‘My grandmother’s House’ is a nostalgic poem penned down by the popular Indian author and poet Kamala Das. In this poem, the poet pours down her heartfelt remembrance of the days spent in her grandmother’s house when she was a child.
About the poet–
Kamala Surayya, also known by her pseudonym Madhavikutty and married name Kamala Das was a popular author as well as a poet whose contribution to the Indian Literature is remarkable. Her works can be found in both English and Malayalam. Through her works of literature, one can see a glance of unmatched boldness with the aspects of feminism, and sexuality of women, prostitution etc which was criticized by many. Some of her works include Padmavati The Harlot ; A Doll for the Child Prostitute ; My Story; Alphabet of Lust etc.
The poem “My Grandmother’s House” which can be read here is a very nostalgic poem, where the poet reminisces the days spent with her grandmother in her childhood. In the beginning lines, the poet says that she now lives somewhere far away from the house which once provided her with every comfort and happiness of life. All these things are now missing in her life, and hence she is reminded of the time spent with her grandmother, when she didn’t lack of anything. The day her grandmother left for the heavenly abode, her house turned silent. Her grandmother took away the soul of the house along with her. Therefore, when she expired, the house became silent, as there was no human being to take care of the house.
It is often seen that a place which is abandoned or not inhabited by any human being for a long time becomes the home of animals and reptiles. In the same way, grandmother’s house is now home to snakes and insects which move freely over the old books that once belonged to the poet’s grandmother. The poet Kamala Das never got a chance to read those books, because she was too young to understand books, while she was living with her grandmother. This entire scene of snakes crawling over the valuable books makes the house look horrible and creepy. This scene turned the poet’s blood cold just like the moon as she couldn’t tolerate the hideous sight.
The poet then expresses her longing to visit her grandmother’s house. Her attachment to her childhood house is unmatched. She wishes to peep inside the dead house through a small crack of the windows. The air of the house is now frozen, which implies that no fresh air has circulated through the house since the death of her grandmother, as it was locked. But, the poet is so desperate to visit that house that she would even be happy to stand there and feel the frozen air which would remind her of her grandmother. Next, the poet says that she wishes to “pick up an armful of darkness” and take it back to her distressed life. This line signifies that her present life is so chaotic that even a pinch of darkness from her beloved grandmother’s house might provide her with security and warmth.
In the final lines, she addresses her husband as ‘darling‘ and tries to tell the readers that her marriage life is a turmoil and she no longer finds her happiness behind the closed doors. She tells her husband that he could never believe that his wife once found happiness in the small house of her grandmother. In that house, she was very much loved and felt proud. Here, the poet tries to provide a fantastic contrast to her present life, where there is no one to provide her love. She adds that she is so desperate to be loved now that she has to beg at stranger’s doors asking for love. Her marriage no longer assures her security and love and therefore she reminisces her days at her grandmother’s house when she was loved beyond any comparison. All she is now left with are memories of the past.
‘My Grandmother’s House’ was first published in the poet’s anthology named ‘Summer Time in Calcutta’. It is an autobiographical poem, like most of her other poems, where she talks about her personal life.
The poem is quite a distressed one, which radiates pain of the author. Kamala Das known for her boldness, openly talks about her loveless marriage through this poem. She has mentioned that she does not receive love from her marriage anymore, and therefore she longs to go back to her grandmother’s house. She goes back to her grandmother’s house in her memories and describes its environment in the poem. However, the descriptions of the house point it out as a horrible scenario with snakes crawling everywhere. The house has lost its charm and soul after the death of poet’s grandmother. Even though the house is a horrible mess now, still the poet finds solace in that house, rather than in the loveless marriage where she is struck. It is because of her depressed life in her husband’s house, that makes her reminiscence of her childhood house. She uses it as an escape from her unhappy reality.
It can be said that Kamala Das had a pretty miserable life where she was deprived of love and care. Therefore, she tried to lighten her pain by recollecting memories of her favorite place. The theme of the poem is a bit sorrowful, and beams of grief can be experienced. Anyway, it is an interesting one where we can relate with the poet. Reminiscence of childhood days is something that we all do, and therefore we can relate with the poet through the poem.