Mahasweta Devi

Mahasweta Devi as a creative thinker is unique in more than one way. She writes with a mission and yet her writings are not propagandist in any way.

Her contributions in the field of literary creation are so varied and expansive, that it is impossible to do full justice to her in an article like this. So, an attempt has been made to only highlight the special characteristics of her unique personality and to find out her philosophy of life.

She was born in 1926 in Dhaka, of parents with rare literary talents. Her father Manish Ghatak was a poet and a novelist of repute and her mother Dharitri Devi was also a writer in her own way and a devoted social worker too. The influence of her parents upon her mental growth from a very early stage was undoubtedly great.

She had her early education in a school of Dhaka. After the partition of Bengal, she came to West Bengal and was admitted to Vishvabharati University in Santiniketan, from where she passed her B.A. (Hons.) in English. She passed M.A. in English from Calcutta University in 1963 as a private student. She started writing from a very early age and contributed short stories to various literary magazines. Her first novel Nati was published in 1957 and her writing still goes on.

Profound humanism imbued with a deep-rooted love for the suffering humanity lies at the core of Mahasweta's philosophy of life. In all her writings, she tries to depict the life of ordinary men and women, particularly of the Adivasi (tribal) people like the Santals, Lodhas, Shabars and Mundas, the simple joys and sorrows of their life, their exploitation and sufferings and conditions of abject poverty in which they live their lives. She roams all over the country and spends days and months, mixing freely with these people.

She not only depicts their life in her writings but also tries to change the conditions of their life through various social welfare activities - it is here that her uniqueness as a creative thinker lies.

Most of her short stories and novels portray the life of the downtrodden and the neglected people of the country, destroyed by man's greed, narrowness and selfishness. Some of her writings will undoubtedly overcome the barriers of time and live in people's minds, for years to come. Bioscoper Baksho, Aranyer Adhikar, Hajar Churashir Ma, Chatti Munda O Tar Tir are considered to be her masterpieces. She has also contributed to Economic and Political Weekly, Business Standard and other magazines. In her life she has been honoured with a number of literary awards including the prestigious Gyanpith award for literature in 1996.

However, Mahasweta Devi is much more than what these awards show her to be and she will live in our minds for generations to come.

Written by :
Shri Satyasadhan Chattapadhyay
Editor in Chief : Dana - a Bengali Literary Magazine
Ex-teacher of Shyampahari Ramakrishna Shikshapith, Tumbani,
Rampurhat Post, Birbhum (West Bengal), India.

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