Legendary Bengali writer, poet and academician Nabaneeta Dev Sen died in her home in Kolkata on Thursday evening after a prolonged battle with cancer. She was 81.
Sen was honoured with numerous awards, including the Sahitya Academy Award in 1999 and Padmashree in 2000.
She was the daughter of poets Narendra Dev and Radharani Devi. She was once married to Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen. She is survived by two daughters.
Known for her unique sense of humour and unfathomable spirit that helped her live with asthma since childhood, Sen recently wrote a heart-wrenching piece where she talked of her illness.
“When the world is witnessing such big battles, do you think I am scared of your sticks?” she had written addressing cancer.
Sen studied at Kolkata’s Presidency College and Harvard University and got her PhD from Indiana University. She completed her post-doctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley and Newnham College, Cambridge. She taught at Jadavpur University for many years.
“We were in touch even after we were no more a family. Her talents had no match. I wish I could have seen her. Her absence will affect people for a long time,” Amartya Sen told a Bengali television channel from the US.
Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee visited Sen at her residence on October 23 when he came to Kolkata for just a day.
“As her reader, it is an irreparable loss for me,” said her life-long friend and famous writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay.
Sen had been a bitter critic of the political violence West Bengal witnessed in recent years.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her condolence in a tweet.
“Saddened at the passing away of noted literature and academic Nabaneeta Dev Sen. A recipient of several awards, her absence will be felt by her myriad students and well wishers,” Mamata Banerjee wrote.
As a writer, Sen visited and stayed in many foreign countries and was a visiting professor at several foreign universities such as Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers, Columbia, Toronto and York.
She delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture at Oxford University in the mid-1990s.
She served as a jury member of literary awards such as Janapith Purashkar, Rabindra Purashkar and Saraswati Samman and founded the West Bengal Women Writers’ Association.