30 September, 2020

To A Malabar Chameleon

Kamala Das’s many personas star in a story of friendship

To A Malabar Chameleon
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

In the early 1960s, Kamala Das gave up her name, and started writing in Malayalam as Madhavikutty. Later in her life, she would repeat many times this act of trading off a part of herself for more space. The mould she broke was a tough one, that of a respectable ‘upper-caste woman writer’ in her language; tougher, because her poetess-mother had fit the role so well. For the next four decades Madhavikutty wrote fiction, in evocative and minimalist prose, mostly about the state of being a woman.

In the more anonymous urban environs of Calcutta and Mumbai, Kamala Das wrote poems in English, under her own name. Her poetry brought her many honours, including a nomination for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1984. One year after her death, it has drawn Canadian writer and documentary filmmaker, Merrily Weisbord, to publish a memoir about her friendship with Das.

After two marriages, a relationship, and with her children flying the coop, Weisbord was ready to take a break from her own memoir. She caught a flight to Kerala to...

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