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The Rediff Interview/Kamala Das

'I have not glorified lust'

Was your husband jealous of all the attention you got?

Not at all. As long as I went out with an umbrella when it rained. I used to get headaches walking in the sun so he asked my escort to carry a sunshade or tell them, see, she doesn't walk in the sun. That's all.

He was much older, and he felt that I should move about with people of my age. He was very understanding about it. He didn't want to go to the theatre or for a drive, so he would choose a very harmless looking young man and ask him to take me out. No complications. It was not as if I was leading a wicked life. If I went out, I went out with my children too. We all had a good time.

Now Shobha De writes about sex and nobody criticises her. When you wrote about love...

Shobha De is different. Shobha De writes what probably she enjoys. I may have written about love affairs, but I have not glorified lust. There was nothing obscene about love. My love was fashioned after the love of Radha and Krishna. There is something very beautiful about love. I cannot think of it as something horrible.

Then, why is it that people got shocked when you wrote, My Story?

No, they did not get shocked. They pretended to get shocked. That is to prove to others that they are innocent, that they have never stepped out of the confines of their sacred marriage. Nobody got shocked. These things have been happening for years and years.

I come from a feudal background. I know how men go around at night and walk into the houses of the very poor and ravish the daughters of the poor. If they became pregnant, they were drowned. All these things have happened, and we are aware of that. But this happens only at night. I have never killed anybody, never hated anyone. I always wanted love, and if you don't get it within your home, you stray a little.

I have read that you first son was born when you were just sixteen and you grew up with your first two sons. How was it like growing up with your sons?

I was mature enough to be a mother only when my third son was born. Otherwise we were like friends, we must have quarreled a little. You know, when they wanted a new dress, I also wanted a new dress and the three of us would go to father. That was how we grew up.

A woman performs various roles in her life, mainly for the sake of her husband and children, most of the time forgetting about her own identity. In your case too, you wrote at night after all the work was done for the family. Don't you feel a woman experiences a kind of vacuum in the end? Or, do you think men too feel the same?

Men also should be feeling the same, but then I don't think they can adore children the way mothers can adore. We have an unbroken conceptual chord, so all the time we are in touch with our sons. It is like the bond between you and your creator. Of course, there is a vacuum. But you try to fill it up with painting or some occupation. A working woman can manage what I want. Then I went back again to writing. Now I can't paint because my grandchild comes and dips her hands in paint.

Do you miss the presence of a daughter in your life?

I don't know. Frankly; because I never had a daughter. I do miss having a woman around the place. Sometimes I wish I had a daughter, but then I don't know being a very possessive person I would have felt jealous of the daughter. Because maybe her husband would have concentrated upon her, and I would have lost the first daughter role which I had played for years successfully. I was a daughter too to him. I wouldn't have liked someone to come and use up my place.

You lived with your husband for many years, and he might have become a habit for you. Do you miss him now?

I miss him terribly. I miss seeing him in the hall. He would be in white, and I miss that white blur. Because I open the gate and walk in, I could see that white, like a white smudge upon the canvas, a tired aging man. He was sickly for three and a half years before he died. And yet his presence used to delight me. The fact that I could go back to him and that he would welcome me. So from every foreign trip I would go back anticipating his welcome.

There was always such happiness on his face seeing me. I don't think any individual has shown so much of happiness on seeing me. I am grateful to him.

He was everything to me. He was father, brother, husband so they say, friend. Another point was he didn't care what I wrote really. He did not even read it. It was not consciously done. He disliked reading poetry. But he accepted my poetry. She's a great writer, she's a great poet, he would tell people, almost embarrassing me. But he was very proud of me. That is why I lost someone who was very proud of me. There shall not be another person so proud of me and my achievements. There was only one.

The Rediff Interview

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