Kamala Surayya popularly known by her one-time pen name Madhavikutty and married name Kamala Das was an Indian poet in English as well as an author in Malayalam from Kerala, India. Let us remember her on the occasion of her birthday.

Kamala Das was born in Malabar District (present-day Thrissur district, Kerala) on 31 March 1934, to V. M. Nair, a managing editor of the widely circulated Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi, and Nalapat Balamani Amma, a renowned Malayali poet. She spent her childhood between Calcutta, where her father was employed as a senior officer in the Walford Transport Company that sold Bentley and Rolls Royce automobiles, and the Nalapat ancestral home in Punnayurkulam.

Like her mother Balamani Amma, Kamala Das also excelled in writing. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayana Menon, a prominent writer.

At the age of 15, she married bank officer Madhav Das, who encouraged her writing interests, and she started writing and publishing both in English and Malayalam. English was the language she chose for all six of her published poetry collections.

She was noted for her many Malayalam short stories as well. At the age of 42, she published a daring autobiography, My Story; it was originally written in Malayalam (titled Ente Katha) and later she translated it into English.

Kamala Das is essentially known for her bold and frank expression. The prominent features of her poetry are an acute obsession with love and the use of confession. The main theme of her poetry is based on freedom, love, and protection. She wrote on a diverse range of topics, often disparate- from the story of a poor old servant to the sexual disposition of upper-middle-class women living near a metropolitan city or in the middle of the ghetto.

Her husband died in 1992. She converted to Islam on December 11, 1999, at the age of 65, and assumed the name Kamala Surayya. She passed away on 31 May 2009, aged 75. In her lifetime, she was awarded many awards and accolades including the Kerala Sahitya Academy Award, Kendra Sahitya Academy Award, Vayalar Award, etc. 

Staff Reporter

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