Millennium Post

Mahasweta Devi's autobiography remains unfinished, lost

Eminent writer Mahasweta Devi, who had penned hundreds of heartwarming tales about the downtrodden, could never finish her own story about the mental trauma she went through after her divorce.

Documentary filmmaker Joshy Joseph, who was associated with the Jnanipath and Sahitya Akademi award winning writer for a long time, said after the Nandigram violence during acquisition of land in 2007 she had started writing her autobiography.

“She finished half of the diary four years ago but while shifting her house and the trouble she had with her ex-aide it got lost. Now it remains unfinished and we don’t even know where the priceless manuscript is lying,” Joseph said. He said he had persuaded Mahasweta to finish writing it but it never happened. “She even read out some portions of the manuscript which was about her early life.” 

She was married to eminent playwright Bijon Bhattacharya, one of the founding members of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), but as things turned sour they separated in 1962 after having a son Nabarun, who also went to become a well-known poet.

People who were close to her say it was during this stage that she suffered a mental trauma and financial crisis, which made her to even sell dye powders.

Things improved as she got a job as an English lecturer in a government college. “I don’t think besides this autobiography there is any unpublished work of hers,” said Joseph, who has made three documentaries on her life.

However, many of her works are lost because she used to send the original manuscript of her writing to the publishers without keeping a copy of it. “Some of the magazines in which they were published are now not available in the market. So many of her works are lost. She has been writing endlessly,” her associate said.

The first film he made on her was the 51-minute documentary ‘Journeying with Mahasweta Devi’ about 10 years ago while the second one was ‘Mahasweta Devi: Close-up’. The last one, which is an experimental film of only five minutes, is called ‘Serendipity Cinema’.

Joseph has over 140 hours of footage of Mahasweta’s life including conversations with her. “I used to go to her house everyday for three years. She used to open up about everything to me without any reservation. This footage is of great archival value,” he said.

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