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
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
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
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.