Kamala Surayya, Feminist Legacies

“Like other women writers of my class, I am expected to tame my talent to suit the comfort of my family”

Kamala Surayya composed fiction, short stories, and an autobiography, writing in both English and Malayalam. Her writings were considered revolutionary within Kerala society, as she spoke freely of female sexuality, the trappings of patriarchy, mental health and homosexuality.

I was first exposed to Kamala Surayya’s works as a naive 15-year old. I had long seen her books strewn about the house by my parents, and I (mistakenly) assumed she was a boring old lady with nothing interesting to say. I have no defense with regard to my ageism.

I cannot tell you how shocked I was when I picked up the ‘Path of the Columnist‘ in 2000, and I found, not the dowdy Malayali aunty musings I expected, but a strong feminist voice that talked about class issues, sexual assault and misogyny within Malayali society. I was floored.

I knew that I wanted to feature this bold memoirist on this page, to remind myself of my own prejudices, and the importance of overcoming them.

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