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Kamala Das Surayya – Biography, Work, Facts & Fearless Poet

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About Kamala Das Surayya

Kamala Surayya was popularly knobbed by her pet name Madhavikutty. Whereas, her married name was Kamala Das.

She was a very renowned English poet and a Malayalam author who belonged to Kerala, India. In her home state, Kamala Surayya is very famous due to her ability to express beautiful short stories which are loved by people.

Previously, she was also regarded as a well-read columnist and was famous for writing on diverse topics such as women-centric issues, politics, children etc.

She has always been very strong with her opinions about female sexuality. However, her powerful writings made her an iconoclast in her generation. Sadly, in a hospital in Pune, she expired at the age of 75.

Early Life:

Kamala Das Surayya was born in Punnayurkulam, in the district of Malabar in Thrissur district, Kerala India. She was born on 31st March 1934. She was the daughter of V.M. Nair, who was an editor of ‘Mathrubhumi’ a very known Malayalam Daily and NalapatBalamani Amma, who was a known Malayali Poet.

Her childhood was spent mostly in Calcutta where her father worked as a senior officer in Walford Transport company which was involved

in the selling of Rolls Royce and Bentley. The rest of her childhood she spent in Nalapat, which was her ancestral home in Punnayurkulam.

Her mother Bamani Kamala Das, used to excel in writings. Kamala Surayya’s liking for poetry began at a much early age because of a big hand of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayana Menon who was a very well know the writer.

At a very early age at 15, she got married to a bank officer Madhav Das, who supported and encouraged her interest in writing. It was with her family’s support, she began both writing and publishing in English as well as Malayalam. During the 1960s, Calcutta was at its peak for arts.

Kamala Das was one of the very famous artists who gained tremendous acknowledgement in cult anthologies during a time, which had a new wave of English poets. It was in the English language that she chose all the 6, published collections of poetry.

Kamala Das was very known for her Malayalam stories and English poems. Moreover, she was also known to be a syndicated columnist. In one of the interview, Das had said ‘Poetry does not sell in this country’. However, her columns which she published which revolved around the issues of women and politics had gained a tremendous amount of popularity.

Personal Life:

Kamala Das was a mother to three handsome sons. The names of her son were MD Nalapat, JayasuryaandChinnen Das. Madhav Das Nalapat, who was her eldest son tied the knot with ThiruvathiraThirunal Lakshmi Bayi, who was the daughter of Princess PooyamThirunalGouriParavatiBayi and Sri Chembrol Raja Raja Varma Agarwal) who belonged to the Royal house of Travancore.

On her death, Das at the Palayam Jama Masjid was interred at the state of Thiruvanthapuram with honour from the full state.


In her initial career in writing, she was never very active in politics. However, later she went on to launch a national political party- Lok Seva party which aimed at promoting secularism. Its core focus was to provide asylum to all the orphaned mothers out there. In the year 1984, she fought for a seat in Indian parliament elections and had lost the seat.


Das was born in a very conservation Hindu family which had its royal ancestors. However, at the age of 65 in 1999 she converted her religion to Islam and changed her name to Kamala Surayya.

The legacy of Das:

Kamala left a strong legacy behind. On February 1st, 2018 Manjit Thapp, a google doodler celebrated Das’s work which she had left behind. ‘Aami’ a biopic was written on her name by Kamal was researched in February 2018.

Awards and Achievements:

Das had won several awards in her journey. Some of the main awards won by her were:

  1. PEN Asian Prize for poetry in the year 1963.
  2. Vayalar Award in the year 1997.
  3. The honorary D. Litt award presented by Calicut University in the year 2006.
  4. Ezhuthachan Award in the year 2009.


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