Kamala Suraiyya(31 March 1934 – 31 May 2009) was an Indian writer who wrote in English and Malayalam, her native language.She was born in a conservative Hindu Nair (Nallappattu) family having Royal anscestry,she embraced Islam in 1999 at the age of 65 and assumed the name Kamala Suraiyya. Her conversion was somewhat controversial, in among other social and literary circles. Later she stated in an interview that she felt it was not "worth to change one's religion.Das' first book, Summer In Calcutta was a promising start. She wrote chiefly of love, its betrayal, and the consequent anguish. Ms. Das abandoned the certainties offered by an archaic, and somewhat sterile, aestheticism for an independence of mind and body at a time when Indian women poets were still expected to write about fantasies of eternal, bloodless, unrequited love.She openly and honestly discussed and wrote about the sexual desires of Indian women, which made her an iconoclast of her generation.Kamala Das wrote about a range of topics, often disparate, from the story of poor old servant (Punnayoorkulam) or about the sexual disposition of upper middle class women living near a metropolitan city or in the middle of the ghetto. Some of her better-known stories include Pakshiyude Manam, Neypayasam, Thanuppu, and Chandana Marangal. She wrote a few novels , among which Neermathalam Pootha Kalam, which was received favourably by the reading public as well as the critics, stands out.
Collection of her some poems is in this link.
MAN-WOMAN NEXUS IN THE POETRY OF KAMALA DAS
India is a unity in diversity and its literature also gives the same fragrance. Modern Indian English poetry emerged at the end of the Second World War after the end of colonialism. It is one of the many 'new literatures' which began at that time. It is also a fact that modern Indian poetry in English has been neglected by the most of the critics, foreign readers and intellectuals as compare to the creative writings of Africa and the Caribbean. The reason is that it has no obvious and direct relationship to the cultural movements which led to national independence. But by 1947, the situation had changed and with it the concern of the new poets became their relationship to and alienation from the realities of their society. They got a hard challenge from older nationalist writers and from regionalists who demanded a renaissance of the culture of pre-colonial languages of India.
Now English is no longer the language of colonial rulers. It is a language of modern India in which words and expressions have recognized national significances and references. English is not the language of ordinary people. It is the language of those who govern, communicate, produce and make decisions at the national level. Words, phrases, expressions of modern Indian English poetry show the local realities, Indian traditions and ways of
feelings. Such Indianization is present in the poetry of Kamala Das, Pritish Nandy and more strongly in the works of Keki Daruwala. It is more commonly present in terms of voice and stress in the poetry of Nissim Ezekiel and Jayant Mahapatra.
Indian English poetry is become a part of the process of modernization which includes urbanization, industrialization, independence and social change and resulting the evolution of an English language culture alongside that of Hindi and the regional languages. Despite continuing attacks on the Indian English poets, their place in modern Indian culture is recognized.
The Indian English poets as a group tend to be marginal to traditional Hindi society not only by being alienated by their English language education but also by belonging from such communities as the Parsis, Jews and Christians or being a rebel from Hinduism and Islam or by living in foreign countries. Many poets of Indian English language come from westernized Indian families and several poets were sent to boarding schools in their childhood. They often do not have local roots.
The Indian English poet's decision to use English as a language of writing poetry is not only influenced by education but also by the poor
state of regional language poetry. In this regard, Kamala Das herself says that:
"When she began writing in English, there was no modern poetry in Malayalam."1 Manohar Shetty also has the same views regarding his regional language poetry or literature. He opines that:
"In Tulu (the language of his family) there is no creative literature."
Many Parsi poets writing in English language may be explained by the fact that Parsi-Gujrati is a dialect without a tradition of serious and creative literature.
Many of the poets have been particularly active in translating from regional languages. Ramanujan is famous for his translations from classical and medieval Tamil and modern Kannada, Jayant Mahapatra from Oriya, Kolatkar from Marathi, Patel from Gujarati, Mehrotra from Hindi and Nandi's translations Bengali are known to every one who is familiar with Indian English poetry.
Kamala Das is the most distinctive and unique voice in Indian English poetry in particular and the whole Indian literary scene in general. She brings a most noticeable and directly perceptible feminine sensibility and an explicit, undisguised, natural idiom in her poems. Recognized as one of the foremost poets of India, Kamala Das was born on March 31, 1934 in Malabar in Kerala. By the influence of her great uncle Nalapat Narayan Menon who is a prominent writer, her love poetry began at an early age. Kamala Das remembers watching him "work from morning till night" and thinking that he had a blissful life. Kamala Das was also greatly affected by the poems of her mother, Nalapat Balamani Amma, and the sacred writings kept by the matriarchal community of Nayars. She was married to K. Madhava Das at the tender age of fifteen. She herself says in her interview that she "was mature enough to be a mother only when my third child was born." Her husband "often played a fatherly role for both Das and her sons"2. There is a big age difference between kamala Das and her husband.
When Kamala Das wished to begin writing, her husband supported her decision only because of his want of improving the income of the family. However, she could not enjoy the morning - till - night schedule like her great uncle. She would wait till night to write. In an interview, she accepts:
"there was only the kitchen table where I would cut vegetables, and after all the plates and things were cleared, I would sit there and start typing."3
At the age of 65, in 1999, she converted Hindu to Islam and became Kamala Das to Suraiya. She had the view that only Islam could provide a woman love and protection.
Kamala Das began to write at the tender age of six and after that she gave a number of remarkable and memorable works. She has the great writing skill both in poetry and prose. She has the perfect hand both in prose and verse. She wrote effectively in both the languages i.e. in English and in Malayalam. She wrote following 10 works in English language : The Sirens Summer in Calcutta The Descendants The Old Playhouse and Other Poems My Story Alphabet of Lust The Anamalai Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories Only the Soul Knows How to Sing Yaa Allah In Malayalam language, she wrote following 14 works under the pen name of Madhavikutty: Pakshiyude Manam Naricheerukal Parakkumbol Thanuppu Balyakala Smaranakal Varshangalkku Mumbu Palayan Neypayasam Dayarikkurippukal Neermathalam Pootha Kalam Chekkerunna Pakshikal Nasthapetta Neelambari Chandana Marangal Madhavikkuttyude Unmakkadhakal Vandikkalakal
In English language, she published her first work in 1964 titled as 'The Sirens'. After that 'Summer in Calcutta ' in 1965, 'The Descendants' in 1967, 'The Old Playhouse and Other Poems' in 1973, 'My Story' in 1976, 'Alphabet of Lust' in 1977, 'The Anamalai' in 1985, 'Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories' in 1992, 'Only the Soul Knows How to Sing' in 1996 and 'Yaa Allah' in 2001 were published. Among them 'My Story' is an autobiography, 'Alphabet of Lust' is a novel, 'Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories' is a collection of short stories and the remaining are the collections of poems.
In the language of Malayalam, she wrote 'Pakshiyude Manam' in 1964, 'Naricheerukal Parakkumbol' in 1966, 'Thanuppu' in 1968, 'Balyakala Smaranakal' in 1987, 'Varshangalkku Mumbu' in 1989 and 'Palayan' in 1990.
Kamala Das received many national and international awards for her great literary contribution. Some of them are Asian Poetry Prize, Kent Award for English Writing from Asian Countries, Asan World Prize, Ezhuthachan Award, Sahitya Academy Award, Vayalar Award and Kerala Sahitya Academy Award. She has also held the position of Vice Chair person in Kerala Sahitya Academy.
Kamala Das is a poet of many facets and moods. She is a poet of free love. Love is the lynch-pin round which the poetry of Kamala Das revolves. Her unfilled need for love is the main treatment in her poems. Love is a complex and multi-dimensional human experience in her poetry. It has physical, emotional and spiritual moods in the poetry of kamala Das. Love and hate are often neighbors in her poetry. The theme of alienation is also present in the poems written by her. Because of her disillusionment and alienation from this physical world, she gives the note of protest with feminism in her poetry. Apart from these themes, the theme of glorifying the womanhood is also grabbing our attention. Her poems are mainly concerned with her uncaring husband, her childhood, her marriage, love, life and her intimacy others. Kamala Das delights in celebrating herself in her essential feminine self. Her writing style is economical and the use of language is very precise. Such is her creative genius that even after succumbing to several unwanted controversies,she remains a widely popular literary figure. Kamala Das is not only a poet of Indian English language, but she is an age herself.
There are several types of relationships between a man and a woman is known in this mortal world. These relationships are made by human beings to meet their different types of social, personal and emotional needs. The first and foremost relationship between a and a woman is of mother- son relationship. Man- woman relationships of father-daughter, husband-wife, brother-sister and lover- beloved are other types of man-woman relationships and each and every man-woman relationship has its own social, personal and emotional values and significances. The treatment of man-woman relationship is the main and most important theme of the poems of Kamala Das. Although the treatment of man- woman relationship in her poetry is something subjective, but it is also true for general life of common man common woman. In her poetry, she generally talks about her relationships with her husband and with other men also to whom she treats as her friends or lovers. But the conclusion of all the relations made by her to men including her husband is that love is the necessary element to make a healthy relationship which she fails to get. In her famous poem 'The Freaks', Kamala Das talks about the disgust relationship of a husband and wife. In this poem she concludes about the base of the husband- wife relationships in the following lines:
"But, they only wander, tripping Idly over puddles of Desire...can't this man with Nimble finger-tips unleash Nothing more alive than the Skin's lazy hungers?"4
Here she has the view that only physical relation cannot give a perfect touch to a man-woman i.e. a husband-wife relationship. She asks:
Who can Help us who have lived so long And have failed in love?"5
Meaning is that love is necessary to build a healthy and long lasting relationship between anyone. Only physical relationship is not able to bind the two persons.
In her another poem 'The Sunshine Cat', she also talks about the same kind of loveless relationship of the man and woman. She complains:
"... the man she loved who loved her not enough...
the husband who neither loved nor used her" 6
and concludes the fate of this loveless bond of man - woman relationship in the following way: "a bed made soft with tears and she lay there weeping.."7
Hence, in the poetry of Kamala Das, she strongly recommends that the presence of love is necessary to make any kind of healthy and long lasting relationship between man and woman. Whether it is a bond of husband and wife or lover and beloved or it is bond of mother and son, all types of man-woman relationship can be made only by a bond of love.