Kamala Das’s Rebel Woman

Kamala Das validates me for being a woman. She validates my fears and follies of love. She validates my paralyzing need to be with someone and then going through the separation anxiety. Kamala speaks for not only mine but for every women’s sexual, sensual, sensitive, raging soul out there. Kamala Das is the source for validation and her poetry, the source for liberation not only for the readers but for herself as well.

“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

                               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

― Kamala Suraiyya Das ( Excerpt from “The Looking Glass”)

Das’s poem is “feminine confessional poetry”. Here in her poetry lies the plain truth just like one’s reflection in the mirror. In an essay entitled “Looking Glass as a Metaphor for Self-Realization in Kamala Das’ Poetry”, Javed khan talks about how many would question the rebelliousness of women in her poem or how feminist are they? since the poem is written by a feministic poet but if looked closely into, a reader who reads between the lines will understand the aggression that is hidden very carefully yet prominently in those tiny loopholes,  is where the self-realization happens.

The Looking Glass, published for the first time in 1967 reflects the dynamics of the man-woman relationship whilst giving all the power to the feeble ignorant female protagonist. And for one to witness that power they need to understand the motive of the female protagonist which is “ Enlightenment”. Enlightenment of how man-woman relationships are adhered to from a female perspective.

Here the voice, the sole voice is that of a woman.“Stand nude before the glass with him So that he sees himself the stronger one”. Make him feel like he is the stronger entity in this union and then only will you be the perfect candidate of love in his eyes.

Every line ends up leaving the reader in a conundrum that often comes when something that is in front of us in plain sight is laced by the deceptiveness which results in the final destination that is the acknowledgment of how problematic the idea of self-submission is, which also is Das’s motive, to begin with.

First satisfaction of ego in the name of love and then the separation, if observed the patterns of an all “gifting” woman and the only gains she has is of that of what we call the material world of love, the art of lovemaking if to put it in better yet at same time connotating harshness to it.

She who suffers in the poem is the ultimate embodiment of strength for she puts up a mirror in front of the society’s ideal gaze. She is a rebel, Das’s woman. A woman with a nature of submission so that we could rise from it, to say in the most gen z way “she took one for the team” so that we don’t live in blindfolds. She expects us to demand and take what we deserve and rightfully so.  

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Written By: Aakanksha Dassi

Editor and Team Lead: Ashutosh Sharma

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About The Author(s)

Chemistry major with self-proclaimed good taste in Books and Music.

Photo - Aakanksha Dassi
Aakansha Dassi
Just a Literature Honours kid who can't do Kant anymore.
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