Blood :

When we were children

My brother and I

And always playing on the sands

Drawing birds and animals

Our great-grandmother said one day,

You see this house of ours

Now three hundred years old,

It’s falling to little bits

Before our very eyes

The walls are cracked and torn

And moistened by the rains,

The tiles have fallen here and there

The windows whine and groan

And every night

The rats come out of the holes

And scamper past our doors.

The snake-shrine is dark with weeds

And all the snake-gods in the shrine

Have lichen on their hoods.

O it hurts me she cried,

Wiping a reddened eye

For I love this house, it hurts me much

To watch it die.

When I grow old, I said,

And very very rich

I shall rebuild the fallen walls

And make new this ancient house.

My great-grandmother

Touched my cheeks and smiled.

She was really simple.

Fed on God for years

All her feasts were monotonous

For the only dish was always God

And the rest mere condiments.

She told us how she rode her elephant

When she was ten or eleven

Every Monday without fail

To the Siva shrine

And back to home again

And, told us of the jewel box

And the brocade from the north

And the perfumes and the oils

And the sandal for her breasts

And her marriage to a prince

Who loved her deeply for a lovely short year

And died of fever, in her arms

She told us

That we had the oldest blood

My brother and she and I

The oldest blood in the world

A blood thin and clear and fine

While in the veins of the always poor

And in the veins

Of the new-rich men

Flowed a blood thick as gruel

And muddy as a ditch.

Finally she lay dying

In her eighty sixth year

A woman wearied by compromise

Her legs quilted with arthritis

And with only a hard cough

For comfort

I looked deep into her eyes

Her poor bleary eyes

And prayed that she would not grieve

So much about the house.

I had learnt by then

Most lessons of defeat,

Had found out that to grow rich

Was a difficult feat.

The house was crouching

On its elbows then,

It looked that night in the pallid moon

So grotesque and alive.

When they burnt my great grandmother

Over logs of the mango tree

I looked once at the house

And then again and again

For I thought I saw the windows close

Like the closing of the eyes

I thought I heard the pillars groan

And the dark rooms heave a sigh.

I set forth again

For other towns,

Left the house with the shrine

And the sands

And the flowering shrubs

And the wide rabid mouth of the Arabian Sea.

I know the rats are running now

Across the darkened halls

They do not fear the dead

I know the white ants have reached my home

And have raised on walls

Strange totems of burial.

At night, in stillness,

From every town I live in

I hear the rattle of its death

The noise of rafters creaking

And the windows’ whine.

I have let you down

Old house, I seek forgiveness

O mother’s mother’s mother

I have plucked your soul

Like a pip from a fruit

And have flung it into your pyre

Call me callous

Call me selfish

But do not blame my blood

So thin, so clear, so fine

The oldest blood in the world

That remembers as it flows

All the gems and all the gold

And all the perfumes and the oils

And the stately

Elephant ride….

One of the greatest literary figures in Malayalam, Kamala Das was born in the year 1934 in Punnayurkulum, in South Malabar, Kerala. Her work, in poetry and in prose, has given her a permanent place in modern Malayalam literature as well as in Indian writing in English. She is best known for her feminist writings and focus on womanhood. She has been the recipient of such famous awards as the Poetry Award for the Asian PEN Anthology, the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for the best collection of short stories in Malayalam and the Chaman Lal Award for fearless journalism.

Blood :