Kamala Markandaya: A novelist
Introduction: Kamala Markandaya is one of the most important Indian novelists of the 20th century. She is widely read. She is a prestigious member of Indian Diaspora. It is she who is considered the pioneer of Indian Diaspora literature. Her novels have been praised for its truthfulness and insight. As a novelist she is very popular for her pragmatic presentation of life. She is appreciated for writing about the culture conflict between Indian urban and rural societies. Her novels offer a valuable glimpse into the lives of Indians living in both India and England.
Life: The original name of Kamala Markandaya is kamala Purnaiya Markandaya. She was born in 1924 in an upper-middle-class Brahmin family in Mysore, India. Her father was a railway officer. She studied at Madras University. After that she settled in England in 1948 and married an English journalist. She died in London in 2004. She left a daughter, Kim Oliver, behind her. Before her death she received several awards for her contribution. The Sahitya Akademi Award of 1988 is one of them.
Theme: The major themes of Kamala Markandaya's novels are displacement, discrimination, culture shock, rootlessness, identity, belonging, family and community, poverty, politics, racism and gender inequality. Her works deal with the struggle of contemporary Indians with conflicting Eastern and Western values. The central women characters of her novels emerge as strong women.
Her Novels: Kamala Markandaya has written several novels. The popular among them are Nectar in a Sieve (1954), Some Inner Fury (1955), A Silence of Desire (1960), Possession (1963), A Handful of Rice (1966), The Coffer Dams (1969), The Nowhere Man (1972), Two Virgins (1973), The Golden Honeycomb (1977) and Pleasure City (1982). Markandaya's debut novel Nectar in a Sieve is her most popular work. It is the story of an Indian peasant’s hard life. Some Inner Fury describes the strength of interracial relationships. A Silence of Desire deals with marriage. In Possession Markandaya presents a story about Western and Indian values. The Golden Honeycomb deals with the attitudes of three generations of Indians toward their colonial rulers.
Many critics are of the opinion that The Nowhere Man is her greatest novel. It is Epic in scope. It describes the cultural consequences of widespread postwar South Asian migration to Britain. It is a fantastic tale of an Indian who lives in London with his family. His name is Srinivas. His story is the story of loss and disillusionment. His son dies for England that refuses to accept him. He is discriminated throughout. Here otherness has been presented suitably. The marginalized Indian is treated as the other even after decades of living in England. In short, the canvas of Markandaya's literary world is vast.
Plot: Kamala Markandaya is a great creator of plot. Her plots attract the attention of the readers. She uses the lives of people of poorer classes for her plots. She portrays the minute details of Indian life. She has selected the particular regions as the settings of her plots and portrayed these regions accurately. The actions of her stories belong to a period of about two decades beginning around 1940. The autobiographical reflection too can be enjoyed in her novels. Thus her role as a fantastic plot maker is appreciable.
Characters: Kamala Markandaya is a great creator of characters. Women have significant place in Kamala’s novels. On this basis she can be called a feminist writer. She has portrayed the Awakened-Women who are struggling to find out their identity in the male dominated world. The novelist presents a realistic picture of contemporary women through her characters like Rukumani, Nailini, Ira, Mira, Roshan, Helen, Lalitha, Mohini, Usha, Valli etc. She describes the emotional reactions and spiritual responses of these characters. At the same time she explores their predicament. Her heroines are in constant search for meaning and value of life. They are ready for sacrificing themselves. They move from self negation to self affirmation. All her female protagonists are presented as a product of society and history. Their life is shaped by these forces. But at the same time these women are sensitive and self-conscious. Conclusion: Thus Kamala Markandaya, no doubt, is a great novelist. Her contribution to the world of literature is praiseworthy. It is she who has tried her best to create a new path for the women writers of the coming of age. She will always be remembered.