Identify potential approaches to annotate the following lines from Das' "An Introduction:" "Be Amy, or be in Kamala, or better Still, vibe madhavikutty. It is time to Choose a name, a role. Don't...

Identify potential approaches to annotate the following lines from Das' "An Introduction:"

"Be Amy, or be in Kamala, or better

Still, vibe madhavikutty. It is time to

Choose a name, a role. Don't play pretending games."

Asked on by sharief78

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with so much of Das' work, the lines are complex.  The poem, itself, is a complex one because it argues that identity is complex and intricate.  In this, I think that one can look at the lines featured and approach it in terms of annotation in being able to fully understand where the complexity lies in it.  Throughout the poem, Das' intent of assessing what it means to be complex in identity is evident.  The essence of what constitutes "Indian" is addressed.  This moves into the idea of what "should" be done in terms of writing in one's "native tongue" and the follow up questioning of what this actually constitutes is established in the opening of the poem:

Don't write in English, they said, English is 
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave 
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins, 
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in 
Any language I like? The language I speak, 
Becomes mine

This appropriation of identity moves into the socially defined realm of gender.  Das is suggesting that gender, like nationality, does not need to be externally defined by social conditions and parameters.  When she precedes the lines in question with the idea of cutting her hair in a man's way as well as how she "ignored my womanliness," it becomes clear that Das is seeking to understand the notion of self and gender apart from the clanging of social mores and adherence to social conformity.  It is here where her analysis of being "Amy" or "Kamala" is evident.  For Das, being "Indian" affords her the a multivocality that compels her to reject singular notions of the good.  She extrapolates this idea to women, being able to choose what they want to be and how they want to live their lives.  The names of "Amy" or "Kamala" or "Madhavikutti" are all examples of these options in constructing identity from Western, Hindu, or Islamic notions of the good.  The voice of imploring follows not which one is chosen, but rather the fact that a choice is made.  "Choose" is posited against "play pretending games."  The annotation here could be made that Das is suggesting that conforming gender notions of identity is akin to "pretending" to be something that a woman is not.  It is here where I think that it makes sense to annotate for how the lines speak to the condition of women in India, but also all over.  There is almost a universal call here that the notion of choice is something that can be applicable to women in the call to define their own sense of self as opposed to having society do it for them.   I think that this might be a path to take on annotating the line and identifying its significance in both the poem and in Das' overall understanding of self in the modern setting.

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