The first time I heard the name Madhavikutty was from my father, when I was a child. The name just settled down in my mind to gather dust. When I was an adult, and started my feeble attempts at writing, I read about Madhavikutty on the internet and learnt that her official name was Kamala Das. I bought “My Story” her controversial autobiography and honestly never completed reading it. I read the essentials of the book and left it there. This was more than five years ago.
Recently due to some reason I switched from fiction to non-fiction and found myself looking for books about Kamala Das. I wanted an original English work because I knew she wrote in Malayalam and personally do not prefer translated books. The element of the book, the essence of what the author pens down is lost in translation. A complete personal belief. So after some considerable research I found “The Love Queen of Malabar” by Merrily Weisbord. Since the author was Canadian, I was sure that the major text would be in English, and would be confined to limited translations. I just finished reading the book and was proud that I selected the best book.
The book is a conversation between Merrily and Kamala Das during their trips to Kerala and Canada. The acquaintance that grows into a deep friendship. I was glad that Kamala found Merrily during her later years, a compassionate friend whom she could trust.
I felt sad at the plight of Kamala Das, and I believe she wrote the truth. She was born in a time where male chauvinism was at its height. Man used women for their gains. I came to hate Sadiq Ali who was man enough to sleep with a 60+ year old woman, almost twice his age, but was a coward who succumbed to the pressures of society. Most men are man enough to sleep with a woman, the commitment to nurture her for years to come is where he plays the dodging game.
Her story is what happens in most households. There is only one in crores of women, who can write about it, honestly. I understand why men abused her when the book “My story” was published. She was unmasking their real face. She shed the pretenses they wear when they walk out into society.
In this book she says “This new person accepted that “marriage to Dasettan was not good, but my destiny”. And since we are all just instruments of destiny, it was useless to struggle against it”.
Another excerpt from the book, which lingers on –
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?