My Story by Kamala Das is one of the boldest and intrepid stories I have come across. Albeit published way back in 1973 under the title Ente Katha, the autobiography still continues to create ripples among its readers. This month, remembering her in her death anniversary month (she died on May 31, 2009), I decided to give the book a read and tell our eFiction India readers why it is one of the best autobiographies by a woman writer in India.
Kamala Das has dauntlessly captured the intricacies of female desires, fears, loneliness, the inevitable longing to be loved and the pain of growing up. The autobiography begins with Kamala being a little girl, born of an arid union between her parents. At a very early age, Kamala began penning poems about dolls that had lost their heads. Her parents were not necessarily proud of her, which sometimes made her ponder about the reason behind her birth. She wished to have been born to parents who would have been proud of her poems. She openly talks about her numerous crushes and love-affairs and admits to having kissed an eighteen-year-old hostel girl she was infatuated with.
Her family broke up for unknown reasons, and she was considered a burden on her parents and grandmother; she was only 15 when she was married to a writer-cum-bank employee. She wasn’t happy and wasn’t ready for marriage either. Her fiancé looked for ways to get intimate with her before the wedlock, turning brutal and crude if she refused to submit. She expected him to show some love, but his lust was all she experienced, which she looked upon as no less than an assault. She had been turned into a mere plaything, to be toyed with and exploited – a victim of a man’s carnal hunger. She considers her wedding night union as rape – “Again and again throughout that wedding night he hurt me.”
When their first child was born, he completely neglected them both and it soon became evident to her that he had only married her because of her family’s social status. “At night after all had slept, I sat in our tiny sitting room, sobbing and trying hard to believe in a destiny that might change for the better.”
She is extremely bold in stating that she did not have the qualification to get a job and that she was so ‘frigid and ripped’ that she could not even opt for a life of prostitution.
In the latter half of the book she openly talks of her countless extramarital affairs which she found guiltless to indulge in. The book created an uproar due to the fearless way in which it has highlighted subjects considered too shameful to even be discussed.
Through this autobiography, Kamala Das showcases the plight of an Indian woman and the male dominant society that she is forced to live in.
A must read.