AN INTRODUCTION by KAMALA DAS
I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru.
I am Indian, very brown, born in Malabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Mo pa konpran politik me mo konn bann nom
Seki dan pouvwar e mo kapav resit zot kouma
Zour dan lasemenn, ousa mwa dan lane, koumans ar Nehru.
Mo enn endien, bien nwar, pran nesans dan Malabar,
Koz trwa lang, ekrir
Dan de, rev dan enn.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
Pa ekrir an Angle, zot ti dir,
Pa to lang maternel sa. Zot pa kapav
Fou mwa lape, zot tou – kritik, konesans,
Kouzen-kouzinn? Les mo koz lang
Ki mo anvi. Lang ki mo koze,
Li pou mwa, so lanver ek so landrwat
Zot pou mwa, zis pou mwa.
It is half English, half Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don’t
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
Li moso Angle, moso Endien, kikfwa komik, sirtou onet,
Li imen parski mo imen – zot
Pa konpran? Li kriye mo lazwa, mo dezir, mo
Lespwar e mo bizen li kouma
Zwazo bizen sante e lion bizen kriye, sa
Parol imen sa, parol lespri ki
Isi pa laba, lespri ki trouve, ki tande e ki
Kone. Pa parol sourday ek kaylous
Bann pie dan toufann, lapli toransiel, ousa
Bla-bla dan vid dife ronflan
Krematwar. Enn baba
Ti pe vinn gran parski mo ti pe pouse,
Mo lekor ti pe sanze e pwal ti pe pouse.
When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.
Kan mo ti rod lamour san kone kifer,
Li ti ferm mwa dan enn lasam
Ar enn tilom sez an. Mem li pa ti violan,
Mo lekor zenn fam tris ti kraze.
Pwa mo tete ek mo vant ti fini mwa.
Mo ti pe koule san soulazman.
Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games.
Lerla … mo ti met semiz ek pantalon
Mo frer, koup mo seve kourt, movi ar
‘Tifi pa fer sa’. Zot ti dir
Met sari, to enn beti,
Mazinn maryaz. Aprann koutir, kwi manze,
Okip lakaz. Swiv sistem, swiv kiltir,
Bann ortodox kriye. Aret asiz lor miray, louk par lafnet.
Pa bliye to apel Amy, Kamala. Si to’le
Nou apel twa Madhavikutty.
Swazir to nom, mazinn to rol. Aret fer vadire.
Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love … I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans’ tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
Aret zwe katorz-vetwit, aret
Fer bebet ansaler. Aret fer senn kan lom la
Finn kil twa … Mo ti zwenn enn zom, tom amoure. Apel
Li Zom, zom ki bizen
Enn fam kouma mwa Fam
Mo bizen lamour. Li … enn larivier
Ki fonse, mwa … enn losean eternelman
Ouver. Twa ki twa, mo dimann tou dimoun,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I
In this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.
Repons: mwa ki mwa. Partou-partou, kot pase
Mo zwenn misie mo-mwa-momem
Ki dan bien kouma kouto dan fouro.
Mo-mwa-momem ki bwar tousel
Gramaten, midi, tanto isi-laba,
Mo-mwa-momem ki dan goun, ki fongoyo,
Lerla gagn onte, ki pe mor
Ar enn ronfleman dan lagorz. Mo enn peser,
Mo enn sen. Mo mo konn adorasion
Ek traizon. Mo boner li to boner,
Mo maler li to maler. Mo’si mo Mo-mwa-momem.