Updated December 14, 2022
“Summer in Calcutta” is a poem describing Kamala Das’s reminiscent of a summer day that she spent in Calcutta. As depicted in the poem, it is the April month of the Summer and she is enjoying her time in Calcutta under the heat of the Sun.
Although the poem refers to the summer day, it incorporates other critical themes, which include but are not limited to only love, desire, and gender bias. This poem was also the name of Kamala Das anthology published in 1965.
Summary & Analysis of Summer in Calcutta
On the face, poem “Summer in Calcutta” by Kamala Das refers to April sun but, implicitly expresses love & sexual desire and escapism from the patriarchal system. She truly means Kamala Das as a confessional poetess with a distinction. Her poem opens up not only about her despair & grief in the male-dominated society but the lives of women suffering from the same.
The poem “Summer in Calcutta” has a single stanza but has multifold intricacies. The words are symbolic, figurative and hence contain implied meaning. For a better understanding we prefer breaking down the Single Stanza poem into mini themes.
What is this drink but
The April sun, squeezed
Like an orange in
At the outset of the poem, she points out the patriarchal thoughts over the woman. Kamala Das explains rhetorically in the very first line that what she is drinking is nothing else but an April Sun, squeezed like an orange Juice.
She insists & tries to convince the male-dominated society to not take her wrong as she is only sipping the heat of the sun. Considering the line, she is conveying the message that during the years of Kamala Das, women were not allowed to drink.
Even today, there are various instances where women are disenfranchised linguistically, socially, & politically in India. It refers to immanence & domesticity rooted in the Indian patriarchal society.
I sip the
Fire, I drink and drink.
Going further, she says that she is sipping the fire again & again. In one way, it can be interpreted as she is trying to convince the male-dominated society about the drink; what is drinking is nothing else but a Fire (Heat) of the Sun.
People generally emphasize something when they are afraid so that it shouldn’t be taken in other ways. And here, the repetition of drink symbolically refers to the situation wherein Kamala Das tries to ensure that she is drinking fire (soothing herself under the heat of the Sun).
…… I am drunk
Yes, but on the gold
of suns, What noble
venom now flows through
my veins and fills my
mind with unhurried
laughter ? ……
If it to see differently, it could be understood that she is sipping the fire again & again because the thirst of her internal soul is still to be quenched. Here, several critics refer to it as the inclination of Kamala Das toward Love & sexual desire.
On moving next line, we got to learn that Kamala Das has been intoxicated by the Gold of Sun (Heat) and get spread all over her body. And in an intoxicating state, Kamla Das is laughing without any reason. This clearly shows the influence of love & sexual desire at that moment.
…….. My worries
doze. Wee bubblesring
my glass, like a brides’
nervous smile, and meet
Moving further, Kamala Das, in the next line, explains that all of her worries start dozing now because of intoxicated situations. Also, the poet says that the bubbles of her drink (I guess in her memories) are quite small, just like a bride’s coy & shy smile that meets her lips during the wedding ceremony.
Upon gauging the implicit meaning, we can come to the conclusion that these lines symbolize the sexual desires of the poetess. It points to the situation that while sipping the drink, Kamla Das might memorize her own condition when she was a bride.
this moments lull in
wanting you, the blur
Further, Kamla Das speaks of infidelity & fidelity in her poem “Summer in Calcutta.” She asks her husband to forgive her for this particular situation wherein she had been overwhelmed by the emotions and, tasted the sexual pleasure & forgotten him.
brief the term of my
devotion, how brief
your reign when i with
glass in hand, drink, drink,
and drink again this
Juice of April suns………
Next, Kamla Das explains why she should be forgiven. She said that nothing lasts forever as his sincerity & faithfulness are short, so her devotion is brief. She has been overpowered by the emotions and enjoying the pleasure of Juice of April Suns by drinking again & again.
Themes Embraced in “Summer in Calcutta” Poem
The apparent spirit of the poem ‘summer in calcutta’ is more or less the same literary spirits in other of Kamla’s works. Pronounced flavours in the instant poem has an admixture of these essence:
(b) Sexual Desire
(e) Freedom of Speech & Expression
(f) Gender Bias
If you happen to check the short Biography of Kamala Das, it will instantly occur to you that the characteristics of her most of the works revolve around Love, feminist, autobiographical and iconoclastic approach.
Concluding words on “Summer in Calcutta”
Summer in Calcutta is a Poem of Love, sexual desire & dreams, and the poetess’s personal & private twitches. Kamala Das has beautifully incorporated the symbolic & figurative terminology into the poem.
If it is seen through another lens, it could be understood that the poem is expressing the revolt and rebellion, the feministic movement against patriarchy and male domination.
Significantly, Summer in Calcutta by Kamla Dass takes us to think of several elements that prevail in her years. The poem brings us closer to women’s studies, freedom of speech and expression, human rights and violations, gender bias and equality, and feminism.
Questions Mostly Asked on “Summer in Calcutta”
Ans– The Dance of the Eunuchs was the first poem written by Kamala Das in her Summer in Calcutta poem collection.
Ans- There are fifty poems in Kamla Dass’s Summer in Calcutta poem collection.
Ans- Summer in Calcutta was published in 1965. It was Das’s first book.
Ans- Love & patriarchy are the main themes of Summer in Calcutta.