Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kamala Surayya (1934 - 2009)

Recognized as one of India's foremost poets, Kamala was born on March 31, 1934 . Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayan Menon, a prominent writer. Surayya remembers watching him "work from morning till night" and thinking that he had "a blissful life. She was also deeply affected by the poetry of her mother, Nalapat Balamani Amma, and the sacred writings kept by the matriarchal community of Nayars. She was privately educated until the age of 15 when she was married to K. Madhava Das. She was 16 when her first son was born and says 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 her and her sons. Because of the great age difference between Kamala and her husband, he often encouraged her to associate with people of her own age. She says that he was always "very understanding".

When she wished to begin writing, her husband supported her decision to augment the family's income. Because she was a woman, however, she could not use the morning-till-night schedule enjoyed by her great uncle. She would wait until nightfall after her family had gone to sleep and would write until morning: "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". This rigorous schedule took its toll upon her health, but she views her illness optimistically. It gave her more time at home, and thus, more time to write.
As Kamala’s career progressed, her greatest supporter was always her husband. Even when controversy swirled around her sexually charged poetry and her unabashed autobiography, My Story, her husband was "very proud" of her. Though he was sick for 3 years before he passed away, his presence brought her tremendous joy and comfort. She stated that there "shall not be another person so proud of me and my achievements" (Warrior interview). And her achievements extend well beyond her verses of poetry. Kamala says, "I wanted to fill my life with as many experiences as I can manage to garner because I do not believe that one can get born again". True to her word, Kamala has dabbled in painting, fiction, and even politics. Though she failed to win a place in Parliament in 1984, she has been much more successful of late as a syndicated columnist. She has moved away from poetry because she claims that "poetry does not sell in this country [India]," but fortunately her forthright columns do (Warrior interview). Her columns sound off on everything from women's issues and child care to politics.

In December, 1999 she converted to Islam, creating a furore in the press. Less than a year later, Kamala Surayya announced on plans to register her political party 'Lok Seva,'

At the age of 75 yrs. Kamala Surayya (Madhavikutty) died in a private hospital at Pune on 31st may 2009, Sunday early morning (May god bless her with peace n heaven)