An Essay on Kamala Das

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  • Topic: Sahitya Akademi Award, Sahitya Akademi, India
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  • Published : March 24, 2009
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An Essay on Kamala Das

Kamala Das born on 31st March 1934 is one of the best-known contemporary Indian women writers. She writes in two languages, English and Malayalam. She has also written under the pseudonyms Madhavikutty and Kamala Suraiyya.). Das was born into an aristocratic Nair Hindu family in Malabar. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her maternal great-uncle, Narayan Menon, a prominent writer, and her mother, Balamani Amma, a well-known Malayali poet. Das was also deeply affected by the poetry of the sacred writings kept by the matriarchal community of Nairs. Educated in Calcutta and Malabar, Das began writing at age six (her poems were “about dolls who lost their heads and had to remain headless for ever”) and had her first poem published by P.E.N. India at age fourteen. She did not receive a university education. She was married in 1949 to Madhava Das. Although Das and Madhava were romantically incompatible (Das's 1976 autobiography, My Story, describes his homosexual liaisons and her extramarital affairs), Madhara supported her writing. In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and autobiography, Das served as editor of the poetry section of The Illustrated Weekly of India from 1971-72 and 1978-79. After her husband died, Das converted to Islam and changed her name to Kamala Suraiyya. She currently lives in Kerala, where she writes a syndicated column on culture and politics.

Das has authored many autobiographical works and novels, several well-received collections of poetry in English, numerous volumes of short stories, and essays on a wide range of themes. The publication of her first collection of poetry, Summer in Calcutta (1965) provided her to be a significant influence of her generation. She writes in a noticeably Indian persona rather than adopting the practices of the English modernists. Das' confrontational poems are known for their audaciously honest explorations of the self and female...
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