ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Analysis of Poem My Grandmother's House by Kamala Das

Updated on June 18, 2020
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Kamala Das
Kamala Das | Source

Kamala Das And a Summary of My Grandmother's House

My Grandmother's House is a short poem from Kamala Das which focuses on love lost, nostalgia and emotional pain.

Basically, the speaker is looking back to a time as a child when she could enjoy love in a comfortable and contented household. She contrasts this blissful existence with that of her current situation, which is loveless and dire.

This juxtaposition of then and now, past with present, creates the tension within the single stanza poem and gives to the reader a stark picture of change - how the circumstances have altered for the speaker.

There is also the idea that the speaker is trying to make someone see just how low she has gotten, how desperate the situation. That someone is the likely partner, husband, spouse. Or it could be a close friend.

Kamalas Das (1934 - 2009) is recognised as one of India's most influential female poets. She helped promote the cause of feminism in the 1960s and 70s, producing work related to family and home, giving it a modern twist by introducing sex and the body into the poetical narrative.

'women writers owe a special debt to Kamala Das. She mapped out the terrain for post-colonial women in social and linguistic terms. And in her best poems she speaks for women, certainly, but also for anyone who has known pain, inadequacy and despair.'

Eunice de Souza, Nine Indian Poets: An Anthology, OUP,1997

My Grandmother's House is written in English but Kamala Das also wrote in Malayalam, a native Indian language from her state of Kerala. This ability reflects the colonial/personal split in some of her work, the former imposed by the British, the latter native.

This poem was first published in the book Summer Time in Calcutta (now Kolkata), 1965.

My Grandmother's House

There is a house now far away where once
I received love……. That woman died,
The house withdrew into silence, snakes moved
Among books, I was then too young
To read, and my blood turned cold like the moon
How often I think of going
There, to peer through blind eyes of windows or
Just listen to the frozen air,
Or in wild despair, pick an armful of
Darkness to bring it here to lie
Behind my bedroom door like a brooding
Dog…you cannot believe, darling,
Can you, that I lived in such a house and
Was proud, and loved…. I who have lost
My way and beg now at strangers' doors to
Receive love, at least in small change?

Analysis of My Grandmother's House Line by Line

My Grandmother's House has 16 lines, a single stanza of free verse, so therefore no set rhyme scheme.

The lines alternate between pentameters and tetrameters, longer then shorter, to sharpen the contrast between past and present, between being loved and not loved.

  • The basic theme is that of lost love, the speaker bemoaning the fact that once she lived in a house where she was loved but now her circumstances mean that she has no love in her life.

Lines 1 - 2

The speaker ruminates on the past, telling of a house that still exists but is so far away in her memory. There she was loved. This is the grandmother's house the reader can presume, and the woman is the grandmother (or the actual speaker?).

Note the dots at the end of the word love. Some have been critical of this device, calling it a lazy prop, but the dots play a part as a pause (think of Emily Dickinson's use of those famous dashes), a poignant gap in proceedings.

Lines 3 - 4

When the woman passed away the house became silent. Nature invaded in the form of the snake, symbol of danger and coldness, sliding among the books, a telling scene, perhaps of significance to the speaker.

The speaker was too young, she didn't really understand what was going on.

Lines 5 - 6

She couldn't read anyway, she only had the dark feelings, she became cold like the house itself.

But still she thinks about a return.

Lines 7 - 8

She wants to peer in through the windows, which may be 'blind eyes' perhaps she won't be able to see anything at all, she won't be able to go back in her memory to once again feel the love.

Even though the air may be frozen she wants to go back. This is a longing in her, to restore the love.

Lines 9 - 10

And she'll be so overcome with despair she'll bring back some darkness from that house, a reminder of the past. This is how desperate the speaker is - even darkness would suffice, alleviating her current crisis.

Lines 11 - 12

That darkness will be used figuratively, like a dog (note the simile), a dark body brooding. Is the bedroom door significant? Why not the living room door? The kitchen door? The bedroom is a place of intimacy and quiet. Perhaps this is why the speaker wants to return - she has no intimate love in her life?

She is telling someone, in conversation perhaps, someone close because she uses that word darling. Is this her current partner, a husband, spouse - or a dear close friend? Either way, her situation is unbelievable.

Lines 13 - 14

The speaker reinforces the disbelief. Yes, she did once enjoy being loved, in her grandmother's house, before she could read, when she was young.

But now she's lost all that pride and love. Why? How?

Lines 15 - 16

She somehow has lost it, life and love go hand in hand and she is now rock bottom, having to beg for small change. Is she really having to do this, for some solace, for cash, or is this a metaphorical scene portraying her plight in the realm of love.

Or is she having to go to people she does not know, giving herself away for little.

Enjambment in My Grandmother's House

Enjambment occurs when one line runs on into the next with no punctuation to bring about a pause. Meaning continues however. This poetic device causes the reader potential confusion as there is no need to pause or stop. The idea is to carry on reading and take sense alongside.

This poem is full of enjambed lines, a ploy to cause unusual break of line, a reflection of the contrasting state of the speaker.

There are only three lines ending with punctuation where the reader has to pause.

© 2020 Andrew Spacey


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a sorrowful poem in that he or she is still searching for a similar type of love experienced, at one time, from her grandmother.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 weeks ago from SW England

      What a poignant poem, made even more sorrowful by the last lines.

      Thanks for the education too, Andrew.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)