|Biographical detail : ||Indian poet.
A prominent Indian, poet, memoirist and short-story writer Kamala Das was known for her open discussion of women’s sexual lives, a daring subject when she began publishing in mid-century.
A prolific writer, Kamala Das composed most of her poetry in English. Most of her fiction, which appeared under the pen name Madhavikutty, was written in her native Malayalam language spoken primarily in the South Indian state of Kerala.
In one of her famous memoirs, “My Story” written in English and published in 1976, Kamala Das recounts he childhood – her unfulfilling arranged marriage to an older man shortly before her 16th birthday; the emotional breakdowns and suicidal thoughts that punctuated her years as a young wife and mother; her husband’s apparent homosexuality; and the deep undercurrent of sexual and romantic yearning that ran through most of her married life.
Though “My Story” caused a sensation in India when it first appeared, albeit the sensational material presented obliquely. Many passages about her romantic encounters could reflect inward, unrequited longing as easily they could outward reality.
Championed by feminists for writing about women’s oppression, Kamala Das declined to be identified as such. For decades she remained a public figure.
Her short-story collections available in English translation are “Padmavati the Harlot” and “The Sandal Trees,” whose title story centres on tender love affairs between two women for decades. Her poetry collections include “Summer in Calcutta,” “The Descendants” and “The Old Playhouse and Other Poems.”
Born in Malabar to a prominent Hindu family, Kamala Das was mostly reared in Calcutta. She began writing seriously in her twenties.
One of her final acts of re-invention was her conversion to Islam in 1999, a move especially bold because of her aristocratic Nair lineage. For a time she called herself Kamala Suraiya.
Kamala Das died of respiratory failure in Pune and was laid to rest in the mosque where she had taken he vow.