By Shevlin Sebastian
Photos: The Kamala Das doodle; artist Manjit Thapp; Jaisurya Das
'I did not have the educational qualifications which would have got me a job. I could not opt for a life of prostitution, for I knew I was frigid and that love for my husband had sealed me off physically and emotionally like a pregnancy that made it impossible for others to impregnate afterwards. I was a misfit everywhere. I brooded long, stifling my sobs, while in the four tiny rooms of our home, slept soundly, the husband, the son, the old ayah, the cook and the young maid' – Kamala Das, My Story
The Malayali author's explosive autobiography, in which she spoke frankly about her sexual desires and affairs, was first published in Malayalam as 'Ente Katha' on February 1, 1973. And to honour this event, Google has put up a doodle on Das on its home page yesterday.
Jaisurya Das, the Pune-based youngest son of Kamala Das was overwhelmed. “The doodle is fabulous,” he says. “It was a lovely illustration by [UK-based artist] Manjit Thapp.”
In the doodle Kamala has jet black hair and is holding a notebook and pen in her hand. “It was the time when my mother was in her prime,” says Jaisurya. Artist Manjit confirms it. “I have portrayed Kamala at the time she published her autobiography.” Incidentally Kamala was 39 at that time.
However, what stood out in the doodle was the eyes. “Yes, I agree,” says Jaisurya. “It conveyed the sensitivity that my mother always had. Her expressions were always unique.”
What was unusual was a row of houses on either side of Kamala. And Manjit explains the reason why. “Kamala wrote her poetry at night, at home,” she says. “I read she was only able to write at this time once she had completed the house chores and would end up working long into the night.”
Interestingly, Manjit had not heard about Kamala before she got the commission from Google. So, she quickly read a couple of articles about her life and her poetry. And today, she is a fan. “I find her writing to be inspiring, honest, powerful and moving especially when you consider the time in which she was writing,” says Manjit. “I feel very honoured to have been asked by Google to work on her portrait.”
Meanwhile, nine years after his mother's death, the memories remain vivid for Jaisurya. “Right from my childhood, till the last two years of her life which she spent in Pune with me and my family, I remember every moment,” he says. “I am so glad that I got a chance to take care of her.”
For Jaisurya, there were three sides to his mother. “One, she was this iconic writer, which was a separate part of her life,” he says. “Secondly, she was my mother, who pampered me a lot, and in the last years, we were great friends.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)