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Kamala Das : The Old Playhouse- A critical appreciation
Kamala Das is once again occupied with herself. Her quest for a fulfilling relationship brings a loi of pain and disenchantment. She complains against her men's incapability to offer anything but lust. These volumes reflect the poet's growing interest in the spiritual and the mythical longings.
Kamala Das in her poem 'The Old Play House' looks into the nature of lust and disillusionment. In this context, she explores the male personality as well as her own anguished self. It is the psychology of her inner self, which gets its focus in her poems. Love is the slice of life for Kamala Das. She seems to be obsessed with the idea that feminine self is a mere toy in the unfeeling hands of the male. Her ego-self has declared man nothing more than a beast.
She wants integrity between her physical as well as her inner self. She did not come to her husband's house to lye only beneath his 'boneless-self to feed his 'monstrous ego'. She says :
"...It was not together knowledge of yet another man that 1 came to you but to learn what I was and by learning to learn to grow, but every lesson your gave was about yourself .........."].
This is the despair of her lovely-married self. She yearns for receiving love. But her husband does not lend her fondling hands, instead he exploits her tender physical self and destroys her mind. She says :
"... You embalmed/My poor lust with your bittersweet juices,/you called me wife"
Kamla Das' protest is not merely against the superficiality of married-self but against the essential nature of Hindu domestic life, which tames, the 'swallow' and permits free exhibition of the male ego in all its manifestations. A sad mood of protest against man's inhumanity is a common feature of her poems in which frustration keeps running on. As Parthasarthy opines :"The despair is infectious. Few of her poems have, in fact, escaped it".
The old play house and several other poems are addressed to 'you', to the husband. He wants to encompass her action, movement and activity of which her young self is desirous. The poetic self does not like this just as her young self does not like him or his ways. His 'monstrous ego' comes under fire, since it has totally reduced her and disappointed her. As a result, her mind becomes an old-play*house with all its lights put-out. She says :"You called me wife,/It was taught to break saccharine into your tea and/To offer at the right moment the vitamins cowering./Beneath your monstrous ego, I ate the magic loaf/And became a dwarf'.As a young wife Kamala Das does all the house hold Chores. The dominated husband tries to take her like a bird and makes her an object of his sexual torture. The expressions like '1 ate the magic loaf and 'became a dwarf show that her young self is being crushed. In case of Kamla Das, the journey of married life becomes too difficult.
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