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Dr. Kamala Suraiyya

 

Dr. Kamala Suraiyya is one of those female writers credited for being an inspiration to aspiring women writers of Kerala. In the literary spectrum of Kerala, Kamala Suraiyya without doubt attains a towering presence when it comes to writers among women. Inspired by her, many followed her style of writing, while others formulated their own style. Even the present day generation of young writers as well as budding talents look up on her works as ideal source for assimilating the basics of literary writing.

Born in 1932, Kamala Suraiyya's father Mr. V. M. Nair was a former Managing Editor of the Malayalam daily 'Mathrubhumi' and her mother was the famous poet of her times in Malayalam, Ms. Nalappat Balamani Amma.

Since embarking on a career in writing some forty years back, Kamala Suraiyya's works in Malayalam language were wrote in the pen name 'Madhavi Kutty.' Her recognition as a writer goes well beyond the borders of her home State, Kerala. Her works are well acknowledged internationally, especially her poems in Indian English. As a writer, Kamala Suraiyya has proven her mastery in poetry, short story and novels. Of her literary works, the one that shot her into the pinnacle of popularity was 'Ente Katha' (My Story), which the writer claims to have considered events at various stages of her life, as part of the story. 'Ente Katha' was translated to more than 15 foreign languages, which is indeed a rare feet for a litt?rateur.

Kamala Suraiyya was very sensitive to the developments and conduct of the society she lived in, and that often reflected in her writings. Especially of interest to her, as a writer, were situations through which women were subjected to the whims and fancies of the society. Her writings derived immense energy from the plight of the women folk and as a consequence enabled her to portray them through writing in often strong and though provoking manner. In her literary works, she often dealt with the basic human emotions, and the resulting internal conflicts and contradictions. The world of letters never seemed good enough for Kamala Suraiyya to express her feelings, and that too on topics that often challenged the existing, so called, dos and don'ts of the society.

Kamala Suraiyya stands out as few among the writers from Kerala, who could write in both Malayalam and English in a prolific and effortless manner. More acclaimed for her poetic renditions in English, her writings in Malayalam too demonstrate lyrical qualities. Most of her literary works, especially those that have delved into the many emotional and physical aspects of women were often expressed as first person experiences.

Some of her noted literary works in Malayalam were Manasi, Ente Katha, Balyakal Smaranakal, Veendum Chila Kathakal, Ottayadi Patha, Neermathalam Pootha Kalam, Chandanamaram, Mathilukal, and Chuvanna Pavada. Her well know works in English include Summer in Calcutta, Old Play House, The Sirens, Only The Soul Knows How To Sing, and Collected Poems.

In her career as a writer, Kamala Suraiyya also found time to share her expertise in various capacities in public life. She was for quite some time Poetry Editor for the Illustrated Weekly of India, was the Orient Editor for 'Poet Magazine', held the offices of the President of Kerala Children's Film Society, and also that of Vice-Chairperson of Kerala Sahitya Academy. She is also the founder of Bahutantri.

Awards and acclaims in honour of this outstanding writer came to her in the form of Asian Poetry Prize for her English literary work 'The Sirens', Kent Award for English Writing from Asian Countries for her work 'Summer in Calcutta'; Asan World Prize- Sahitya Academy Award for her 'Collected Poems; and Vayalar Award for her short story titled 'Thanuppu.'

One of the most influential feminist writers of our times, her language infuses freshness and opens up new frontiers of imagination. Kamala Suraiyya's outlook and understanding of the society she lives in, interpreting and analysing the intricacies of human relationships, all have been very much rooted to a desire for bringing a radical change, wherever necessary in the society. And this she does so through her writings and also as a social activist.

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