CHANDANNAGAR: This was Sen's stepping stone to France.

This is the entry gate to Chandernagor, the erstwhile French territory in India set up in 1673. Since the age of 12, Sen had heard from his father, a Communist party leader, about French human rights, that France was the first to abolish the monarchy, and “comrade” was taken from the French word “camarade”. His father also spoke of French artistic culture that attracted foreign artists.  He said a painter from Germany, Belgium or Netherlands, on coming to France, his colour palette radically changed from dark to bright colour with French influence. 

Across the Ganges river about 15 km from his refugee camp, Sen discovered Chandernagor where French architecture was visible. He would frequently request fishermen to take him and his bicycle to the opposite shore to spend time in the French quarter. It was his great artistic escape from 1966 to 1973. Sen says that being between British and French culture was quite confusing. India was totally adapted to British ways due to 200 years of colonization. But the France he discovered from his father’s talks, in Chandernagor, from art books on French culture and Modern Art in Kolkata art college and American library attracted him and propelled him to leave India and become an artist in France.


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.