My Foray Into The Magical World of Literature (2/3): Gorky to Kamala Das

Sangeetha Alwar
2 min readJan 24, 2021

New worlds opened up to me as I stepped into the realm of Russian Literature. Never before had I seen language used this way (owing to my lack of experience, I’m sure) — fluid and natural — like silk woven into fabric. A lot of the praise, I’m sure belongs to the translator.

Ages 16–20 were spent consuming this genre, and I still couldn’t get enough. Dostoyevsky was poignant, Chekov was insightful and Gogol was mesmerising. I do have to admit though, I haven’t yet had the courage to pick up War and Peace, it’s just so massive and so much has been said about it that I’m afraid my perspective is already quite coloured as to its literary merit that I will be unable to enjoy it in its entirety (although the same could be said of most canonical texts.)

comic by R.E. Parrish

The second major shift in my reading was prompted by the “Indian poetry” course in my English Literature honours. Though the course wasn’t given due importance at college, (our propensity to put the coloniser’s tongue and text above our very own continues to amaze me to this day) the syllabus at least gave the more ardent students in our class a few names we could lookup.

Kamala Das was one such find. The Freaks still continues to be a poem I turn to.

Three years of my degree spent languishing in a system where the department couldn’t even speak the language they were supposed to be teaching felt worth it because it led me to discover her. A woman author/poet, finally! She spoke her mind and how!

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Sangeetha Alwar

A Professor of English by day, a “Quasimodoesque” figure while hunched over the iPad, a reluctant academician and a passionate reader.