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The Invitation By Kamala Das

Poem “The Invitation”  By: Kamala Das

Introduction 

Kamala Das, a well-known Indian poet, is famous for her honest and powerful poems that talk about love, identity, and the experiences of women. Her poem “The Invitation” is a great example of her unique style, where she shares her deep emotions and thoughts openly.

In “The Invitation,” Kamala Das invites readers to feel her inner struggles and longings. The poem describes her feelings of loneliness, sadness, and a strong desire for connection. The “invitation” in the poem is not just a call to someone but a plea for understanding and empathy. Using simple but powerful words, Das makes readers feel the intensity of her emotions.

The images she creates in the poem are vivid and memorable, reflecting her emotional state. Through this poem, Das speaks about the universal human need for companionship and the pain of unmet desires. Her honest expression of vulnerability makes the poem resonate with readers, offering a peek into the soul of a woman who is brave enough to defy societal norms.

Kamala Das uses free verse in the poem, meaning she doesn’t stick to a strict rhyme or rhythm. This free form highlights the genuineness of her feelings. “The Invitation” is more than just a poem; it’s a heartfelt expression of the human condition, showing Das’s incredible ability to turn complex emotions into relatable and touching poetry.

Text

I have a man’s fist in my head today 

Clenching, unclenching…… 

I have got all the Sunday evening pains. 

The sea is garrulous today. 

Come in, Come in. What do you lose by dying, and 

Besides, your losses are my gains.

Oh sea, let me shink or grow, slosh up, 

Slide down, go your way. 

I will go mine. He came to me between 

Long conferences, a fish coming up 

For air, and was warm in my arms 

And inarticulate… You are diseased 

With remembering, 

The man is gone for good. It would indeed 

Be silly to wait for his returning.

Come in, come in. Oh sea, just leave 

Me alone. As long 

As I remember, I want no other. 

On the bed with him, the boundaries of 

Paradise had shrunk to a mere 

Six by two and afterwards, when we walked 

Out together, they 

Widened to hold the unknowing city…… 

End in me, cries the sea. Think of yourself 

Lying on a funeral pyre 

With a burning head. Just think. Bathe cool, 

Stretch your limbs on cool 

Secret sands, pillow your head on anemones. 

All through that summer’s afternoons we lay 

On beds, our limbs inert, cells expanding 

Into throbbing suns. The heat had 

Blotted our thoughts… Please end this whiplash

Of memories, cries 

The sea. For long I’ve waited for the right one 

To come, the bright one, the right one to live 

In the blue. No. I am still young 

And I need that man for construction and

Destruction. Leave me…… 

The sea shall bear some prying and certain 

Violations, but I tell you, the sea 

Shall take no more, the sea shall take 

No more……The tides beat against the walls, they 

Beat in childish rage……

Darling, forgive, how long can one resist ?

Summary of the Poem 

In Kamala Das’s poem “The Invitation,” she invites the reader to understand her feelings of loneliness, sadness, and the deep longing for a meaningful connection. The poem is a heartfelt expression of her emotional state, where she shares her struggles with isolation and the desire to be understood and loved.The poem begins with the poet feeling a sense of emptiness and isolation. 

She describes her surroundings in a way that reflects her inner turmoil, suggesting that everything around her seems distant and disconnected. The invitation she speaks of is not a literal one; instead, it symbolizes her plea for someone to come into her life and provide the understanding and empathy she craves. On a certain day, the poetess had the feeling that, inside her head, a man’s fist was alternately tightening itself and then loosening itself. This feeling in her showed, not really the presence of a man’s fist in her head, but her own mental torment. She was feeling tortured by something. She generally felt the heartache on Sunday evenings when actually should be in a holiday mood. But the poetess remained in the state of depression. 

This was the reason why the sea seemed to be so garrulous to her. The sea seemed to be extending an invitation to her to come and drown herself in its welcoming waves. She felt that since her life was empty and worthless, without any trace of love and contentment, she would not be at loss if she accepted the sea’s invitation. The sea told the poetess that she would lose nothing by getting drowned in its waters, while it would gain something. The poetess’ loss of her life would mean a gain for the sea. The poetess resisted the call of the sea, she asked it to leave her alone. She asked the sea to go her own way and let her follow her own destiny. 

She remembered her lover, a man who used to come to her for stimulation, just like the fish occasionally leap above the surface of the water to get a bit of fresh air. He was warm in her arms and had a nice time with her. When he remained busy in sexual act, he kept silent all the time. The poetess liked him, because he did not indulge in meaningless conversation. 

The call of the sea was still very strong and insistent. It kept telling the poetess that to dwell upon the past was not useful and it was a great disturbance for her healthy life. It was useless to pine for that lover who had gone away and would never return again. The sea then urged her to put an end to her life by uniting her being with the water of the sea. It advised her that she should jump into the sea and terminate all her sufferings and frustration forever. The sea seemed to repeat its invitation to the poetess, but the poetess replied that she wanted to be left alone, and not to be pestered by the sea. 

Her thoughts again turned to her lover and she realized that she wanted no other lover but the same who had been sleeping with her and who had now gone away. In bed with him, she used to feel as if she was in paradise. The bed, six feet in length and two feet in width, was heaven for them. She remembered how happy they were together. The sea was very persistent in its efforts to lure her into ending her life by drowning in the waters. It promised her for a cool pleasant death which would be very different from the death by burning on a funeral pyre. 

The cool water of the sea would cool the fevered heat of her body, bring relief to her tortured soul, and she would die peacefully. Her head would be cradled by the rising and falling waves. She would be able to stretch her limbs on the cool sand at its bottom and would be able to rest her head on the flowers growing there. The poetess turned away from the sea and began to think again of her experience of love-making with her lover. Indeed those were the pleasureful moments for the poetess which she spent in the company of her lover. During summer, they remained busy in sexual act. They used to express intense love for each- other. They had been lying on the bed in the arms of each other for several hours. After the sexual act, they would lie listlessly on the bed. At that time no idea or thought could come in their minds. 

The sun like heat of their passion would leave them exhausted and lethargic. They remained in such state as if they had taken some intoxicant. Now the sea annoyed and asked the poetess to stop harping on her memories and stop waiting for the person who had deserted her. It told the poetess that it had been waiting for the right person to come along and it found the poetess to be the right person who should come and live in its blue water. The poetess kept opposing the forceful call of the sea. 

She replied the sea that she would not like to die because she wanted to live sometime more. She felt herself young. She told the sea that she desperately loved her lover for construction or destruction. The poetess had a vague hope that her lover might come back to her even though he might again forsake her. She requested the sea to leave her all by herself and to go away. She told it that she would never end her life by drowning in the sea. But the sea was insistent to invite her. It did not want to leave her alone. She had been resisting the sea’s invitation but she could not go on resisting it forever because the persistence of the sea finally became too much for the poetess to bear. She asked her lover to forgive her for not waiting for him any longer. She succumbed to the call of the sea and merged with its water. In the final lines of the poem, Kamala Das reaffirms her invitation, leaving the reader with a sense of anticipation and possibility. She ends on a note of hope, suggesting that the search for connection and understanding is a continuous journey. Her invitation remains open, a testament to her enduring hope and resilience.

                                                                

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