A Hot Noon in Malabar by Kamala Das

The poem, A Hot Noon in Malabar, is taken from the collection of poems titled ‘Summer in Calcutta” (1965). It deals with Kamala Das’s happy childhood spent in her grandmother’s house in Malabar. It is full of pathos which shows Kamala Das’s loss of happy and peaceful days of childhood which she spent in the loving and caring company of her grandmother. The action of the poem tosses between memory and desire, between nostalgia and estrangement. The poetess longs for the hot noon in Malabar which was full of life as compared to her torturing experience of noon in a big city where she settled after her marriage.

 

A Hot Noon in Malabar Analysis

This is a noon for beggars with whining

(…)

All stained with time,

This is the opening section of the poem A Hot Noon in Malabar, which can be read in full here, written by the renowned Indian English poetess Kamala Das.

It dramatizes the tragedy of her marital life in which she has lost all her freedom and identity. It is almost a torture for her to live far away from her parental house in Malabar where she was loved and respected.

The poetess is reminded of her parental house in Malabar during the hot noon of the summer season. It was the time of the arrival of  beggars who begged by raising their jarring disturbing voices. People used to come from hills with caged parrots and with stained dirty cards to predict the fortunes of the local inhabitants.

The poetess is in a state of nostalgia which brings her face to face with her ancestral house at Malabar. She has imaginatively recreated the live picture of the hot noon in Malabar filled with life and multiple activities.

for brown Kurava girls

(…)

Clambered up our porch, the noise was grating,

This part of the poem is the extension of the lively picture of the preceding section which deals with the arrival of the poor beggars in Malabar at noon to be beg for their survival. It shows how the fortune –tellers were busy predicting the future of their customers by reading fortune cards.

The brown-coloured Kurava girls used to visit the Malabar. The girls, with their experienced eyes, predicated the future of their customers by minutely studying the palms of their hands. They foretold the future in their carefree nasalized way. The bangle-sellers spread on the ground dust-ridden bangles of different colours to sell them to the people of Malabar. They used to come to Malabar after travelling long distances. Their heels developed cracks due to long journey on foot. As they ascended the porch of the poetess’s parental house, their cracked heels produced harsh, jarring sounds which seemed to them to be very strange

The poetess is all lost recollecting the life of a hot noon in Malabar which she enjoyed during her early stay in it. She was all fascinated by this colourful sight and was totally identified with it. Unlike her present unpleasant and boring city life, her past life in Malabar was very enjoyable and exciting. Her separation from her parental house has totally destabilized her life. She has lost all her happiness and peace of mind in the soul-killing city-life. The ellipse (dots) here shows the poetess’s longing for her past stay in Malabar which was very familiar and pleasant.

This is a noon for strangers who part

(…)

So yearningly at the brick-ledged well.

The poem, At Hot Noon In Malabar, had its own fascination. It was the time when Kurava girls visited Malabar to predict the future of their clients by reading the palms of their hands and fortune cards. The bangle-sellers displayed their multi-coloured dust-ridden bangles on the ground to attract the attention of the buyers.

During the progress of the summer noon, the strangers used to pass by the poet’s parental house. The poetess visualizes the strangers from the outside world parting the window curtains and peering through the window of her room, with their hot and burning eyes, and searching for shelter from the scorching heat of the sun. Failing to locate any occupant, they looked anxiously towards the brick-ledged well to quench their thirst and relax their and protect themselves from the intense heat of the sun.

The poetess is in a mood of reminiscence. It shows her total identification with the description of the noon in Malabar. Kamala Das’s descriptive power is shown at its best in this part of the poem. She has given us the very feel of the place which was filled with life and rural activities. She has imaginatively revisited the scene in which she had actually participated in the past.

This

Is a noon for strangers with mistrust in

(…)

Home in Malabar, and I so far away ……

The poetess recaptures the scene of the noon in Malabar which she had witnessed during her earlier stay in her ancestral house. It was the time of the arrival of fortune-tellers and bangle-sellers that spared no efforts to attract their customers. Fed up with the scorching heat of the sun, they could be seen heading towards wells to quench their thirst.

It was a noon for the strangers-fortune-tellers and bangle-sellers who had come to Malabar to earn their livings. An expression of distrust could be seen vividly reflected from their eyes. They were dark and speechless. They were apprehensive of whatever they observed. They spoke little but when they did speak, their voices sound unfamiliar and wild, like the jungle sounds. Undoubtedly, it was a noon exclusively meant for wild-men , wild though and wild love.

The poetess is regretful of having missed that sight after being shifted to the remote city from Malabar. It is a torture for her to live in the intense heat of the sun in the strange city  where  she presently stays. It reminds her of the hot noon in Malabar where she stayed in her parental house, where she was happy, satisfied and never protested against the scorching heat of the sun. The life in Malabar was quite different, though the people moved about in the hot noon there as elsewhere.

The poetess’s migration from Malabar to the city proved to be traumatic experience of her life. She suffered from an acute sense of alienation and all her life was destabilized. She loved the life of Malabar with all its limitation. She feels suffocated and alienated in the city, but always felt happy and contented in her parental rural house in Malabar. The poetess has given us a striking comparative picture of the rural and urban life in the concluding section of the poem.

 

Critical Note

The poem, A Hot Noon in Malabar, shows Kamala Das’s deep-rooted involvement in the past. It is a personal poem in which Das’s love for her parental house in Malabar is movingly described. Kamala presents a comparative picture of her life at ancestral home in Malabar and her life in cities. The poetess glorifies the rural life but condemns the urban life in this poem. She finds herself totally alienated in the city, but is always firmly rooted in the rural life of Malabar. This poem is a powerful articulation of Kamala Dass’s feminine sensibility.

The poet has given us the exact feel of the Indian locale in this poem. The poem is rich in creating the typical colour of life in Kerala. No attempt has been made for the romantic glorification of life in Malabar. The beggars have “whining voices”, fortune cards are “stained with  time”, kurava girls have “old eyes”, bangles are “covered with dust of the road”, feet are “cracked”  causing “grating and strange” noise and strangers have “mistrust” in their eyes”. It shows that Kamala Das affirms life with all its limitation.

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2 Comments

  1. Hafsa Tasneem November 7, 2019
    • mm Emma Baldwin November 17, 2019

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