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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Kamala Surayya returns to rest in Kerala

"I don't want to be born again as a human. I would come back as a bird, a kingfisher, perhaps," Kamala Surayya, who donned a purdah at the age of 65, said during her last visit to her ancestral home in Punnayukulam in Kerala.

Kamala sounded a paradox to many. Silly to a few others. But she sums up the poetic life in two words: truth and beauty.

Kamala, poet and humanist, died at a hospital in Pune at the age of 75. Her body will be brought to Thiruvananthapuram, to be buried according to Islamic rites on Tuesday, with state honours. Kerala culture minister MA Baby is in Pune to condole the family.

"Kamala Surayya was a pathbreaker in Indian English writing and translated Indian English. She has left a lasting legacy on literature," Union minister and writer Shashi Tharoor said. Literary critic MN Karasseri said her works were like an independence movement for women, though she didn't realise it.

She wrote the autobiographical My Story in 1976, at the age of 42. The work, which she translated into Malayalam, shocked the patriarchal society with the courageous depiction of a woman's aspirations and frustrations. She had to clarify later that it was just a work of fiction. My Story has been translated into around 15 foreign languages.

She won the Asian Poetry Prize for The Sirens in 1964 and Kent's Award for Summer in Calcutta in 1965.


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