A versatile writer of impeccable style, Nabaneeta Dev Sen is a force to be reckoned with. She is a poet, novelist and short story writer. Her nonfiction books, especially her travelogues, are equally successful. She is also an author of children’s books. She has published over 80 books so far, ranging from novels to poems to travelogues. While her name is one of the most popular among Bengali writers, there may be a thing or two you still don’t know about her.
She was born to poets Narendra Dev and Radharani Devi (who occasionally wrote under the alias of Aparajita Devi), so her poetic influence was never too far from home. But it wasn’t her parents who named this poet. Bengal’s gurudev Rabindranath Tagore himself had chosen Nabaneeta’s name.
Wit beyond measure
The writer’s wit is one that is difficult to match. Dealing with delicate social, psychological and political issues, her stories are as humourous as they are thought provoking. In her short story “Baap Re Baap,” she has intricately played out the social and personal stigma around sexual norms in a predominantly conservative Indian society, capturing the issue in a fascinatingly light manner while keeping the underlying seriousness of the issue intact.
Nabaneeta received the Mahadevi Verma Award in 1992, Celli Award from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1993, the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1999, the Padma Shri award in 2000 for Literature and Education, just to name a few. She holds a master’s with distinction from Harvard University, did her post-doctoral from UC Berkeley, and Newham College at Cambridge University.
If that wasn’t enough, Nabaneeta held the Maytag Chair of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Colorado College, as well as numerous positions in the academic arena.
In late 2000, Nabaneeta founded Soi–Women Writers’ Association, an organisation dedicated to creating a literary platform for women. Soi Creative Women, another organisation, came to fruition in 2013 to help women writers flourish and not be thwarted by age-old patriarchal ethos. In short, Soi provides publication opportunities both online and in print, and is constantly pursuing the evolving discourse around women’s lives and liberties.
It is no surprise that Nabaneeta Dev Sen is one of the most popular writers in Bengal, and the power of her words reaches well beyond the borders. This brilliant author captures the issues that scratch away at our social fabric through her poignant and clever style of writing.
Her work is a must-read for all lovers of Bengali literature. “Bama-Bodhini,” “Sita Theke Shuru,” and “Nati Nabanita” are some of her most famous works.