Eminent Malayalam poet and social activist Sugathakumari passed away on Wednesday owing to complications related to COVID-19. Known fondly in Kerala as Sugathakumari ‘teacher,’ the 86-year old was a leading champion of the feminist, environmental, and human rights causes in southern India. The former chairperson of the Kerala State Women’s Commission, Sugathakumari was also the founder secretary of the environmental Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi organisation and of Abhaya, a care centre for women and those with mental health issues.
Muthuchippi, Pathirappookal (Midnight Flowers), Paavam Maanavahridayam (Poor Human Heart), Pranamam are among Sugathakumari’s most acclaimed works. Her poem Marathinu Stuthi (or Ode to a Tree) achieved the status of a protest symbol against environmental exploitation in the south. Sugathakumari’s death is being mourned as an irreparable loss to the literary scene of India.
Here are some social media tributes to the late Malayalam poet:
Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, marked Sugathakumari’s demise calling her “a doyenne of Malayalam literature” who “has left an indelible mark on Kerala’s cultural life.”
Deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of poet Sugathakumari. As a doyenne of Malayalam literature & with a career that spans decades, she has left an indelible mark on Kerala's cultural life. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family & join them in sorrow. pic.twitter.com/rvxCptGYLA
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) December 23, 2020
Dr Shashi Tharoor, Congress’ Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, also shared memories alongside Sugathakumari at a literary festival. He had previously shown concern for her well-being when Sugathakumari’s health was compromised due to COVID-19.
Journalist Dhanya Rajendran spoke of the impact Sugathakumari left on her, and other women like her.
— Dhanya Rajendran (@dhanyarajendran) December 23, 2020
Noted author and politician Jairam Ramesh posted a social media note paying tributes to the late activist. He mentioned he had been in “regular touch with her,” and the inspiration she provided for his upcoming book.
My tribute to someone who influenced me hugely as Environment Minister, poet-activist Sugathakumari. pic.twitter.com/ZkRZqr6ruk
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) December 23, 2020
BJP’s state president for Kerala, K Surendran, elaborated on Sugathakumari’s unparalleled contribution to the education and environment in the state.
Sugathakumari teacher's contribution to Kerala society as a poet, activist and educationist are unparalleled. Her intervention in the struggle against Aranmulla airport, and many other fights against flouting of environmental norms was admirable. Kerala will sorely miss her. pic.twitter.com/56MpqGg6k1
— K Surendran (@surendranbjp) December 23, 2020
Actor Rajshri Deshpande, of Manto and Angry Indian Goddesses fame, thanked the late poet for inspiring her.
— Rajshri Deshpande (@rajshriartist) December 23, 2020
Calling her demise a “huge loss to Indian literature,” noted author Anand Neelakantan expressed his condolences to Sugathakumari’s family.
I am saddened to learn about the passing of Sugathakumari teacher, poet, activist and winner of Padmasri, Kerala Sahithya Academy award and many more. A huge loss for Indian literature.
— anand neelakantan ആനന്ദ് നീലകണ്ഠൻ (@itsanandneel) December 23, 2020
Social Media Users Reminisce Sugathakumari’s Impact
Many Twitter users are sharing fond memories of having been taught by Sugathakumari and the impact her literature left on them. Some even went on to share lines from her poetry that influenced them.
Sugathakumari teacher was a legendary poet and activist. My dad used to read me her poems to put me to sleep when I was young. Even though I didn't understand most of it, it left an imprint in my mind that nothing can erase. Farewell legend. We will miss you. ♥️#RIP pic.twitter.com/yw9A4PQ76H
— Arya (@RantingDosa) December 23, 2020
Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran also reminisced about receiving several awards from the late poet.
— Prithviraj Sukumaran (@PrithviOfficial) December 23, 2020