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Kamala Surayya, better known by her married name Kamala Das, was a poet and writer from India. Her feminist works and poetry are critically acclaimed.
This quote is one of her most famous:
"...I am Indian, very brown, born in
Malabar, I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one..."
(Kamala Das, "An Introduction," martinfrost.ws)
This is a confirmation, summation, and celebration of her heritage and culture. Her identity is Indian -- not Native American, but from the country of India, and specified as "very brown," perhaps as opposed to the stereotypical "red Indian." Malabar is probably not current-day Malabar in Northern Kerala, but Malabar District, which covers some of the same area and was divided into new districts in 1956.
Her reference to her language is a commonplace issue with multi-lingual people (polyglots). Speaking a language does not guarantee proficiency in writing it, and people normally dream in the language they are most comfortable with. Many Indian people speak two or more languages, knowing English as a common language for outside dealings, as well as their local dialect of Hindi. Additionally, both English and Hindi are the official languages of India. Her knowledge of one more language indicates her higher education or her drive to learn as opposed to remaining in her cultural class. Dreaming in her home language (although it is not specified) shows her commitment to her home and heritage, while her fluency in writing two languages shows her success in her chosen profession.
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