Thursday, December 1, 2022



NilavroNill Shoovro

Talking With Poet



NILAVRONILL:Why do literature and poetry in particular interest you so much? Please give us some idea about your own perception of literature or poetry in general.

AMANITA SEN: Literature and poetry have been a way of life from the beginning. My parents subscribed to all Bengali literary magazines that were available in those days. ‘Anandamela’, ‘Shuktara’, ‘Chandmama’, ‘Desh’ ‘Sandesh’ were introduced to me when I was a child. Much later I have realised that poetry holds for us the mirror we need to have to not just see things around us ‘well, but to also see our own selves better. Like the mirror gives out the intricate details of the face that eyes miss to see, poetry often provides with words to the truth of our subconscious minds. Literature helps us to have a better understanding of the society. In a way it has often been a tool for change too, subtly working in the minds of the readers to enable a paradigm shift in the thought process, often making breakthrough with societal norms that surely needed a revamping or at least a focus that is pro-people. Munshi Premchand’s novel Sadgati,a harsh critique of the class hierarchy in India holds a mirror to the hideous fact of inequality on the basis of casteism in the country. Set in Bulgaria, during the Bulgarian-Serbian war, George Bernard Shaw’s play Arms and the man breaks the myth of the glorious side of the war by pitching realism against romantic idealism. These are the two stories that came to my mind as examples of literature being the mirror to the stagnating norms and ideals of the society.


NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the time around you, in the other.


AMANITA SEN: While man is the product of the society in general, his existence is also an individualistic one, where his emotions, thoughts find an expression from his own perception of the happenings around him. My literary life is more towards being an expression of my personal journey. I have also realised, it is so much upon me what I make of this time, I am in. Each age, century, decade comes with its own share of challenges, hardships and turmoil. My poetry is probably not apparently speaking of the bleakness of the present times in general. I write to try and make sense of the precarious play of time around me and my own existence here as well. That way my writing is an attempt to find meaning to the chaos called living.


NILAVRONILL: Do you believe creative souls flourish more in turmoil than in peace?


AMANITA SEN: It is entirely upon the individual and his own expressions that would decide what is the best trigger for creativity- a situation of turmoil or peace. The places that are geo-politically disturbed have seen some wonderful writings that are admired all over the world. Conflict is an important theme to write upon, irrespective of where you belong. There is no dearth of fodder for writing for those who thrive on turmoil. But I also believe that creative minds need to find or etch for themselves a state of peace in order to recollect, contemplate and reflect on their thoughts. So it is probably a balance of both that is needed for creativity.

NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have been largely extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general?

AMANITA SEN: Yes definitely. Literature being an expanding subject, information and technology is bringing close to us what new is being written in which corner of the world. There is no paucity of information on the amount of work being done all over the world. People are experimenting with different forms and genres to cater to the readers with little time to read and having short attention span as well.


NILAVRONILL: Now, in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul: How do you respond to this present time?

AMANITA SEN: What I have realised is that every age comes with its share of challenges and conflicts. I write to express the waves of emotions I go through, looking around me. Words have the power to hold difficult emotions and help the mind in healing from the wearing out caused by the drudgeries of everyday life fuelled by the discrepancies between our expectations at the societal and personal level and the reality that we are made to face.

NILAVRONILL: Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And is this an incentive for or an obstacle against becoming a truly international writer?

AMANITA SEN: A child learns about the social norms, culture, literature and heritage of the place he or she is born to. That way the concept of nation gets imbibed in his being.  If the word “nationality” is used in a restrictive sense, to prove some kind of supremacy of one nation on the other, then I think there would be few writers who would be called a product of such notion. A limiting sense of nation can be an obstacle against becoming a truly international writer.

NILAVRONILL: Now, if we try to understand the tradition and modernism, do you think literature can play a pivotal role in it?  If so, how? Again, how can an individual writer relate himself or herself to the tradition and to modernism?

AMANITA SEN: A thorough knowledge of our tradition can be the strong base on which we can build the house of modernism. The stronger the foundation, larger and more beautiful can be the house. Time will inevitably replace the old for the new. But a good knowledge of tradition and our rich cultural and literary heritage can only help in experimenting with new ideas. I am reminded of Tagore’s autobiography “Jeeban-smriti” that mentions about his learning of Upanishads and other ancient texts of our country. His poems, songs, novels carried in them the essence of the philosophy of the old scriptures, though they were all modern in their forms, content and expressions.

NILAVRONILL: Do you think literary criticism has much to do with the development of a poet and the true understanding of his or her poetry?

AMANITA SEN: Responsible and knowledgeable criticism might help a writer or a poet to develop his craft. It is always good to see a constructive feedback on one’s work. But if that would help the writer to grow would depend on his or her openness, sense of acceptance and desire to learn. The intent of the criticism and the writers’ perception of it should have a strong sense of positivity in order to make the whole exercise a rewarding one for the writer, reader and critic.

NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?

AMANITA SEN: As human beings we are the product of our genes and environment. The happenings in our surroundings, society leave a mark on us that find expression in words. If the word “society” implies everything external, then maybe it is not a key factor in my poetry. My poems distinctly talk of an inward journey that is sometimes driven by societal factors but not always.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think people in general actually bother about literature?  Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?


AMANITA SEN: Literature has a dwindling set of readers now. The rat race for a good career leave children with little options to read anything other than their text books. Also, the advent of social media is taking away people from serious reading. There is also a distinct rise in all forms of entertainment specially in audio-visual mediums that is encroaching upon the leisure time that could be spent reading.

NILAVRONILL: We would like to know the factors and the peoples who have influenced you immensely in the growing phase of your literary life.


AMANITA SEN: I was born in a literature-loving family. Books have been a constant companion from my childhood. Though I was not sent to a vernacular medium school, my parents believed that knowing the mother tongue well, was important for a child’s education. So, birthdays and all other occasions got me books written by Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhuti bhusan Bandopadhyay, Satyajit Ray and many other notable writers. An aunt had a beautiful library that got me introduced to the wonderful world of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, O Henry, GB Shaw and other great writers. My father wrote poems and essays every morning, which he made me read before I left for school. Reading widely and indiscriminately helped me a lot to make sense of the world around me.

NILAVRONILL: How would you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations for or expectation from the younger generation?


AMANITA SEN: My contemporaries are simply brilliant in terms of their creativity. Their works are inspiring and are eagerly read by many. I try to learn from quite a few of them. I am absolutely hopeful that the younger generation would contribute meaningfully to the body of literature by adding newer and more modern insights to it. The onslaught of electronic media would only add to the variety of work and make it accessible to many.


NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past, and is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future?

AMANITA SEN: Hope is a small but powerful word. It brings for mankind the much-needed salvation from the looming sense of despair ignited by the unending war in some parts of the world and all other discrepancies, divisiveness, inequalities and hatred that make way to the hearts of the people. Hope is our ticket to the peaceful world we envision for ourselves.

NILAVRONILL: What role can literature in general play to bring a better day for every human being?


AMANITA SEN: Literature has the ability to change a person for the better from within. It can sow the seed of good thinking which in turn can translate to good deeds, beneficial for humanity at large. If people are encouraged to read more, there are chances that society will see happier and neurologically stronger people, considering reading is a complex neurological exercise. Psychologically too, people will stand to be benefitted by learning in depth the nuances of human minds from literature. Crime rates might find a dip. But all this can happen if only people go back to reading intently.

Author of two volumes of poetry, “Candle in my dreams “and “What I don’t tell you”, Amanita Sen’s poems have been published in many journals in India and abroad. She practices mental health and lives in Kolkata.


  1. It is an wonderful interview I enjoyed reading.

  2. An excellent and insightful interaction, that provided me a lot of learnings. My kudos and respect to Amanita Sen and to Nilavro Neill Shoovro !

  3. Padmaja Iyengar-PaddyDecember 2, 2022 at 1:04 PM

    An excellent and insightful interaction, that provided me a lot of learnings. My kudos and respect to Amanita Sen and to Nilavro Neill Shoovro !