Acclaimed Malayalam poet and environmental activist Sugathakumari passed away Wednesday following Covid-19 complications at the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. She was 86.
For the past one week, the Padma Shri awardee 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 said she was suffering from bronchopneumonia, a condition that causes inflammation in the air sacs in the lungs.
Sugathakumari was an influential voice in the field of Malayalam literature with her works garnering all the major accolades on offer in the country. She was a recipient of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, Kendra Sahitya Akademi award, Odakkuzhal award, Ezhuthachan award among others.
The poet was born to freedom fighter Bodheswaran, whose real name was Keshava Pillai, and Sanskrit scholar VK Karthyayini Amma on January 22, 1934. Literary critic and writer Dr K Velayudhan Nair, who passed away in 2003, was her husband. They have a daughter.
She completed her education from Kerala University and Thiruvananthapuram University College, earning a postgraduate degree in philosophy in 1955.
Inspired by her father who was a Gandhian thinker, Sugathakumari made her entry into social activism and was at the vanguard of the Save Silent Valley agitation which had garnered national attention in the 90s. Her poem ‘silent valley’ reflected her close relationship with nature.
She was the founding secretary of the nature outfit Prakriti Samrakshana Samiti and ‘Abhaya’, a home for destitute women in Kerala.
She published her first poem in 1957. Some of her notable works were ‘Rathrimazha’, ‘Ambalamani’, Paavam Manavahridayam, Swapnabhoomi and ‘Pathirapookal’.
She won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award in 1968 for ‘Pathirapookal’, the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award in 1978 for ‘Rathrimazha’, the Odakuzhal award in 1982 and the Vayalar award in 1984 for her work ‘Ambalamani’. She won the Saraswati Samman for her work ‘Manalezhuthu’ in 2012. She won the prestigious Ezhuthachan award in 2009 for her contributions to Malayalam literature.
Other notable honours that came to Sugathakumari were Ashan puraskaram, Vallathol award, P Kunhiraman Nair award, Balamaniamma award, Lalithambika Antharjana award and the Kerala Sahitya Akademi fellowship.
For her contribution to conservation of nature, she was awarded the first Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra by the Centre. She got the Padmashri honour in 2006. She held the post of chairperson of the Kerala State women’s commission.
Her poetry resonated with environmental issues and spoke volumes of her disdain for human interference with nature.
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