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Noted author embraces Islam 

Kamala Das, celebrated writer and poetess, announced her decision to convert to Islam on 11 December and adopt the name ‘Surayya.’ Her announcement came as a surprise while she was inaugurating a meeting of the State Library Council at Ernakulam in Kerala. Her bold prose and poetry are reckoned to have pushed the frontiers of women literature in the country. ‘I do not want to be cremated like a Hindu. That’s why I have converted to Islam now. I am a widow. My children are not with me. I want to love and I want to be loved. Ramadan is the month of conversions, so I have converted. I have made a discovery. Islam is the religion of love. It gives protection to women and I need protection. I am an orphan. I have no one. Hindu gods punish, Allah forgives sins. I want a forgiving God,’ she announced.

Later the writer said that she had been thinking about this for a long time and the change of religion did not come about as a result of any immediate provocation. ‘I do not want my successors to offer pindam and believe that after death I will appear in the form of a crow. I think this is the right time with the Ramadan season setting in.’ She said that for long she had no religion. ‘How long can I remain an unclaimed parcel with the address stamped on me. There should be someone to claim me,’ she said. The 65-year-old writer said she was very happy with her decision and that there will be no religious rites in connection with her change of religion. She announced that she would continue to write in Malayalam under the pen name of ‘Madhavikutty,’ but for her English writings she would use the name ‘Surayya’ which in Arabic means the star Pleiades. She is the daughter of distinguished parents, late VM Nair, the former managing editor of the Malayalam daily, Mathrubhumi, and Nalappat Balamani Amma, a celebrated Malayalam writer.

Asked about the possible criticism of her decision, Kamala said: ‘I do not care about anyone’s reaction. It is my own decision. I have shifted all the idols and pictures of Hindu gods in my room… Hindus have only hurt me, scandalized me. This is a new birth for me.’ She added that she had already learnt certain parts of the Qur’an and had written three poems about it and was exploring Islam with the help of Islamic scholars. 

‘When we think of Nalappat (her ancestral home) a different image comes to mind,’ a reporter told her. Pat came her reply: ‘I will build a mosque at Nalappat. You will hear the call of the muezzin from there. Will 
your image change then?’
Kamala Das said that she was deeply impressed by her association with Muslim families in Calcutta where she has lived for 27 years. She has also adopted two Muslim boys in Mumbai. She disclosed that she has been visiting mosques in Kerala for the past few weeks. She will formally embrace Islam on 23 December at a ceremony at the Palayam Mosque in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala.

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