Kamala Das Life and Works BA English

Kamala Das was also known as Kamala Surayya or Madhavikutty born on 31 March 1934 in Southern Malabar, Kerla in British India. Her father’s name was VM Nair and her Mother’s name was Balamani Amma. Her father was a senior officer in the Walford Transport Company. Her mother, Balamani Amma was a famous Malayali poet. Since her father was working in Calcutta, she spent her childhood in Calcutta. She was inspired by her mother and she started writing very earlier when she was in school. At the age of 15, Kamala Das got married to Madhav Das. He was a bank officer who encouraged her writing interests. She fell in love with Sadiq Ali an Islamic professor. He was younger than Kamala Das. He was a Member of Parliament for the Muslim League and convinced her to convert to Islam in 1999 when she was 65 years old. After this, she was called Kamala Surayya. Her love life was unsuccessful, after conversion, she was not married.

Kamala Das Literary Career

Kamala Das did not receive a university education but she was a successful poetess, novelist, and short story writer. Since Kamala’s mother was a famous Malayali poet so poetry was in her blood. She became famous in Malayalam short stories before contributing to English poetry. Her writings were popular for women’s issues and child care to politics. Her poems have often been considered at par with Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell.

Kamala Das’s first book of poetry, ‘Summer in Calcutta’ was published in 1965. It was a breath of fresh air in Indian English poetry. She wrote especially of love, betrayal, and the consequent anguish. It contains only 50 poems and the theme of all of them is love or failure in love. The exceptions are a few like ‘The Flag and Sepia. Her second book of poetry, ‘The Descendants‘ was published in 1967. It contains only 27 poems with the exception of ‘Jaisurya’ and ‘The Shite flowers’, all of the poems deal with a love theme. The third volume of the poetries of Kamala Das’s The Old Play House and Other Poems was published in 1973. It contains 33 poems. Twenty poems have been taken from two previous volumes and thirteen new were added with the new style. The themes were love, death, and decay.

This title poem ‘The old playhouse’ reveals a note of protest against male domination. The wife’s position is belittled in married life she is exploited and humiliated. The poet’s protest is the protest of entire womanhood against male domination. In a bitter, ironic tone, the husband is accused of selfishness, she could not realize the growth and development of her personality, as she had expected, in marriage. Her husband was only interested in her body. Kamla Das is a poetess of love in all its manifestations. In some of the love poems, she strikes an entirely new note. She wrote many poems about extramarital love, which she justifies by providing a mythical framework. To conclude Kamla Das is a great and original poetess with a distinctive poetics personality of her own.


Kamala Das has received many awards for her literary contribution, including:

  • 1963: PEN Asian Poetry Prize
  • 1968: Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Story – Thanuppu
  • 1984: Shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature
  • 1985: Kendra Sahitya Academy Award (English) – Collected Poems
  • 1988: Kerala State Film Award for Best Story
  • 1997: Vayalar Award – Neermathalam Pootha Kalam
  • 1998: Asian Poetry Prize
  • 2006: Honorary D.Litt by University of Calicut
  • 2006: Muttathu Varkey Award
  • 2002: Ezhuthachan Award

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