On the second day of Dhaka Lit Fest, in a fun and interactive session titled “Mothers and daughters”, actor, social activist and entrepreneur Sara Zaker spoke to writer, translator and artiste Nandana Sen – daughter of one of the most famous and illustrious writers in Bengali literature, Nabaneeta Dev Sen. Drawing a large crowd on the lawn, the session revolved around the beautiful relationship that Nandana shares with her “Maa”.
Nandana is a devoted daughter, and the lovely relationship that she has with her mother, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, is quite evident in her writings. When asked why she felt the need to write about her mother and translate her works, Nandana said, “I grew up in an all-female family, with my grandmother, mother and elder sister. It's a family of writers – in fact, I was the last one to join the clan. And, my mother and grandmother, together, started this spontaneous but very strong, literary and political tradition which is very woman-oriented. They did that in so many different ways, and at different times, but it was always reflected in their writings. I've also been fascinated by the relationship that they had – which was extremely intimate, but also very complicated. Hence, it was not so much of a conscious choice, but what moves me most about my personal experience is this relationship that I have shared with the women in my family. So I guess that's why it comes out in my writing.”
Thus, it was quite fitting when Nandana decided to translate some of her mother’s works for her 75th birthday, and she turned to poetry. Make Up Your Mind is a bilingual collection comprising Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s poetry and their English translations by Nandana Sen. At the DLF, she read from her English translations of her mother's poems, besides reading from her own books, Not Yet and Mambi And The Forest Fire.
The author also talked about her upcoming venture, tentatively titled Mother Tongues, that she and her mother are writing together. In her own words, the story portrays “three generations of rule-breaking, scandalous Bengali women who are writers.”
“Maa had been drawn to the idea of the generations in her family. She was always fascinated by the history in our family and I'd written several pieces, praising my mother and my grandmother for breaking rules and losing inhibitions. I was asked to write a book that would be about three generations inspired by those pieces of narrative non-fiction that I'd written. So, this year we decided to write the book together and it's been a wonderful, fascinating process. It's still very much a work in progress, but the way we're thinking about it is to have three different voices – one for my grandmother, which I will write, and one each for me and my mother, so there are three interconnected stories,” informed Nandana.