The poem, The Sunshine Cat, is taken from the collection of poems titled Summer in Calcutta (1965). It shows the difference between lust and love in a very convincing manner. It is a personal poem having universal implications. The poet has approached the tragic consequences of the life of lust wherein there is no space for emotional and spiritual satisfaction. She has adopted the female perspective for highlighting the predicament of a helpless and frustrated woman in the modern male-dominated society.
The Sunshine Cat Analysis
They did this to her, the men who know her, the man
Used her, but was a ruthless watcher,
In this opening passage of the poem, The Sunshine Cat, which can be read in full here, the poet highlights the disastrous consequences of the life of lust which often end in destruction and death. It shows that only real love can give a person emotional and spiritual satisfaction.
The poem realistically deals with the pathos of a forlorn woman who failed to get real love in life. She was sexually ill-treated and exploited by those whom she loved and were known to her. They indulged in lust but denied her the emotional and spiritual thrills of love. She particularly referred to one person among them whom she really loved but got nothing in return.
Unfortunately, the man i.e. her lustful husband overlooked her emotional needs and limited himself to the gratification of his lust only. Ironically, he was not only selfish but also a cowardly person. He never bothered to have an emotional rapport with her. He neither loved her nor used her but remained a ruthless watcher only who kept a close watch over her relations with other men.
This passage shows the difference between lust and love in life. For Kamala Das, lust is limited to the gratification of sensual desires only. It is a one-sided relationship in which the emotional needs of the other partner in sexual-relationship are sadly overlooked. It is a momentary relationship in which no lasting unification is possible. Love, on the other hand, is a timeless spiritual relationship. It is a confessional poem in which the poet highlights the tragic consequences of forced arranged loveless marriages. It is full of pathos in which the poet’s sufferings seem to have no end.
And the band
In my nature to love, but I can be kind to you.
The female persona, in the poem, suffered physically as well as mentally at the hands of her husband who neither loved nor used her. She loved him but her love was not reciprocated. She was suspected of having affairs with other men by her selfish and cowardly husband.
The men she approached for genuine love turned out to be cynics, having no faith in the goodness of human nature. They were in no way different from her selfish and lustful husband. The men she chose for getting genuine love were cynical, having no trust in the basic goodness of human nature. She clung to their chests overgrown with new hair like great-winged moths and buried her face into the smells of their skins.
She submitted herself to their young greed to forget the longing for real love. But they too proved selfish and cruel like her husband, for they could offer her nothing but lust. She frankly admitted that it was not in her nature to love anybody. Being frigid, she had lost all her relevance as a woman in their eyes. Maximum, they could be kind and helpful to her in case of any emergency.
They let her slide from pegs of sanity into
She said, walls to shut me in.
In these lines, the poet becomes totally fed up with her marital as well as extra-marital relationships in life. She was shocked to learn that all her lovers had neither love nor lust but only lip sympathy for her.
The female persona was totally disillusioned by her husband as well as her other lovers. None bothered to satisfy her emotional-cum-spiritual needs. After being released from their clutches, she left for room to relax on her soft bed, and started shedding copious tears due to the cynical and hostile attitude of her lustful lovers. She feared that she would go mad in this tensed state of mind. She had built walls of tears around her, and enclosed herself within their boundaries. Being self-lost and dejected, she had consciously alienated herself from the main stream of life.
Frustration in love is always disastrous. It disturbs a dejected lover mentally and creates a vacuum in his/her life. The female personal frustrations in marital and extra-marital relationships have a disastrous impact on her life. She loses all her balance of mind and undergoes intense emotional and intellectual sufferings. She opts for a life of isolation and loses all interest in life. It is an autobiographical passage which has a direct bearing on the life of Kamala Das.
Her husband shut her
Half dead woman, now of no use at all to men.
In these lines, the life of the female persona is all destabilized due to her frustrations and disillusionment in love. She was shocked to learn that she had no relevance as a woman, having any dignified identity. She had finally realized that all her self-styled loves were cynics having no love for her.
Her husband locked her up in the morning in a room full of books. A streak of sunlight penetrated into the room and it lay there near the door. It looked like a yellow cat meant to be her constant company. But soon the winter season set in. One day, while her husband was locking her in the room, he visualized the streak of light that seemed like a cat, reduced to a very hair-thin line.
By the time he returned home in the evening to take his wife out of confinement, he discovered that she was cold and on the verge of death. She had lost her youthful appearance, freshness, and fascination. Moreover, she had lost the very urge to participate in the sexual act due the non-stop sufferings and humiliations which she had undergone at the hands of her cynical husband. Finally, she had become useless as an object of sexual exploitation.
Life of isolation and humiliation always ends in premature destruction and death. The poet felt suffocated in the life of confinement and lost her balance of mind. It compelled her to snap all her ties with the external world. She was totally dehumanized and lost her relevance as a woman, unfit for sexual purposes. All types of lustful relationships, marital or extra-marital, share a common tragic fate.