The love that did not fail

They say behind every successful man, there is a woman. May be, sometimes in a not so Moravian way - two women. Here is Professor Nabaneeta Dev Sen, former wife of Professor Amartya Sen, who helped Sen clamber up the stiff ladder that has marked his tribe. Ms Sen who, in our view, matters a lot in the making of the Nobel Laureate in the most struggling and yet the most normative stage of his life. Is she just as happy as everybody else ? "O, of course !" -"But a little more, maybe ?" "Maybe !" She smiled a clear smile. NABANEETA DEV SEN spoke to our correspondent PRASENJIT CHOWDHURY this Friday.

INTERVIEW

Clad in dhoti, chappal and panjabi, the tall, handsome, suave professor used to drive a green
Fiat to Jadavpur University all the way from Iron Side Road. Little did the girl in her pristine 20, a first-year student of Comparative Literature in the university in 1956 understand that the youngest (ever) professor would take a fancy to her. "How could I ? I found a boyfriend in my Presidency College days. We broke off but with he still in mind, I was just an admirer of the natural darling, like hundreds of his students and senior colleagues", recalls Nabaneeta Dev Sen, former wife of the Nobel Laureate and a professor of Comparative Literature in Jadavpur University. Sen's scholarship, a wee bit disproportionate to his age, had already began to make waves. "When his feelers started pouring in, for me it was like a dwarf who was being being approached by the moon", she laughs in a tone of happy nostalgia. But the relationship grew. He often used to take her for tea to his colleagues, like Paramesh Roy and Mrinal Datta Chowdhury and occasionally dropped in at her 72, Hindustan Park residence. It was Datta Chowdhury to whom Sen first broached his liking for Professor Sen, five years his junior. Before he left Jadavpur to return westwards as a prize fellow to Trinity, Cambridge, he made up his mind. They met again in England in 1959. "He came to meet my boat train with Barun De, Partha Sarathi Gupta and Jashodhara Sengupta (now Bagchi) and took to Cambridge. He proposed to me and I was nonplussed even though my mind was set in tune". She asked Jashodhara (her childhood friend and Amartya's cousin) about what to do. YB was forthright: "Aare raajee hoye jaa" (accept the proposal at hand). But Dev Sen, asked Amartya to approach her parents. So he did. "Our parents advised him to obtain the permission of his parents. And then

"Life was modest but happy in the formative years. He drops in at her place . They were mutually held in hostage the following summer in India. "But we were not rich by any way". keeping his house for him. MIT. DSE and LSE. no longer belongs to her ? "I am fully enjoying this glorious moment like everyone else . But we did not see the play till the end". Berkeley. But this was an extraordinarily important year for AKS academically -. He moved back and forth between Trinity.' (a very muffled and coy yes)" "Thus the issue was clinched. as a single mother. taking care of the kids and their father. But they always found time to go off on the weekends for a break. and their first child.no. Nabaneeta followed him and.a great moment in the history of student politics.and became a two car family and two-daughter family as well ! Between 1968 to 1973 Prof Sen worked at DSE. Massachusetts. they got engaged in Cambridge. but the warmth and goodwill are still there. the prize money of which was nearly its Nobel equivalent". Harvard. Then a moment came. And Nabaneeta followed him around. Over the years I've developed a sense of detachment. They returned to DSE a year later. I said a meek 'Hmmm.D.500 and she had a UGC fellowship of Rs 500 . Does Sen still keep tab with her ? "In January this year he broke the news of his becoming Master of Trinity first to me". Delhi and LSE.. her ex-husband and now feted by the world community. "I remember we two had gone to see a play by Brendan Behan. Cambridge. with an Associate Professorship and she with a Post Doctoral Fellowship. Antara. "but we spent hours together beside the Thames instead". I was very happy when he won the Senator Giovanni Agnelli International Prize in Ethics eight years back." He moved back to Trinity College in 1961. then a Cambridge 'Wrangler' in mathematics". "Our parents advised him to obtain the permission of his parents.. And then my father asked me ' kiire oke biye korbi ?'(do you agree to marry Amartya ?). Every month we had to borrow from his friend and colleague. which in 1959 was quite a success. I've no sense of loss whatever. "Amartya was a good economist but a bad money manager. Stanford. The next year they went off to Berkeley. Romesh Ganguly.to achieve his target. She had a fellowship to Harvard and Sen was a young assistant professor in MIT. as the Director of DSE.he had previous plans to write several papers -. "But we could hardly save a penny those days". And developed as one of the major writers in Bengali literature.money wasn't much but they had a comfortable life . she recalls. to start her career as a working woman. In wedlock. UK. He was drawing a salary of Rs 1. By the end of 1963 she managed to get her Ph. She soon got involved with the free speech movement -. running on the threadbare budget really worked ! "We finally managed to buy a second-hand Chevrolet next January. So he did. But Prof VKRV Rao was setting up the Delhi School of Economics and persuaded AKS (Nabaneeta loves to call him that way) to serve his country. The Hostage . when Sen changed his mind. she mulls like a dove. Does she feel a sense of loss as the man. Nabaneeta rushed to Jadavpur. Harvard.parents. They settled for a life in togetherness in Cambridge. We kept on frisking from one place to another". "After three months a desperate Romesh sternly allocated a budget for the family and lo and behold. Nabaneeta followed him to Newnham College.

and a good long drive ! Besides. a wonderful woman. Is she a bit sulky over the projection at the role of Amartya's mother. smiled and said. Antara Dev Sen.though a clumsy one. "As Amartya was in New York. an Indo-Canadian project. Now both the daughters have "excellent" relationship with Sen. Antara and Pratik are waiting to celebrate the moment of joy. "I'm yet to hear from Nandana. in the media ? ". She may be plain too busy till she comes back home next month".although Amartya did not have the time to come with us. "and we both loved a cup of good coffee. unmindful of the medieval rituals . She first sensed that Amartya has finally made it. A mother deserves that much attention". Our political.which he does not take too seriously. is presently in Oxford with a Reuter Foundation Fellowship. "My sons-in-law. have a good rapport with him as well". Her elder daughter. Amartya never let them feel that way. "after so many years of wistful anticipation". We were both with the Student Federation in Calcutta. working in a film Seducing Maria. I was an anti-Vietnam activist in the UK and the USA as a part of the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament. Were their daughters ever aware of the father as a celebrity ? "Not really. I walked the aldermeston March led by Bertrand Russell. who has helped to bring my children closer to their father"." Unfortunately. Did she go ? "Sure ! And had a grand time watching him functioning as the Master . said she with a warm smile . How was he as a father ? "a clumsy one". Ms Amita Sen. where our first child was conceived !" She laughed a hearty smile. But they got the idea as they grew up". Quite a contrast to our struggling days in Cambridge. "during the days of real struggle". she looked away. we were both named by Rabindranath." She stopped.Our sense of values. "I tried to give Amartya a steady companionship within my abilities". one German and another Bengali. but the butler surely does ! I shared his formative years as an international scholar. the younger one. ethical judgments were similar like our interest in human rights. but I was equally proud of him when I had married a struggling. I had called up Emma Rothschild (his present wife) in Trinity. "until they grew old enough to be his students". she laughs. "When we met in New York in May this year. in the lead role with Mohan Agashe by her side. with our friend Kumari Jayawardena -.I'm proud of him today as he is the Master of Trinity College. Nandana is currently in Montreal.when is in the city. Amartya invited me to spend a weekend at the Master's Lodge with him and his wife Emma." "I am happy as we are . that's precisely why so many people are congratulating her ! The phone didn't stop ringing ! What were the common threads between then apart from their wry sense of humour and their flair for debating ? ".Of course not."not to speak of the Nobel Laureate !" . on Trinity Street. but I had his full support. when she saw a proud Ms Amita Sen beaming on an unobliging TV screen with her son as inset. Prof Dev Sen was by a quirk of fate away from Calcutta on Wednesday at Gadiara in Howrah district. Small wonder. young Prize Fellow of Trinity College". Canada.