Kamala Das,a renowned Indian English poet is known for her fiery poems and explicit-much-talked-about autobiography “My Story”. Kamala Das was born in punnayurkulam,Thrissur District on March 31, 1934, to V. M. Nair and Nalapat Balamani Amma, a renowned malayalam poetess.
“My Story” was a tale of melancholy and self-pity. Mrs. Das excited me by the rebellious way she chose to live her life.
The book begins with her childhood experiences in Calcutta where her father was employed as a senior officer in the Walford Transport Company that sold Bentley and Rolls Royce automobiles and then at nalapat ancestral home in Punnayurkulam. She belonged to an affluent and modern family, though she claims it being nothing more than middle-class one.
She briefly gives us a picture of the racist treatments she and her brother had to endure in the British school, which openly preferred whites and degraded Indians and blacks, their society with a few English and Anglo-Indian neighbours and friends, and the anglicized cook who scorned at the children’s table manners.
After a few years of childhood days in calcutta, they move to Nalapat, her hometown in Kerala. The vivid and nostalgic descriptions of the ancient house, surrounding gardens, the stage plays she wrote and acted with her brother, her grand uncle Nalapat Narayana Menon, who was a great scholar, aunts, grannies, household maids, get us hooked in to her story.
She also light-heartedly mentions her life in a convent that she briefly went to. The letters she used to write home from there used to be very demure and boring.
It’s a tale of an Indian girl, bold and educated, full of dreams with a no-nonsense attitude, who is brutally subjected to a medieval-age kind of arranged marriage in the tender age of fifteen, and the domestic worries and burdens that follow.
Very clever and much learned for her time, her views of life largely contrasted with the society she had to put up with. Therefore, things tended to become all the more difficult for her.
At the age of 15, she got married to bank officer Madhava Das, who encouraged her writing interests. At the age of 42, she published a daring autobiography, My Story; it was originally written in Malayalam (titled Ente Katha) and later she translated it into English. Later she admitted that much of the autobiography had fictional elements.
The authoress has the least intention of seeking pity or justification for some of her actions, and neither are those sentiments aroused in the reader.
However, it’s this incredible honesty of the authoress that has brought her both much acclaim and criticism.
I think this book might instill varied opinions, each time it is read, or when re-read after a long period. And that, I think, is the best aspect of a successful autobiography.