Monday 3 July 2023

Kamala Das's "On Freedom and Being": A Poetic Exploration of Self and Liberation

Kamala Das, known for her unapologetic and candid expression of emotions, was an Indian poet and writer who fearlessly delved into the depths of human experiences. In her thought-provoking poem, "On Freedom and Being," Das presents a powerful reflection on the concepts of freedom and self-liberation. Through her introspective verses, she challenges societal norms, unveils the constraints that restrict individuality, and explores the transformative potential of embracing one's true self. This article aims to delve into the various aspects of "On Freedom and Being," highlighting the significance of the poem and its enduring relevance.

The Struggle for Freedom:

Das begins the poem by lamenting, "When I was a little child, / I once saw a beautiful white pigeon" (Das, 1-2). This innocent encounter with the pigeon represents the poet's early longing for freedom and the pure expression of one's true nature. However, as the poem progresses, Das exposes the societal pressures and expectations that hinder personal liberation.

She challenges the conventional roles assigned to women, stating, "We are women / Bound by our honor, our duty" (Das, 12-13). Here, Das critiques the social construct that restricts women to predefined roles and stifles their individuality. Through her poignant words, she highlights the struggle faced by many individuals, particularly women, who are expected to conform to societal norms instead of embracing their authentic selves.

The Masks We Wear:

Das explores the theme of masks and pretenses in the pursuit of freedom. She writes, "With what a smile, you can deceive / Those who love you!" (Das, 5-6). This line underscores the facade that people often create to appease others, sacrificing their true desires and aspirations. Das questions the authenticity of relationships built on false appearances, urging individuals to break free from societal expectations and embrace their genuine selves.

The transformative power of shedding societal masks is further emphasized as Das proclaims, "When you are free, you are free indeed" (Das, 11). This line encapsulates the liberating experience of embracing one's true identity, unencumbered by the expectations and judgments of others. Das invites readers to question the masks they wear and encourages them to embark on a journey towards self-liberation.

The Quest for Self-Realization:

Throughout the poem, Das explores the journey towards self-realization and the importance of embracing one's uniqueness. She asserts, "The wings are yours / Learn to fly" (Das, 19-20), highlighting the significance of self-discovery and the pursuit of personal growth. By urging readers to find their own wings and take flight, Das empowers individuals to embrace their true potential and seek fulfillment on their own terms.

Das also emphasizes the significance of self-acceptance, stating, "Accept yourself; / All that you are" (Das, 16-17). These lines encourage readers to embrace their flaws, vulnerabilities, and contradictions, as these are integral parts of their identity. By accepting oneself completely, individuals can find the freedom and peace that come from aligning with their authentic selves.

The Universality of Freedom:

While Das's poem reflects her personal experiences and struggles, its themes resonate on a universal level. The quest for freedom and self-liberation transcends cultural and societal boundaries, as individuals from diverse backgrounds yearn to break free from the shackles of conformity.

Das's poignant verses in "On Freedom and Being" serve as a reminder that the journey towards freedom is a deeply personal one. It requires introspection, self-reflection, and the courage to challenge societal norms. By exploring these universal themes, Das invites readers to embark on their own paths of self-discovery and liberation.

Kamala Das's poem, "On Freedom and Being," offers a powerful exploration of personal liberation and the struggle to embrace one's authentic self. Through her candid and evocative verses, Das challenges societal norms, exposes the masks we wear, and encourages readers to embark on a journey of self-realization. The poem serves as a timeless reminder that true freedom comes from within, as individuals courageously break free from societal constraints and embrace their unique identities. "On Freedom and Being" continues to resonate, inspiring readers to question the limitations imposed upon them and seek liberation in the pursuit of their true selves.

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