Short Summary of “An Introduction” by Kamala Das

This should be considered an important poem for more than one reason. First of all, the poem makes a very clear and significant state­ment relating to the question why some Indian writers choose to write in English rather than in an Indian language, for instance in their mother tongue. Secondly, this poem illustrates Kamala Das’s ability to “successfully marshal diverse and tangential themes in one controlled poem” (Daruwalla). Starting with a reference to politics, the poem moves on to a statement of convictions in respect of her choice of medium and leads to convulsive outbursts of feelings of hurt and shame as also to statements on love and marriage which make for self- exposure and confession.

The poem carries with it most of the themes which one associates with her poetry, —themes of love, sex, loneliness, courage, self-exposure and search for identity. Most importantly, this poem illustrates Kamala Das’s daring innovativeness and as Prof C.D. Narasimhaiah has pointed out, she is perhaps the only Indian poet who owes little to Yeats or Eliot and trusted to her own resources and to her culture.

It is half-English, half Indian, funny perhaps… a mind that sees and hears and is aware-. Kamala Das has been one of the poets who created her own Indian-English idiom, an idiom which could recapture most suc­cessfully what the writer ‘feels’ in her own language. She has created for herself a style which reflects both her Indian and feminine sensi­bility.

When I asked for love… and closed the door. This is a statement which reflects the speaker’s first shocking encounter with male sexuality which shatters her dreams of pure love.

LL.31-34: An illustration of the speaker’s non-conformist attitude to social norms and the courage with which she breaks them. It is these aspects of her character which have made Ka­mala Das a subject of controversy.

LL.39-43: One hears in these lines the voice of a liberated woman who is striving to arrive at self-definition not in terms of personal relationships, but as an individual human being. LL.43-48: I met a man, loved him… the ocean’s tireless waiting. This is a recurrent theme in Kamala Das’s poetry, namely woman’s quest for love encountering man’s loveless lust. While this may be explained in terms of her own personal experience resulting in an utter disillusionment with the male of the species, one cannot miss the way in which the speaker re­lates the woman’s experience of infinite ‘waiting’ to larger questions, questions of identity and the problems of ‘ego’ and self-definition.

LL.49-59: Note the heavy recurrence of ‘I’ in these lines. A careful study of these lines will show that there is much more than the mere self-exposure of a liberated woman. Speaking intensely and with a deep sense of betrayal and disillusion­ment, the poet moves on to a speculation of much larger questions which have been at the centre of Indian philo­sophical thought.