Kamala Das

kamala-dasMadhavikutty (Kamala Das) belongs to the formidable and famous Nalapat family of Kerala. Her mother was Nalapat Balamanny Amma, a poet of great repute in Malayalam, and her grand uncle was Nalapat Narayana Menon, a “brilliant writer and renowned literary patron” who translated Victor Hugo into Malayalam and wrote a 600-page encyclopaedia on sex. Kamala Das in her 73 years of life attained rare stardom as a writer in both English and Malayalam. She was short-listed for a Nobel in literature in the 80s - incredible achievement for a writer whose formal education was limited.

At the age of 15, she is married off to a 35 year old Das and together they have three. Das declares that he is a homosexual and brings young men to their marital bed. She is undoubtedly devastated, but obeys her husband’s orders, but looks for love elsewhere. Meanwhile, her husband introduces her to his bosses to help him to get job promotions and encourages her to share their beds of which he asks detailed questions later.

All this does not reduce her literary output and she becomes a well-known author with a penchant for love stories. What she was denied in married life, sex, becomes an all-consuming passion for her and she has, affair after affair. More importantly, her literary work reflects this and Kamala Das becomes a well-recognized name reviled more often than respected because of her accent on sex in an ultra conservative Kerala.

After her husband died, she became celibate but her sexual energy is irrepressible despite the outlet she finds in writing fiction. Though now 67 years old and a widow and grandmother, she is befriended by a 38-year old Member of Parliament, who got a million US dollars to rope in her and entrap her as a convert to Islam. Sadiq Ali, the MP, already had two wives. But his extraordinary sexual prowess, mentioned in detail, makes her to agree to be his third wife. All hell breaks loose in relatively calm Kerala.

The affair does not last long, although she becomes a Muslim and puts on the purdah and learns the principal tenets of Islam, visits the Middle East and becomes a star speaker like a religious convention speaker in front of thousands of people to propagate the Prophet’s message.

Meanwhile, the Hindu extremists are up in arms seeing that the crème-de-la-crème of the famous Hindu Nalapat family has been converted to Islam. Kamala Das lives under the heavy threat of death. At the same time, the Hindu fundamentalists offer $200,000 as the price of her head.

After a tempestuous and troubled life of 75 years, she dies in Pune while living with her youngest son. Her body is taken to Kerala and city after city gives her remains a tumultuous welcome before the body is buried in a mosque in Trivandrum.

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