Memories of a Marriage: Kamala Das

[In this translated excerpt from her memoir Neermathalam Poothakaalam, Kamala Surayya remembers her parents, the poet Balamani Amma and V M Nair, from the late 1940s or early 50s. From chapter 29 of NeermathalamMadhavikkuttyude Krithikal Sampoornam vol 2, Kottayam: DC Books, 2009, pp 1056-58]

“It was around this time that my mother was chosen to be the head of the Keraleeya Mahila Samajam in Kolkata. Maybe because he was delighted that his shy wife had gained such a position, my father started making hefty donations to this organization. Its members began to visit our home more frequently to meet him. One day, the green ping pong table that we kids used with gifted to the Mahila Samajam folk. We hated the women who had flattered father and plastered him with smiles and filched our table. But despite this, I happily accepted a small role in a play that was to be put up for the Onam celebrations. The rehearsals were mostly held in the house of the Secretary of the Samajam. Her children and P G Menon’s elder daughter got the meatiest roles easily. In the tableaux that was to be staged before the play, I was to appear as one among the Indian Women. Only I was ready to appear onstage clad in a burqa covering all other parts of the body except the face, as a conservative Muslim woman. I displayed with pride my face touched to make it look fairer, darkened eyebrows, and reddened lips.

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In the Waiting Room: K Saraswathi Amma

Translated by J Devika

Santhy was bored. Are BA students condemned forever to absorb lessons seated mechanically in attendance? The lecturer was pouring praise on the poet’s description of Aja who had woken up from sleep and arrived for the Swayamvara of Indumathi. That description, apparently, was gifted to the poet by none other than Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning. The Goddess who wrote him these verses, and the Goddess of Sleep, Nidra, who was now pulling down her eyelids, are no doubt the thickest buddies, Santhy felt certain. Her classmates – maybe because they had a nap at home during the lunch break – were engrossed in the lecture.  The lecturer, a lady, turned to Santhy, “Aja seated on green silk, Kartikeya, mounted on the peacock with plumes open … what a beautiful comparison it is. Don’t you agree, Santhy?”

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The Riches of Love: K Saraswathi Amma

Translated by J Devika

The train kept moving and stopping at clear intervals as was its wont. My mind which was journeying in the past, too, had to linger a bit at certain places. But in the end it entered a particular place and refused to budge from there. However much I tried, it would not move an inch forward. Its pig-headedness troubled me.  In this mobile world, if one single heart decided to stay immobile, would not accidents occur? I rubbed my chest with my right hand.

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Poor Things!: K Saraswathi Amma

Translated by J Devika

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The bus stopped with a grr…. Sumati strained to look outside, all around. A slim good-looking young man with a blue coat and dark glasses and a thin hairline of  a moustache on his face ran up to her and said, “Oh, how long have I been waiting! Get off here, won’t you? Did you visit me even once after passing by so many times? It can’t be, this time.”

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‘“Don’t We Need Variety?”’: K Saraswathi Amma

Translated by J Devika

Surrounded by all those medicine-bottles, seated on the chair with the book open on her lap, shielding her eyes from the light with her right hand and sniffing the inhaler held in her left, Susheela looked the very archetype of the Sick Woman. She lifted her head and looked at the clock. Nearly two o’clock.  Her husband was still not home. She put the book on the table, got up and took the feeding bottle. Raising the mosquito-net, she fed the baby with it.

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