There couldn’t have been a better way to remember Padma Shri Nabaneeta Dev Sen than through her body of work on her 85th birth anniversary. And that’s how the day was marked on January 13 at Starmark, South City Mall, when her daughter, activist-actor Nandana Dev Sen sat with professor Debnita Chakravarti to discuss her poetries including the latest book, Acrobat that was planned while she was alive.
Talking about how the family used to gather at her Bhalobasha Bari when the writer was alive, Nandana said, “We all used to celebrate her birthday in our Bhalobasha Bari. In fact, I was there till the afternoon today remembering her. I am so happy that we could mark her 85th birthday here with her poems that I have grown up with,” said Nandana who translated the poems of the latest book in English from Bengali.
The evening saw Nabaneeta’s poetries being read by Nandana and Debnita, a professor at Shri Shikshayatan College, and the first one to be read was the Bengali version of the title poem from Acrobat. Nandana is known for translating her mother’s poems and she pointed out how on her mom’s 75th birthday she had gifted her self-published copies of Make Up Your Mind, an anthology of 25 poems. “I surprised her and gifted 75 copies of Make up Your Mind exactly 10 years ago when she had turned 75 and I had asked her to give it to her close ones. Turned out that her close circle is much bigger than I expected and then we had to publish more copies of that book because there was also demand from her fans.”
Nandana went on to read her favourite poem Rather Maylai. “Those who know my mom would know that there was a side of her that never grew up. Rather Maylai is my favourite because it’s reflective of her that aspect. It is about not feeling grown up even when the world has grown around you; it’s about having an innocence that the world has lost.”
The Sahitya Akademi awardee is known to be equally proficient in poetry and prose and drawing parallel with the title of the book the duo pointed out how Nabaneeta would balance writing poetry and prose with fine agility. “She was truly acrobatic. However, she identified herself more with poetry and in fact, kept scribbling poetry even during her last days. Poetry was central to her being,” said Nandana.
The evening ended with more anecdotes triggering nostalgia with the fans of the exemplary academician joining in.