Sugathakumari, the eminent Malayalam poet, conservationist and women’s activist died today, She was 86. Sugathakumari had tested positive for COVID-19 and was undergoing treatment at the government hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. The octogenarian poet rarely made any public appearance in recent days due to old age related difficulties. Fondly called ”Sugatha Teacher” by hundreds of her admirers and followers, Sugathakumar had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the medical college after being diagnosed with the viral infection on December 21. The poet was on ventilator support, medical college authorities said.
Besides the severe bronchial pneumonia, an after-effect of COVID-19, the condition of her vital organs also deteriorated, doctors said. One of the most celebrated Malayalam poets of the contemporary era, Sugathakumari was known for her unique poems filled with compassion and philosophical quest. In her poetic career spanning over six decades, she fought against the ruthless oppression of women and indiscriminate exploitation of nature, through her work.
“The tragic end has come. As I bow my head in tribute to the departed soul, I recall many moments at her side, from felicitating her Saraswati Samman, to addressing environmentalists alongside her…,” author and politician Shashi Tharoor wrote on Twitter in his tribute to Sugathakumari.
A fearless and tireless fighter in real life, Sugathakumari led several agitations for the environmental cause and conservation of nature. She had spearheaded the fiercest environmental campaign witnessed by Kerala against a proposal to set up a hydel project in the Silent valley in Western Ghats. She was also in the forefront of the recent agitation against construction of an airport at Aranmula.
Always a constant supporter and solace for destitute women, Sugathakumari had been running Abhaya, an organisation for the deprived women, including rape survivors, domestic violence victims and drug addicts for over three decades. Born as the second daughter of freedom fighter and poet, Bodheswaran and wife Karthiyayini Amma on January 22, 1934, Sugathakumari had entered into the world of poetry in 1960 with her first collection of poems – Muthuchippikal. Since then, she had captured the Malayali consciousness through her soft but hard-hitting verses in poetry collections including Pathirapookkal, Krishna Kavithakal, Ratrimazha, Ambalamani, Radha Evide, Thulavarshapacha and so on.
The country had bestowed her with Padma Shree in 2006 while the higher literary award Saraswati Samman reached her in 2013 for her poetic collection Manalezhuth (The Writing on the Sand). She had also won almost all prestigious literary awards in the state including Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, Vayalar Award,Odakkuzhal Award, Ashan Prize and so on. The poet had won the union government’s first Vriksha Mitra award.