According to Jonathan Culler, “the fundamental identity of characters emerges as the result of actions, of struggles with the world, but then this identity is posited as the basis, even the cause of those actions” (111). The same cause is mirrored in the works of Meena Kandasamy (b. 1984) who belongs to that category which has the past tendency to get subjugated and suppressed the most – Dalit and Female. Kandasamy regards her writing as a process of coming to terms with her identity: her “womanness, Tamilness and low/outcasteness” that she wears with pride (Sarangi, par. 1). Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak suggests, “I construct my definition as a woman not in terms of a woman’s putative essence but in terms of words currently in use. ‘Man’ is such a word in common usage. Not a word, but the word” (Lodge and Wood 495). And one can note surprisingly that Meena Kandasamy changed her given, official and a very poetic Tamil name, Ilavenil to her pet name Meena. The titles of her both volumes imply perception of social deprivation that accumulates in history as cycles of violence and coils of collective guilt.
Her book of poems Touch was published in 2006. It is a collection of ardent poems dealing with oppressor-oppressed twofold conflict. Her second collection Ms Militancy was published in 2010. Kandasamy’s poems are well-versed by a wisdom of gender relations that suggest being a female in a largely patriarchal culture is another form of being a part of minor social group. “You don’t have to be a Dalit—by being a woman the caste is in you,” she says (Stancati, n. pag.).
Kandasamy realizes that a politically alert poet has to be transparent to herself so as to be a dependable voice of dissent and resistance. In the title poem of her debut volume “Touch”, she talks about various shades of touch during particular moods and activities like meditation, distractions, at rising of Kundalini and touch of tongue and the poem is addressed to upper class society and each stanza ends expressing her anguish towards this society,
You will have known this.
But the concluding note states a very disheartening and bare fact about the treatment given to untouchable by the high caste people. The close relationship is very instrumental in shaping a Dalit poetic self. The prime demand causing immediacy on a Dalit self results from his understanding of age-old politics of the negation of one's own body and mind. Being now awakened, the persona here speaks about undeserving hate and the forbidden touch,
But, you will never have known
that touch – the taboo
to your transcendence,
when crystallized in caste
was a paraphernalia of
Now the subaltern communities found a new name by coming together with the perspective ‘Dalit is dignified’ thereby rejecting the sub-human status imposed on them by the Hindu social order (Mishra, par. 5). Kandasamy’s hatred against casteism is remarkably revealed in the poem “Mariamma”. A collective identity and its agony is...