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Noted author Kamala Das is dead
Published on 31 May. 2009 11:32 PM IST
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Kamala Das, well known poet and writer in Malayalam and English who converted to Islam a decade ago, died in Pune early Sunday, family sources said. She was 75. She suffered from diabetes and was recently hospitalised with pneumonia. The end came in a private hospital, a family source said. Born to V.M. Nair and Balamani Amma March 31, 1934, she spent most of her childhood in Kolkata where her father worked. Influenced by her poetess mother and uncle Nalappatt Narayana Menon, a prominent writer, Kamala started writing at the age of 17 under the pen name Madhavikutty. She was married to Madhava Das, 15 years elder to her, and the couple had three sons. Her eldest son, M.D. Nalapat, is a journalist. Kamala Das’ poems and writings had often courted controversies for being bold, reports NDTV. Kamala’s first literary success came at age of 42 with her autobiography “My Story”. It was a huge hit but it also generated quite a controversy for its sexual overtones. Kamala wrote extensively in English but she will be most remembered for her incisive short stories in Malayalam which questioned existing social norms. Her popular English works include “The Sirens” (Asian Poetry Prize winner), “Summer in Calcutta” (Kent’s Award winner), “The Descendants” (poetry), “The Old Playhouse and Other Poems” (poetry), “Alphabet of Lust” (novel), “The Anamalai Poems” (poetry), “Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories” (short stories) “Only the Soul Knows How to Sing” (poetry) and “Yaa Allah” (poems). Her Malayalam works include “Pakshiyude Manam” (short stories), “Naricheerukal Parakkumbol” (short stories), “Thanuppu” (short story and Sahitya Academy award winner), “Balyakala Smaranakal”, “Varshangalkku Mumbu”, “Palayan” (all novels), “Neypayasam” (short story), “Dayarikkurippukal” (novel), “Neermathalam Pootha Kalam” (novel and Vayalar Award winner), “Chekkerunna Pakshikal” (short stories), “Nashtapetta Neelambari” (short stories), “Chandana Marangal” (novel), “Madhavikkuttiyude Unmakkadhakal” (short stories) and “Vandikkalakal” (novel). Kamala was also a painter and many of her works fetched high prices in exhibitions. Kamla Das was again in a big controversy in 1999 when she embraced Islam with many Hindu organisations up in arms. She announced she was embracing Islam and changed her name to Kamala Suraiya. This intolerance in Kerala towards her decision to convert along with medical problems led her to shift to Pune In 2007, she decided to shift her base from Kerala to Pune. In Kamala Das’ death the country has lost a great writer who in many ways was often misread, misunderstood and mistreated. Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said Kamala’s death was an irreparable loss to the country and the state. “In all her works, love was the focus and I remember meeting her in Kochi when she decided to move to Pune. I requested her not to leave Kerala but she promised to come back,” Achuthanandan told reporters here. Culture Minister M.A. Baby said the writer would be given a state funeral. “Her body will be flown to Kochi tomorrow (Monday) and placed at Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kollam for people to pay their last respects. The funeral will take place at the Palayam Juma Masjid here Tuesday,” Baby said.

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