The bunch of patriarchal pigs in this country don't deserve you, let alone sully your grace with "Amma" rolling off their tongues. You gave up on a life that could be filled with laughter and love so you could be pushed around and betrayed by ungrateful men all the time. How did you even call him your mentor, the man who was possessive of you to the degree of abuse.

MGR spied on you, and they buried you next to him. He doesn't deserve you.

Oh, and Karunanidhi and his shitbag goons were the cherry on top, weren't they? Disrobing you in the house of governance, like the irreverent and disgusting swines they are. You taught them a lesson and you kept at it until the day you died. Even they didn't deserve you. They don't deserve anything of you, not even your vengeance.

You've had the worst happen to you, with a wild touch of inhuman suffering. And you managed to turn out to be the best of them all. How could you? I don't care how you got acquitted on all the cases that were against you. Maybe they were false. But I'd really like to believe that it was because you were powerful- so absolutely, demonically powerful, like they painted you to be and the way you deserved it.

Exactly how long were you planning to go off and die without grooming a successor?

You knew that Ol' Man Kalaignar isn't going to stick around for much longer, right? And was it then that you decided you should leave your own party to run around like headless chickens? Oh, God no, you'd never do that. Nobody would doubt your love for them, your benevolence and your unwavering commitment to their lives. Except, nobody deserves it, and they have become headless chickens.

You're the best, Amma. You were the worst kind of woman, the kind they teach us not to be, but you're the Amma of it all, aren't you? You owned everything that wasn't meant for you, that you didn't even want, to begin with. You cared not for love or marriage, or eventually your own family. You broke your heart over whichever man you wanted. You wore power in the place of the saree that was ripped off of you. You were Chief Minister SIX times, and twice in a row the last time around.

You were uncharacteristically autocratic, because how else would idiotic men know their place?

You broke every glass ceiling that was ever made, every stereotype that was ever enforced, every godly rule they ever made for a woman. You horribly magnanimous woman, you were never afraid.

The world has not seen many women like yourself. I'm not like you, can't be.

How then should I not hate you dear Amma, for being the most powerful woman this country saw and I knew?

(Source: Akkar Bakkar)

Relationship - Kamala Das

Relationship 
- Kamala Das

This love older than I by myriad
Saddened centuries was once a prayer
In his bones that made them grow in years of
Adolescence to this favored height; yes,
It was my desire that made him male
And beautiful, so that when at last we
Met, to believe that once I knew not his
Form, his quiet touch, or the blind kindness
Of his lips was hard indeed. Betray me?
Yes, he can, but never physically
Only with words that curl their limbs at
Touch of air and die with metallic sighs.
Why care I for their quick sterile sting, while
My body’s wisdom tells and tells again
That I shall find my rest, my sleep, my peace
And even death nowhere else but here in
My betrayer’s arms...

My Grandmother's House - Kamala Das

My Grandmother's House 
- Kamala Das 

There is a house now far away where once
I received love……. That woman died,
The house withdrew into silence, snakes moved
Among books, I was then too young
To read, and my blood turned cold like the moon
How often I think of going
There, to peer through blind eyes of windows or
Just listen to the frozen air,
Or in wild despair, pick an armful of
Darkness to bring it here to lie
Behind my bedroom door like a brooding
Dog…you cannot believe, darling,
Can you, that I lived in such a house and
Was proud, and loved…. I who have lost
My way and beg now at strangers’ doors to
Receive love, at least in small change?

Punishment in Kindergarten - Kamala Das

Punishment in Kindergarten
- Kamala Das

Today the world is a little more my own.
No need to remember the pain
A blue-frocked woman caused, throwing
Words at me like pots and pans, to drain
That honey-coloured day of peace.
‘Why don’t you join the others, what
A peculiar child you are!’
On the lawn, in clusters, sat my
schoolmates sipping
Sugarcane, they turned and laughed;
Children are funny things, they laugh
In mirth at others’ tears, I buried
My face in the sun-warmed hedge
And smelt the flowers and the pain.
The words are muffled now, the laughing
Faces only a blur. The years have
Sped along, stopping briefly
At beloved halts and moving
Sadly on. My mind has found
An adult peace. No need to remember
That picnic day when I lay hidden
By a hedge, watching the steel-white sun
Standing lonely in the sky.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Rs 5,000 note demonetisation fears trigger dash for gold in Pakistan

Frequent denials by the government and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has not helped much to calm market anxiety over the fate of the Rs5,000 banknotes.

A rush by currency hoarders to get rid of the notes has led to an increase in demand for gold in the local market.

Currency dealers, however, declined to come on the record. They privately said that a recent resolution by the senate demanding demonetisation of the Rs5,000 notes lends credence to rumours that after India, Pakistan is contemplating dumping the highest-value note to curb the cash economy.
On December 19, the senate passed a resolution calling for the demonetisation of the highest-denomination note to fight corruption. It demanded that these notes be withdrawn from circulation.

However, the government opposed the resolution citing that it could create a monetary crisis in the country, hinting at the Indian crisis that persists even after 50 days of Prime Minister Modi's demonetisation announcement.

The senate resolution did create uncertainty in the retail market as well, as many trading entities stopped accepting the Rs5,000 notes. There were several reports of customers haggling at payment counters of fast-food restaurants and superstores over the issue.

'Gold buying on future delivery heated up after the senate resolution, said a currency dealer. It is believed that the Rs5,000 notes are also being used to keep black money. Traders avoiding banking channels also use these notes for cash payments.

Gold prices have been increasing in Pakistan although it is already higher than the international rate. Due to excessive buying, the yellow metal on Friday was trading at Rs50,600 a tola. Internationally, the price was around Rs46,000 per tola.
The yellow metal on Friday was trading at Rs50,600 a tola, while internationally, the price was around Rs46,000 per tola. 
Holders of the Rs5,000 notes are not opting for the dollars, although the exchange rate is increasing in the open market. Currency dealers said a small quantity of gold is equivalent to millions of rupees.

'Demand for the dollar is not high, but its price in the open market has kept increasing during the week. The dollar was available at Rs108.80 to Rs109 on Friday, said the general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP).

The association did not issue rates yesterday, although the currency market remained open where the dollar was traded in a slightly lower range.

There is a perception in the currency market that black money is being smuggled out in the form of dollars, which has lifted the dollar price in the open market. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has so far succeeded in keeping the dollar rate unchanged in the interbank market.

Dealers in the interbank market said the current dollar rate is artificial and it may increase since pressure from exporters is mounting.

Exports have been declining for the last three years and the current fiscal year can see a further increase in trade deficit due to a recession in the global market as well as a higher cost of production at home.

Analysts and economists had criticised the decision to print the Rs5,000 notes at the time of its launch. They felt the notes would help increase the circulation of black money, smuggling of currency would become easier and the purchasing power of the local currency would decline. 'Time has shown their concerns were justified, an expert said.

(Source: Gulf Times)

Sunset, Blue Bird - Kamala Das

Sunset, Blue Bird
- Kamala Das

When i am with my friends and talking i remember him
and suddenly i can no longer talk they ask me what is wrong
why have you turned pale and i weakly shake my head
nothing nothing... .i was warned not to go near the king but
i did go and believe me he was like a man like any man he
clutched me to his breast he said he loved me and i was
happy and thought he was happy too.... after a year two
yellow moons waxed and waned without a sign of blood and
i told him lying on his lap i told him and suddenly the sun set
on that beautiful face his breath was heavy in my ear he said
not a word .... he no longer calls for me he no longer comes
to me or stands at the open window to smile at me
but everywhere i look i see him everywhere i do not look i
see him i see him in all i see him in everything like a blue
bird at sunset he flits across my sky....

Summer in Calcutta - Kamala Das

Summer in Calcutta 
- Kamala Das

What is this drink but
The April sun, squeezed
Like an orange in
My glass? I sip the
Fire, I drink and drink
Again, I am drunk
Yes, but on the gold
of suns, What noble
venom now flows through
my veins and fills my
mind with unhurried
laughter? My worries
doze. Wee bubblesring
my glass, like a brides
nervous smile, and meet
my lips. Dear, forgive
this moments lull in
wanting you, the blur
in memory. How
brief the term of my
devotion, how brief
your reign when i with
glass in hand, drink, drink,
and drink again this
Juice of April suns.

Convicts - Kamala Das

Convicts 
- Kamala Das

There was a time when our lusts were
Like multicoloured flags of no
Particular country. We lay
On bed, glassy-eyed, fatigued, just
The toys dead children leave behind
And, we asked each other, what is
The use, what is the bloody use?
That was the only kind of love,
This hacking at each other’s parts
Like convicts hacking, breaking clods
At noon. We were earth under hot
Sun. There was a burning in our
Veins and the cool mountain nights did
Nothing to lessen heat. When he
And I were one, we were neither
Male nor female. There were no more
Words left, all words lay imprisoned
In the ageing arms of night. In
Darkness we grew, as in silence
We sang, each note rising out of
Sea, out of wind, out of earth and
Out of each sad night like an ache…

Two friends walked from Mexico to Canada and picked up every piece of rubbish they saw along the way

Seth Orme, 26, and Paul Twedt, 30, have carried everything from beer bottles and cigarette butts to discarded mattresses for stretches of up to 100 miles – just to find a proper place to dispose of them.
Seth, left, and Paul, right, couldn't be happier about picking up rubbish Packing It Out
Driven by a love of the outdoors, these two young Americans are hiking famous US trails and picking up every bit of litter that they see along the way.

The pair hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015 with their friend Joe, picking up 1,100lbs of rubbish on their four-and-a-half-month journey and recycling items whenever they could.

This year, as part of their mission, which they call “Packing It Out”, the pair spent five months clearing the Pacific Crest Trail from the border with Mexico up to British Columbia in Canada.

Seth had been working as an outdoor guide, including a stint as a kayak guide on Lake Superior, and spent most of his younger years outdoors.

Seth Orme hikes with rubbish on his back until he can find a proper place to dispose of it (Packing It Out)

“When I was 19 I kayaked all 2,500 miles of the Mississippi River, and that started me thinking that I wanted to invest more of my life in the outdoors,” he says.

“When you work in the outdoors, you get to the point where you’re sleeping more outside than inside, and the outdoors becomes your home. And like any home, I wanted to keep it clean, so it became a habit.

“It was a habit I wanted to share, and influence other people’s values. We don’t want to have trash all along our scenic trails. I thought, ‘How can I inspire people to pick up their trash?’ So I set the bar really high and decided to do something audacious, and hoped it might inspire people.”

The pair’s plans are getting bolder. By 2018, Seth hopes to take Packing It Out outside the US.

But first, with various outdoor clothing and organic food companies now serving as sponsors, their next big litter-clearing mission will cover some 2,500 miles from Cumberland Island in Georgia, in the south-east of the US, to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, in the opposite corner of the country.

From April next year Seth and Paul will travel the route by bike, cleaning up rivers and trails as they go. As with previous hikes, they’ll be camping.

“You sleep on the ground outside, either in the tent or we decide to do cowboy camping, where you just lay down on the ground and go to bed,” says Seth.

The guys find all sorts of trash on their travels, including abandoned toys (Packing It Out)
“We just do it because we love the outdoors. We haven’t had any bad feedback. Sometimes people are confused – they wonder why we’re picking up more weight when you’re not supposed to pick up more weight when you’re going a long distance.”

Seth says the people they meet along the way are generally open and interested in what they’re doing, often inviting the pair into their homes for showers and hot dinners and the occasional bed for the night.

But is all their hard work paying off? Seth went back again recently to hike one of the stretches of the Appalachian Trail where they found the most rubbish, near where he now lives in Asheville in the Appalachian Mountains, and found it was “significantly” cleaner.

If you arrive at an area that is super-clean, his argument is you’re not going to leave any rubbish. “If you go to someone’s home and it’s really clean, you’re like, ‘I’m not going to throw trash on their floor.’ I hope people will start seeing the outdoors as less of a commodity and more of a community that we respect and value.”

Follow the progress of Packing It Out here.

(Source: Independent)

The Sunshine Cat - Kamala Das

The Sunshine Cat 
- Kamala Das

They did this to her, the men who know her, the man
She loved, who loved her not enough, being selfish
And a coward, the husband who neither loved nor
Used her, but was a ruthless watcher, and the band
Of cynics she turned to, clinging to their chests where
New hair sprouted like great-winged moths, burrowing her
Face into their smells and their young lusts to forget
To forget, oh, to forget, and, they said, each of
Them, I do not love, I cannot love, it is not
In my nature to love, but I can be kind to you.
They let her slide from pegs of sanity into
A bed made soft with tears, and she lay there weeping,
For sleep had lost its use. I shall build walls with tears,
She said, walls to shut me in. Her husband shut her
In, every morning, locked her in a room of books
With a streak of sunshine lying near the door like
A yellow cat to keep her company, but soon
Winter came, and one day while locking her in, he
Noticed that the cat of sunshine was only a
Line, a half-thin line, and in the evening when
He returned to take her out, she was a cold and
Half dead woman, now of no use at all to men.

A Man is a Season - Kamala Das

A Man is a Season
- Kamala Das

A man is a season,
You are eternity,
To teach me this you let me toss my youth like coins
Into various hands, you let me mate with shadows,
HYou let me sing in empty shrines, you let your wife
Seek ecstasy in other's arms.  But I saw each
Shadow cast your blurred image in my glass, somehow
The words and gesture seemed familiar.  Yes,
I sang solo, my songs were lonely, but they did
Echo beyond the world's unlighted edge, there was
Then no sleep left undisturbed, the ancient hungers
Were all awake.  Perhaps I lost my way, perhaps
I went astray.  How would a blind wife trace her lost
Husband, how would a deaf wife hear her husband call?

The Testing of the Sirens - Kamala Das

The Testing of the Sirens
- Kamala Das

The night, dark-cloaked like a procuress, brought
him to me, willing, light as a shadow,
speaking words of love
in some tender language I do not know ...
With the crows came the morning, and my limbs
warm of love, were once again so lonely...
At my doorstep I saw a pock-marked face,
a friendly smile and
a rolleiflex.  We will go for a drive,
he said.  Or go see the lakes.  I have
washed my face with soap and water, brushed
my hair a dozen
times, draped myself in six yards of printed
voile.   Ah... does it still show, my night of love?
You look pale, he said.  Not pale, not really
pale.  It's the lipstick's
anemia. Out in the street, we heard
The sirens go, and I paused in talk to
weave their wail with the sound of his mirthless
laughter. He said,
they are testing the sirens today. I am
happy. He really was lavish with words.
I am happy, just being with you.
But you . . . you love another,
I know, he said, perhaps a handsome man,
a young and handsome man. Not young,
not handsome, I thought, just a filthy snob.
It's a one-sided love,
I said.  What can I do for yoou? I smiled
A smile is such a detached thing, I wear
it like a flower. Near the lake, a pregnant
girl bared her dusky
breasts and washed them sullenly.  On the old
cannon-stand, crows bickered over a piece
of lizard-meat and the white sun was there
and everywhere . . .
I want your photo, lying-down,
nineteen-thirty-four guns, he said,
against those rusty nineteen-thirty-four guns,
will you ? Sure. Just arrange my limbs and tell
Me when to smile. I
shut my eyes, but inside eye-lids, there was
no more night, no more love, or peace, only
the white, white sun burning, burning, burning...
Ah, why does love come to me like pain
again and again and again?

A Losing Battle - Kamala Das

A Losing Battle
- Kamala Das

How can my love hold him when the other
Flaunts a gaudy lust and is lioness
To his beast?  Men are worthless, to trap them
Use the cheapest bait of all, but never
Love, which in a woman must mean tears
And a silence in the blood.

After the Illness - Kamala Das

After the Illness
- Kamala Das

There was then no death, no end, but a re-uniting
The weary body settling into accustomed grooves
And, he said, his soft, suffering face against my knee
I knew you would survive, my darling, I willed it so.
He had noticed the high greens of my illness, the bones
Turning sharp beneath the dry loose skin, the yellowed eyes
The fetid breath and the prayers to unfamiliar Gods
Who seemed to him so much more beloved than he.
Did he feel the neglect while I battled with my pain ?
Did he, waking alone at four, remember? There was
Not much flesh left for the flesh to hunger, the blood had
Weakened too much to lust, and the skin, without health's
Anointments, was numb and unyearning. What lusted then
For him, was it perhaps the deeply hidden soul ?

Sunday, 25 December 2016

A Request - Kamala Das

A Request
- Kamala Das

When I die
Do not throw the meat and bones away
But pile them up
And
Let them tell
By their smell
What life was worth
On this earth
In the end.

Nani - Kamala Das

Nani 
- Kamala Das

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 yellowflowers had hugged the deorway
And the walls. The privy, so abandoned,
Became an altar then, a sunny shrine
For a goddess who was dead. Another
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 designed
Deafness that turns mortality into
Immortality, the definite into
The soft indefinite.

Ghanshyam - Kamala Das

Ghanshyam
- Kamala Das

Ghanshyam,
You have like a koel built your nest in the arbour of my heart.
My life, until now a sleeping jungle is at last astir with music.
You lead me along a route I have never known before
But at each turn when I near you
Like a spectral flame you vanish.
The flame of my prayer-lamp holds captive my future
I gaze into the red eye of death
The hot stare of truth unveiled.
Life is moisture
Life is water, semen and blood.
Death is drought
Death is the hot sauna leading to cool rest-rooms
Death is the last, lost sob of the relative
Beside the red-walled morgue.
O Shyam, my Ghanshyam
With words I weave a raiment for you
With songs a sky
With such music I liberate in the oceans their fervid dances
We played once a husk-game, my lover and I
His body needing mine,
His ageing body in its pride needing the need for mine
And each time his lust was quietned
And he turned his back on me
In panic I asked Dont you want me any longer dont you want me
Dont you dont you
In love when the snow slowly began to fall
Like a bird I migrated to warmer climes
That was my only method of survival
In this tragic game the unwise like children play
And often lose                      
At three in the morning
I wake trembling from dreams of a stark white loneliness,
Like bleached bones cracking in the desert-sun was my loneliness,
And each time my husband,
His mouth bitter with sleep,
Kisses, mumbling to me of love.
But if he is you and I am you
Who is loving who
Who is the husk who the kernel
Where is the body where is the soul
You come in strange forms
And your names are many.
Is it then a fact that I love the disguise
and the name more than I love you?
Can I consciously weaken bonds?
The child's umbilical cord shrivels and falls
But new connections begin, new traps arise
And new pains
Ghanashyam,
The cell of the eternal sun,
The blood of the eternal fire
The hue of the summer-air,
I want a peace that I can tote
Like an infant in my arms
I want a peace that will doze
In the whites of my eyes when I smile
The ones in saffron robes told me of you  
And when they left
I thought only of what they left unsaid
Wisdom must come in silence
When the guests have gone
The plates are washed
And the lights put out
Wisdom must steal in like a breeze
From beneath the shuttered door
Shyam O Ghanshyam
You have like a fisherman cast your net in the narrows
Of my mind
And towards you my thoughts today
Must race like enchanted fish...

Krishna - Kamala Das

Krishna
- Kamala Das

Your body is my prison, Krishna,
I cannot see beyond it.
Your darkness blinds me,Your love words shut out the wise world's din.
[From Only The Soul Knows How To Sing]

Blend of confession and protest in the poems of Kamala Das

Blend of confession and protest in the poems of Kamala Das


-          - Dr. Archana Singh, Amity School of Liberal Arts Amity University Haryana Gurgaon, India


Confessional poetry is a style of poetry that emerged in the United States during the 1950s. It has been described as poetry "of the personal," focusing on extreme moments of individual experience. Confessional Poetswrite about subjects which are considered as taboo for a woman, like speaking about sexual acts, sexual desire, description of private body parts, extramarital associations, lesbian relationship.The school of "Confessional Poetry" was associated with several poets who redefined American poetry in the '50s and '60s, including Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman,Anne Sexton, Allen Ginsberg, and W. D. Snodgrass.According to Robert Philip confessional poetry arises from the need to confess, “It is in some waya declaration of dependence” or of guilt or of anguish and suffering.(8)Kamala Das's poetry appeals everyone, like a ripe mango, it needs no training in taste to appreciate. She received no formal education but then also she is a conscientious artist who is mainly guided by her impulse and instinct for precise and harmonious words. She is fully aware of the value of words and their finer shades of meanings.Das's provocative poems are known for their unflinchingly honest explorations of the self and female sexuality, urban life, women's roles in traditional Indian society, issues of postcolonial identity, and the political and personal struggles of marginalized people. She writes in both Malayalam and English and has published eleven books in her mother tongue and three books of poems in English.

Recognized as a confessional poet Kamala Das drives the readers into the world of her personal and private life and with inhibited frankness reveals the delicate facts about her marriage and extra-marital affairs.
It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat.
I am sinner,
I am saint.
I am beloved and the betrayed.
I have no joys which are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours.
 I too call myself I. (The Old Playhouse 27)

The above mentioned lines depict the bold confession and the crude patriarchy which tries to suppress the emotions and the identity of a woman. She in her effort to discover, her own self, unknowingly shook the norms of Indian society whose rules are different for man and woman.She was 15 when married to a bank employee.She got married, not exactly understanding what marriage is, and what it demands of her as a woman. How loveless sexual assaults are committed on a woman in the name of marriage are boldly expressed in her poem “AnIntroduction”:
 I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for
I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door.
He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten (The Old Playhouse 26)

Kamala Das’s poems unflinchingly epitomize the dilemma of the modern Indian women who attempt to free herself sexually, domestically, and economically from the roles sanctioned to her by the man-made world.ManmohanBhatnagarsays that "Kamala's poetry embodies agonies of women emerging from that state of subjugation and bondage, and seeking to establish their identity and the self.” (Bhatnagar7).Her poems when focused upon love encompass a wide range of themes, more realized settings and with tender feelings, bringing to it an intensity of emotion and speech. She is a revolutionary writer. Like an anatomist Kamala Das analyzes her own self, her own female psyche. Her own self emerges so powerfully in her poetry that even the moribund system, lying concealed under the social sanctity, is totally punctured by her virulent assault.Nila Shah and PramodkumarNayar says in The Introduction of Modern Indian Poetryin English: Critical Studies “Kamala Das, indisputably India’s best women –poet to date, shocked and mesmerised audience with her confessional mode…Writing a poetry that was remarkably sensual… and constantly interrogating the “persistence” of English in her deeper thoughts, Das helped launch a different woman’s voice.(12)

KamalaDas’s poetry delineates the best expression of feminine sensibility, its suppression in a male dominated society that’s why her poetry is judged as confessional and autobiographical to a great extent, but at times she publicised what is personal.Iyengar says that: “Kamala Das is a fiercely feminine sensibility that dares without inhibitions to articulate that the hurts she has received in an insensitive largely man-made world.” (680). Asa child, she experienced a life of neglect from her parents and even from her school mates. Her mother and father had their own interests to pursue and so had very little time to spare for the children. In her autobiography My Storyshe has mentioned their unsuited alliance,“My mother did not fall in love with my father. They are dissimilar and horribly mismatched” (Kamala 5). Even after marriage there is no solace from this neglected life,she sincerely universalizesthat her marriage is not successful.She was trapped in a loveless marriage to an overbearing man. Das explicitly describes the traditional gender roles and hegemony of a man over woman:
You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins.
Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego
 I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf (The Old Playhouse 1)

Kamala Das’s poetry is categorised as confessional because she has revealed her secret thoughts and feelings thus taking the readers into her confidence.Das explicitly describes sexuality between the two partners:
You were pleased
With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow
Convulsions.
You dribbled spittle into my mouth,
You poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny,
You embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices (The Old Playhouse 1)

Her marital experience seems to be so unhappy that like a bitter satirist she advises couples in the poem “Composition”:
Husbands and wives, here is my advice to you.
Obey each other’s crazy commands, ignore is the sane.
Turn your home into a
merry dog-house,
marriage is meant to be all this anyway,
being arranged in most
humorous heaven (The old Playhouse 3)

She wrote and published her sensational autobiography ‘My Story’ in 1976 at the age of 42 during her serious illness of heart disease. She wrote it for two reasons: On her doctor’s request to distract her mind from the fear of death and to pay for her hospital bills.All throughout My Story there is a rebellion or revolt against all sorts of domination including male domination. It is her rebellious attitude that makes her disclose the atrocities committed by rich zamindars and wealthy Nair men towards poor women. She had to face a lot of animosity from relatives for such honest narration of facts which would otherwise have remained hidden from the knowledge of the world.

The work of Kamala Das has been labelled as confessional, but it may with equal justice be labelled as the work of protest. Her writings can be a protest in the sense that it conveys her strong vehement disapproval of the way in which women in India have been treated for ages and ages. Das’s poems protest against the deep rooted malaise prevalent in patriarchal /matriarchal society and against the restraints and restrictions which husband or society in general impose upon women.The poem “Nani” is an evocative and expressive poem of protest which exposes the cruelty of rich zamindars and aristocratic men towards the poor maid servants during the feudal times. These women were misused by them and sometimes even killed afterwards to hush up matters.
Nani the pregnant maid hanged herself
In the privy one day.
For three long hours
Until the police came, she was hanging there ( TheOld Playhouse 40)

Through this poemKamala delineates that the matriarchal head turned a blind eye to such things to protect the image of the family, which is very well expressed in the poem when kamala enquire about Nani from her grandmother and who shows her ignorance :
Another year or two,and,
I asked my grand mother
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? (The old playhouse 40)

She is not merely a writer of her personal experiences. The plight of her fellow beings does not go unheeded by her.At the timewhen Kamala Das wrote her poetry, the Indian woman was subservient to her parents or her husband while the questions of having extra-marital relationship did not arise at all. Kamala Das was one of the few to claim such freedom and to attain this freedom to the fullest possible extent.The tinge of protest can be seen when her autobiography My Storyhit the book stalls in Kerala and in other parts of the country her relatives felt deeply embarrassed and perturbed over her revelations of her “certain well – guarded secrets.” (Diwedi140). The result was that she was not welcomed by her family and even ignored by her acquaintances But then also she did not stop writing andconfessing. She felt immense pleasure in writing it, as she has expresses in her preface: “I have written several books in my life time, but none of them provided the pleasure the writing of My Story has given me.”(Kamala 1).

On the whole Kamala Das is against the exploitation of anything, be it body or mind. She hates the enforcement of society. Though she enjoys being a woman, but when her individuality is attacked;and when she is ordered to follow a fixed pattern of life, she revolts against it. Hence, she sometimes considers female body a burden. The urge for release from this bondage gives her poetry great intensity. This discloses her earnest desire to wear shirt and trousers:
I wore a shirt and my
 Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness (The Old playhouse 26).

She confesses that the desire of wearing male clothes stems from the frustration and despair that she has suffered, throughout her life, for being a woman. Thus, through her defiant self-assertions, Kamala Das increases our awareness of how the dead weight of outworn values can block the emotional and intellectual growth of an individual. It is in such a rebellious mood against the conservative society that makes her ask if she is happy as a wife and woman:
Woman, is this happiness, this lying buried,
Beneath a man?
It is time again to come alive,
The world intends a lot beyond his six foot frame (The Descendants 21)

She through her works tries to evoke the feelings of equality and identity of women. She strongly protests the fixed rules of man-made society and tries to instil courage in women and enlightens them not to surrender her body and soul to anyone who consider them as a toy and disrespect them. Her poems wish to make women aware of their freedom and individuality. She wants to liberate and emancipates them from the bondage of society.

Works Cited
Bhatnagar, K. Manmohan .Feminist English Literature.New Delhi: Atlantic Pub. And Dis.2002.Print.
Das, Kamala. My Story, Paperback ed. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers,1978. Print.
Das, Kamala.The Old Play House and Other Poems.New Delhi: Blackswan, 2011. Print.
Das, Kamala. The Descendants, Calcutta: Writers workshop, 1991. Print.
Diwedi, A.N. Kamala Das and her Poetry. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2011. Print. http://www.cse.iitk.ac.in/users/amit/books/das-1965-summer-in-calcutta.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessional_poetry http://www.languageinindia.com/feb2012/shaukatkamaladasfinal.pdf http://www.researchscholar.co.in/downloads/20-mayur-r.-agravat.pdf http://www.researchscholar.co.in/downloads/55-mrs.-deepika-rani.pdf
Iyengar, K.R.S. Indian Writing in English. New Delhi:Sterling, 1992. Print.
Philips, Robert. The confessional Poets.Southern Illinois University Press, 1973.Print.
Shah, Nila and Pramod K. Nayar.Modern Indian Poetry in English, Critical Studies. New Delhi: Creative Books, 2000. Print

(Source: Research Scholar)

In Love - Kamala Das

In Love 
- Kamala Das

Of what does the burning mouth
Of sun, burning in today's
Sky remind me... oh, yes, his
Mouth, and... his limbs like pale and
Carnivorous plants reaching
Out for me, and the sad lie
Of my unending lust.  Where
Is room, excuse or even
Need for love, for, isn't each
Embrace a complete thing, a
Finished jigsaw, when mouth on
Mouth, I lie, ignoring my poor
Moody mind, while pleasure
With deliberate gaiety
Trumpets harshly into the
Silence of the room... At noon
I watch the sleek crows flying
Like poison on wings -- and at
Night, from behind the Burdwan
Road, the corpse-bearer's cry '_Bol
Hari Bol_', a strange lacing
For moonless nights, while I walk
The verandah sleepless, a
Million questions awake in
Me, and all about him, and
This skin-communicated
Thing that I dare not yet in
His presence call our love.

Forest Fire - Kamala Das

Forest Fire 
- Kamala Das

Of late I have begun to feel a hunger
To take in with greed, like a forest fire that
Consumes and with each killing gains a wilder,
Brighter charm, all that comes my way.    Bald child in
Open pram, you think I only look, and you
Too, slim lovers behind the tree and you, old
Man with paper in your hand and sunlight in
Your hair... My eyes lick at you like flames, my nerves
Consume ; and, when I finish with you, in the
Pram, near the tree and, on the park bench, I spit
Out small heaps of ash, nothing else.  But in me
The sights and smells and sounds shall thrive and go on
And on and on. In me shall sleep the baby
That sat in prams and sleep and wake and smile its
Toothless smile. In me shall walk the lovers hand
In hand and in me, where else, the old shall sit
And feel the touch of sun.  In me, the street-lamps
Shall glimmer, the cabaret girls cavort, the
Wedding drums resound, the eunuchs swirl coloured
Skirts and sing sad songs of love, the wounded moan,
And in me the dying mother with hopeful
Eyes shall gaze around, seeking her child, now grown
And gone away to other towns, other arms.”

The Old Playhouse - Kamala Das

The Old Playhouse
- Kamala Das

You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every
Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow
Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall. I remember the rudder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves. Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is
No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man’s technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For, love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.

Kamala Das A Confessional Poet: A Quest for Identity/Self

Kamala Das A Confessional Poet: A Quest for Identity/Self

-         -  Elangbam Hemanta Singh, Department of English, Ideal Girls College, Manipur University, Manipur.


Abstract: Confession is not at all a new genre in literature. As it is the disclosure of some sort, a writer reveals private or clinical matters about herself or himself of art. As a matter of fact, confessional poetry has a very long tradition that begins from the poets like Sappho and Catullus to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Confessions (1764-70) based on religious confessions in the lineage of St. Augustine's Confessions (C. 400 AD) establishing the impression on the history of literature for the psychological outlets of personal feelings. In fact the term “Confessional Poetry” comes from “Confessional Properly” first coined by M.L. Rosenthal in reviewing Robert Lowell's Life Studies (1959).

Confessional poetry is a type of narrative and lyric verse dealing with the facts and intimate mental and physical experiences of the poet's own life against the demand for “impersonality” by T.S. Eliot and the New Critics. In such poetry, the self is a primary concern which is treated with utmost frankness and lack of restraint, written in ordinary speech and using open forms. In addition, there are no barriers between the reader and the poet, or barriers of subject matters. It is important at this point what Robert Phillips rightly observes: “Confessional art whether poetry or not, is a means of killing the beasts which are within us, those dreadful dragons of dreams and experiences that must be hunted down concerned and exposed in order to be destroyed (2)”. Interestingly, the most intimate aspect of life, areas of experience, which one would instinctively keep from public sight, are openly expressed, and not presented as a mere history in poetry. However, the first person singular 'I' of confessional poetry is not the factual 'I' of the poet, but a projection of the poet's being into another person. It is because to achieve a degree of objectivity and the self is used as a poetic symbol to establish the identity/self. What Sylvia Plath, Adrienn Rich, Judith Wright, Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton, Phyllis Webb, Margaret Avison, Rosemary Sullivan and Susan Griffins are doing in British, American, Canadian and Australian poetry was begun by Kamala Das, A.K. Ramanujan, R. Parthasarathi, Nissim Ezekiel, etc., in Indian English poetry. These women writer's gesture of defiance and self-assertion snowballed into a movement first and later on a genre.

A group of poets who have become known as Confessional has also engendered much debate. Some writers of a previous generation, for example Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, John Berryman, W.D. Snodgrass, Delmore Schwartz, and Randall Jarrell, are those who were clearly tangential and went on to do different kind of works of various poets such as Maxine Kumin, Alan Dugan, and James Merrill. Other poets, such as Amiri Baraka, Carolyn Kizer and Adrienne Rich, are still labelled Confessional despite more direct associations with other schools / movements. However, it is generally agreed that the core of the movement begins within and among certain works from the late 1950s to the late 1960s.

Kamala Das has mostly been assessed as a writer in this genre of confessional poetry. Among the modern Indian poets writing in English today, she has been ranked with such poetesses of dissatisfaction and discontent as Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, though the comparison is seen by many as undeserving. As a matter of fact, the creative outlets of Sylvia Plath and Kamala Das seem very much similar with opinion and subject matters and also at the same time appear dissimilar to cause of affliction in a different social set up. Though they remain separate in different cultural and social background, their struggle for feminine longings is very much common. So, they strongly display the autobiographical elements in their poetry. For example, Kamala Das remembers her grandmother's house for the deep love and understanding she received there. In “My Grandmother's House”,she expresses her deep nostalgia, “There is a house now far away where once / I received love”. Similarly, Sylvia Plath shows deep affection for her grandmother in “Point Shirley”, “She collusion of mulish elements and / She wore her broom straws to the hub”. As Kamala Das exploits the technique of confession in her poetry in order to explore self, confirming the reality of the inner world while interacting with male chauvinism, she feels isolated and sometimes remains doubtful, obsessed and discontented with the corporal encounters.

There are essentially two sides to Kamala Das’s poetry. One is that which is extraordinary centred around her own self, probing the malaise and morbidity that seem to clamp on her poetic vision. In the poem, “An Introduction” she expresses her self-assertive statement attacking on conventionalism, advocating the rights of women and introducing herself as an Indian of a very brown complexion, born in Malabar having the ability to speak three languages:
I am Indian, very brown, born in
Malabar, I speak three languages, write in\
 Two, dream in one(4-6).

Self is the crucial point of her poems. Her quest for freedom of expression and selfidentity refers to the “Spiritual Odyssey” (22) as R.S. Pathak suggests. The following lines reflect:
Why not leave Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you?
Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? (An Introduction : 7-10).

Though she does not get the love she longs for but instead of it, she faces exploitation and humiliation in sex encounter with her husband:
When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door.
He did not beat me
But my sad woman badly felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I Shrank Pitifully (25-31).

The other side is a compelling expression of personal experiences and a forceful subjective voice. However, this voice is so strong that it extends beyond the personal world of anguished feelings and assumes wider significance. In this context, one can find such tastes and expectations in her poetry like, “The Sunshine Cat”, “The Old Playhouse”, etc. In her poem “An Introduction”, Kamala Das revolts against the set of rules meant for women breaking the conventional womanhood, compelling her to become a traditional feminine role “Dress in sarees, be girl, / Be wife… Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or better/ Still, be Madhavikutty”(33-39). On the hand, she searches for her own identity, wishing to be autonomous in decisions. In the following lines, she speaks herself in the strong voices :
I wore a shirt and my
Brother's trousers,
Cut my hair short and ignored /
My womanliness (31-33).
I am sinner,
I am saint,
I am the beloved and the
Betrayed.
I have no joys which are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours.
I too call myself I (56-59)

Apart from this, Kamala Das poetry embodies agonies or women emerging from the state of subjugation and bondage and speaks about the emancipation of women in a male-dominated society, and seeking to establish their identity and/ or the self that mark in her poems like “A Relationship”, “Summer in Calcutta”, “Marine Drive”, etc. In the poem “Afterwards”, she expresses the secret hope and fear of womanhood:
Son of my womb,
Ugly in loneliness.
You walk the world's bleary eye
Like a grit-your cleverness
Shall not be your doom
As ours was. (1-6)

In this context, C.R. Nambiar shares his observation about the essence of Kamala Das poetry, “She becomes a feminist writer by making her women conscious and providing them wings to rise and flutter… The essence of her poems is struggle about her own self and… is a cry for freedom” (122). Along with this, her poetry shows a landmark in her female journey from victimization to consciousness. Searching for the self / the identity as the crucial point of her poems, Kamala Das says: “One's real world is not what is outside him. It is the immeasurable world inside him that is real. Only the one, who has decided to travel inward, will realize his route has no end” (109). Her poems such as “The Freaks”, “My Grandmother's House”, “A Hot Noon in Malabar”, “The Old Playhouse”, “The Conflagration”, etc. reflect her journey of the self towards the ultimate. She, however, cannot escape from the inner world that makes her the dilemma of personality.

In “The Looking Glass” Kamala Das explores her quest for personal relationship wishing to develop with the lover through sex. Frankly speaking, she searches her self-identity in the male-hegemonic view or the man-dominant society. It is shocked to learn that the primary duty of a woman is to satisfy the male ego by praising his masculinity and at the same time accepting her own feminine weakness to play as a puppet whose only aim is to gratify male lust: “Stand nude before the glass with him/So that he sees himself the stronger one”.

Then, Kamala Das asks the woman to surrender her beauty to the superior male, “Gift him all, /Give him what makes you woman, the scent of … and all your /Endless female hungers”. She also shares a pain of humiliation and frustration, “Oh yes, getting /Aman to love in easy, but living / Without him afterwards I have to be faced”. So, she feels sad with her dream of searching the self through love in this male supremacy. In this context, it is fair to say that she is on the path of love, meets the lover and enjoys pleasure through relation with eyes shut to relieve her but as soon as she opens her eyes she finds her lover missing. She, therefore, calls her husband the “ruthless one, clumsy with noise and movement”. In the scheme of man, a woman cannot raise herself above the conventional image that deadens her persona reflecting in “The Old Playhouse”:
You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins…
I ate the magic loaf and
Because a dwarf.
I lost my will and reason (12-16).

The love and affection that Kamala Das received from her father and grandmother remain an ideal that she searches the whole of her life in others while exploring her identity / self, not for body but is shocked and disillusioned. In the poem “The Looking Glass”, Kamala Das says, “… drew me to him Rudely / With a lover's haste, an armful / Of splinters, …/ I went to him for half an hour /As pure women, pure misery / Fragile glass, breaking / Crumbling… In connection to the these lines, K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, the noted scholar of Indian writing in English, briefly sums up about Kamala Das and her poetry and prose in his book: “Kamala Das finally appears to be a poet of decadence […] a victim of the inadequacies of her life, failing even to gain control over her art (712).”

Despite such an interpretation comes from the eminent scholar, it is saved to say that her poetry is rather essentially a poetry of protest, of defiance and of emphatic assertion, all other moods ranging from weak feminine sense of helplessness and submission, to a restless search for happiness and shelter are different expressions of this basic Promethean spirit which is desire to break the rusted shackles and have its voice heard. This voice is expressed in the following lines:
As the convict studies
His prison's geography
I study the trappings
Of your body, dear love,
For I must someday find
An escape from it snare. (“Prisoner”)
And, then, wailing into light
He came, so fair, a streak of light thrust
Into the faded light (“Jaisurya”)
…Ask me, everybody ask me
What he sees in me, ask me why he is called a lion,
A libertine, ask me the flavour of his
Mouth, ask me why his hand sways like a hooded snake
Before it clasps my pubis.
Ask me why like
A great tree, felled, he slumps against my breasts.
And sleeps, ask me why life is short and love is (“The Stone Age”)

Kamala Das' search for ideal lover remains incomplete. Finally, she worships her ideal Krishna. In the poem “Radha”, she deeply expresses her inner feelings:
 O Krishna, I am melting
Melting, melting
Nothing remains but
You…
Along with an idea of melting, from the material to the spiritual is the path that the female persona shows while exploring the Self / Identity through love. Now, she, finally, merges herself into the Supreme-Self of Ghanshyam. In the poem “Ghanashyam”, she expresses this act of being oneness with Ghanashyam, the supreme:
Ghanashyam,
You have like a
Koel built your nest in the arbour of my heart.
My life, until now a sleeping jungle is at last astir with music (1-3)

Kamala Das' poetry presents Indian woman in a way that has outraged the usual male sense of decency and decorum. As she inaugurates a new age for women poets, she constitutes a total rejection of the conventional styles of poetic expression of the dominant culture or the male-oriented universe. Her poetry is the acknowledgement and celebration of the beauty and courage of being a woman, not celebrating unbridled sensuality, but projecting the stereotype of a wronged woman and at once asserting the need to establish her voice and identity. Finally, she is successful in her venture of searching the ultimate self and the identity through the art of confession.

Before concluding my paper, it is pertinent to remember what Kamala Das says in her book called My Story: “Poetry is not a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of the personality … I could not escape from personality…”(109). Only one can say that her inner world has not remained her personal domain, it has acquired profound symbolic significance for all bruised and battered womankind.

REFERENCE: 
Das, Kamala,1989. My Story. New Delhi : Sterling Publishers, 109. 1984. 
Collected Poems. Trivandrum: Kamala Das. 1979.
The Old Playhouse and Other Poems. Bombay: Orient Longman, 1979. 1991. 
The Best of Kamala Das. Kerala: Bodhi Publishing House, 1991.
Iyengar, K.R.S.,1985.Indian Writing in English. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 
Nambiar, C.R.2000 “The Quiddity of Kamala Das”Modern Indian Poetry in English:Critical Studies,(ed.) Nila Shah and Promod K. Nayar, New Delhi : Creative Books, , 122. 
Pathak, R.S., 2003. “Quest For Identity in Indian English Poetry”. Indian English Literature: Marginalised Voice. (ed.) Avadhesh K. Singh, New Delhi: Creative Books, 22. 
Phillips, Robert, 1973.The Confessional Poets. Carbondele and Edwarelsville : Souther Illionis University Press, 1973.