Summary and Critical Analysis of the Poem A Hot Noon in Malabar
Summary of the Poem: A Hot Noon in Malabar
A Hot Noon in Malabar : The poetess recalls some of her experiences in her Malabar home at noon-time in the course of her life. She looks back at those experiences fondly and longingly. How fascinating, peaceful, and carefree was the past. She remembers of the hot noon-time when all sorts of persons used to pass by her house. Some of them were sellers who used to cry to sell their things. They brought all sorts of things. For selling their things they cried loudly in harsh voices. In their crying they told the qualities of their things.
The poetess first thinks of the beggars who used to come to her house for begging alms. Some of them were in very pathetic condition. While begging alms, they spoke in their particular voices. Their voices express their discontentment with their present lives and their vital need for charity. Next she remembers the fortune tellers who came from the hills with the cages of the parrots and colourful fortune cards. Due to using the fortune cards for a long time, they (cards) were stained. Then she recalls the Kurawa girls who sold the future of their customers by reading their palm lines.
While examining the palms of their customers, they told their future in monotonous voices. They repeated the same words. The sentences used by them greatly lacked in variety. With the help of their long practice and experience, they were able to satisfy the curiosity of their customers. They had known a lot about human psychology and nature. The poetess then recalls the bangle sellers who settled great distance to sell their bangles. They wandered from village to village and town to town selling their bangles of various colours such as red, green and blue. They walked on foot miles and miles of the dusty roads. Due to walking on the rough paths, their heels had cracked and they felt great pain. The dust froze on their clothes and bangles.
Due to making long journey, they were badly tired. They passed by the houses to sell their bangles to the girls and the women. When they tried to climb the portico, they felt great difficulty. They used to spread their colourful bangles on the floor before the girls and the women. Next she recalls of the strangers who used to pass by her house and peep into her house through the window curtains, but they could see nothing because the rooms of the house were dark while their eyes carried the heat and the brightness of sunlight in them. The strangers wanted shelter to escape from the excessive heat of the Sun and to rest for some time, so they expected some hospitality from the owner of the house and other members.
When they got no response from the house, they moved towards the brick lodged well to quench their thirst and get some rest from the heat of the Sun. All they were strange people, and had a kind of wild look in their eyes. They did not speak much, but when they spoke, their voices were always jungle voices. It was all the more a torture for her now, because these noons reminded her of other long past noons which were equally hot, but when she was happy and loved. In the present everything seems dirty, filthy, and unfamiliar, unlike the past when everything was familiar, innocent and pure.
Critical Appreciation of the Poem: A Hot Noon in Malabar
The poem entitled A Hot Noon in Malabar was first published in the poetess’s first anthology Summer in Calcutta, in the year 1965. This poem deals with a theme similar to My Grandmother’s House. It also deals with the nostalgic yearning of the poetess for happy and love filled childhood and the family home in Malabar. Like other poems in Summer in Calcutta, this poem scatters its fallout of heat, sweat and weariness over the heat, urban modes, vital heat, urban sophistication.
Kamala Das recalls some of her experiences in her Malabar home at noon-time in the course of life there. She looks back at those experiences fondly and longinly. She recalls the beggars who used to come to her house to beg alms in their characteristic voices expressive of their discontent with life and their need for charity. Next she thinks of the men who came from the hills with parrots in a cage and fortune- cards, all stained because of the long time during which those cards had been used again and again. Then she thinks of the brown-complexioned girls who belonged to the community of basket-makers and makers of bird-catching traps. These girls were a common sight in Malabar. These girls told the future of their customers by seeing the lines of their palms.
Next she thinks of the bangle sellers who walked miles and miles of the dusty roads in order to sell their bangles of various colours. Next she thinks of the strangers who used to come and peep into her house through the window-curtains, but they could see nothing because their eyes were filled with excessive heat of the sun and the brightness of the sunlight. They (strangers) expected the sympathy and hospitality from the members of the home.
They wanted to get shelter for some time in that home, but when they got no response, they turned to the well to satisfy their extremely thirst and to have some rest. The poetess experiences an intense longing to go back there and to look at all those men at whom she used to look during her life there. The feeling that she is now so far away from that home is a torture and unfamiliar, unlike the past when everything was familiar, innocent and pure.
The Use of Realistic Imagery: A Hot Noon in Malabar
In the present poem, we get a whole catalogue of the sights which Kamala Das had beheld when she used to live there. She has depicted men and women who passed that house or visited it. Those men and women included beggars, fortune-tellers, Kurawa girls offering to read palms, bangle sellers carrying their wares, and strangers who sought shelter or aid of some other kind. The imagery is perfectly realistic and, therefore, imparts the quality of authenticity to the poem. The realism of the imagery is enhanced by such details as the bangle-sellers being covered with the dust of the roads and the cracks on their heels, and also by a reference to the ‘brick-ledged well’.
Style and Language: A Hot Noon in Malabar
In the choice of words, Kamala Das exercises a special cure; and her words and the combination of those words into phrases, clauses and sentences, she shows a rare understanding of the meanings, the appropriateness, and the subtleties of words. In the poem, some of the phrases including a couple of similes show the verbal felicities which Kamala Das is capable of devising in her poem. ‘The bangle-sellers’ feel ‘devouring rough miles’, the hot eyes of the bangle-sellers ‘brimming with the sun’, and the strangers who rarely spoke so that when they did speak, their voices ran wild ‘like jungle-voices’ are among the verbal felicities here.
The feeling of home-sickness has effectively been expressed in the words: ‘To be here, far away, is torture’. The poem is characterised by the maximum possible economy in use of words. The poetess is capable to write rhythmic lines, though not using any rhyme. The use of commas, whenever they are needed in this poem, certainly contributes to its clarity.
Her Feeling of Alienation, Irony and Pathos: A Hot Noon in Malabar
Summer heat is a torture to the poetess but it reminds her of hot summer noons which she experienced in the family home in Malabar. How happy she was then! Everything seemed to be familiar and intimate, innocent and pure. But now everything is strange and conveys a feeling of alienation and horror. She yearns for the bygone time, for summer noons in her old family home in Malabar. But the pathos and irony lie in the fact that despite her passionate yearning for the old family home, she cannot relive the past. She has to live in the unpleasant and horrible present.
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