A lively book talk was organized by IAS Association, Rajasthan on the Facebook page of IAS Literary Society, Rajasthan on Sunday evening. The conversation was based on the book of poems ‘Acrobat’ translated by Nandana Dev Sen. She translated her late mother Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s Bengali poems into English in this book, which also happens to be her mother’s last work.  She was in conversation with IAS Literary Secretary, IAS Association, Rajasthan, Ms Mugdha Sinha. The talk focused on her mother as a poet and maternal figure, pressures of being the child of celebrity parents ( her father is Dr Amartaya Sen), writing for children, her mother’s inspiration, etc.

Talking about her mother as a poet and a maternal figure, Ms Sen said that as a child one always assumes that their mother is unbreakable. Her mother was always a strong feminist with an outspoken voice. She was great fun which reflected in her work. In her poetry, her mother revealed her deepest and intimate self which Nandana began to understand when she was translating the poems. Her mother’s work was a window to her vulnerability, depth of pain and many emotional layers of truth.

Talking about how different it is to write for children, Ms Sen said that writing for children is a big responsibility. One is reaching out to very impressionable minds. One can change the way children view life. There needs to be a fine balance between fun and encouraging them to think about empathy, equality and unity without it becoming boring.

Talking about her mother’s inspiration to write, Ms Sen shared that her mother was deeply formed by Bengali literature namely Rabindranath Tagore. Both her parents shared a close bond with Tagore. Apart from this, she was also influenced by other writers like – Ashapurna Devi, Buddhadeva Bose, Alokeranjan Dasgupta, etc. She was also influenced by national poets like Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, etc. Her mother looked to the past for inspiration but also looked to the present writers of her generation as well as what the younger generation was writing.  

Nandana Sen also recited some of her favourite poems from the book.

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