Kamala Das – Biography

Kamala Surayya

Kamala Das (1934–2009) was a famous Indian poet and novelist who wrote in both English and Malayalam, her mother tongue. While writing in Malayalam, she used the pen name Madhavikutty. She was born in Thrissur, Kerala into a fairly privileged family. Her mother, Nalapat Balamani Amma was a well-known Malayali poet who had published around 20 collections of poems; and her father V.M. Nair was a senior executive in an automobile company and editor of the journal Mathrubhumi.

Kamala Das has written three collections of poems in English; Summer in Calcutta (1965), The Descendants (1967), and The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (1973). In addition, she has written collections of short stories, two novels, and numerous essays as a syndicated columnist. Overall, she has published 25 books and collections of poetry.
However, it is her autobiography My Story (1976) that remains her most well-known work. Kamala Das was honoured with the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award (English) in 1984 and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature the same year. On 1 February, 2018, Google honored her with a doodle.

Kamala Das

My Story was originally published in serialized form in the Malayalam weekly Malayanadu and as a book, Ente Katha in 1973. Kamala Das’ autobiography caused a sensation when it first started appearing. Her honest and undiluted depiction of her loneliness in her marriage, her adulterous affairs and her literary career appealed to readers, though many were shocked. There are many accounts about how her own father tried to stop the publication of Ente Katha.

In My Story, Kamala Das traces her life from her childhood in Calcutta and Malabar; to her marriage to a much older banker Madhav Das when she was just fifteen years old, and motherhood at sixteen; her loneliness while her husband remained busy with his work and her dissatisfaction with her marriage, though her husband encouraged her to write. In her
autobiography, she questions the traditional roles thrust upon women in patriarchal society, writing openly about her relationships with other men. Kamala Das influenced an entire
generation of women writers in Kerala but her honesty in depicting her physical desires remains unmatched. It is no wonder that My Story remains the best-selling autobiography written by an Indian woman.


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