Art overcomes hardship

At the age of 5, Sen with his mother in front of their thatched roof, bamboo wall and mud floor squatted home at Shohidnagar refugee camp, 50 km outside Calcutta. Sen grew up here without electricity, sanitation or potable water. His parents had come here as refugees from East to West Bengal during the chaotic partition of India and Pakistan on religious grounds (East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan, and liberated as Bangladesh since 1971). More than a million were killed in riots and 15 million displaced during Independence. From an early age Sen was enormously influenced by the artisans in his neighbourhood.


When India was partitioned 1947 to create Pakistan, a new country for Muslims, about 20 million people of Bengal and Punjab were displaced and brutally victimized. Sen’s wealthy, literate family had huge landed property in erstwhile East Bengal, the present Bangladesh, which was carved out to be East Pakistan for Muslims. So for being Hindus Sen’s family was overnight evicted from their home. Without taking any possessions, they fled for their lives amidst people warring over religion, and so became squatted refugees in West Bengal.