Renowned Malayalam poet and activist Sugathakumari passed away on Wednesday at the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. She was 86.
For the past one week, Sugathakumari had been hospitalised with severe pneumonia after testing positive for COVID-19. She was on ventilator support after her body stopped responding to medication. Doctors had shared that she was suffering from bronchopneumonia, a condition that causes inflammation in the air sacs in the lungs.
A Padma Shri awardee, Sugathakumari had been influential in the field of Malayalam literature. She has won many major accolades and recognitions in the country, including Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, Kendra Sahitya Akademi award, Odakkuzhal award, and Ezhuthachan award.
Born in Aranmula, Kerala to freedom fighter Bodheswaran and Sanskrit scholar VK Karthyayini Amma on January 22, 1934, Sugathakumari completed her education from Kerala University and Thiruvananthapuram University College, earning a postgraduate degree in philosophy in 1955. Her sisters Hridayakumari and Sujatha Devi were also notable writers.
Married to late Dr K Velayudhan Nair who was a writer and an educationist, Sugathakumari is survived by her daughter Lakshmi Devi.
She published her first poem in 1957. Some of her notable works are ‘Rathrimazha’, ‘Paavam Manavahridayam’, ‘Ambalamani’, ‘Muthuchippi’, ‘Swapnabhoomi’, and ‘Pathirapookal’.
Sugathakumari decided to become a social activist inspired by her father who was a Gandhian thinker. She was one of the most active campaigners of the Save Silent Valley Movement when it took shape in the 1970s.
Silent Valley – a tropical evergreen forest in Palakkad district – was at the time proposed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to host a hydroelectric dam. Environmentalists all over the world protested against the proposal, claiming that it would not only destroy part of the forest but also threaten the lives of endangered lion-tailed macaques. Sugathakumari wrote a poem – Marathinu Sthuti (Hymn to a Tree) which was recited at every other protest to save the Silent Valley.
She also served as the secretary of the Society for Conservation of Nature as well as the chairperson of the Kerala State Women's Commission.
Besides this, the poet had founded Abhaya, a home for destitute women and a daycare centre for people with mental health issues. Sugathakumari has received the Bhattia Award for Social Science, the Sacred Soul International Award, the Lakshmi Award for social service, and the first Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award from the Government of India for her efforts in environmental conservation and afforestation.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)