Sen, the reclusive Bengali screen goddess, died January 17. She was 82 years old.
Raima Sen, who is confused about her feelings of grief and guilt after the death her grandmother and legendary actor Suchitra Sen, says that her granny wanted her to get married and she will fulfil her last wish.
This is the first time Raima has lost someone so close to her.
“I am stricken with guilt and regret. It’s going to take a long to heal. Should I have spent more time with my grandmother? I guess the time you get with those you love is never enough. Thank god I wasn’t somewhere else when she went,” said Raima, daughter of Moon Moon Sen.
“Her last wish was to see me get married. I want her wish for me to come true,” she added.
“Why am I feeling so empty and guilty? I think I should’ve spent more time with my grandmom. My mother, my sister (Riya) and I are the only family she had, the only people she wanted to connect with. We felt responsible towards her. It’s a terrible loss,” said the actor of films like Chokher Bali and Anuranan.
Recalling Sen’s last days, Raima said, “She was conscious of her condition in hospital. But none of us thought she would go away. Her health didn’t seem so bad..She was chatting asking about how her home was doing in her absence…We would bring her ghar ka khana in the hospital. She would eat it cautiously. She also ate the hospital food.”
Moon Moon is shattered.
“I really don’t know what my mother will do without my grandmother now. They were one another’s universe. To my mother, her mother mattered the most. My mom’s bonding with my grandmother can’t be compared with what my sister and I shared with our grandmother. Riya and I have our lives. But for our mom, her mother was her universe,” said Raima.
“My grandmother and mother were best friends. It’s surprising how different they were and yet they understood one another completely. It was a very difficult situation for my grandmother when my mother got married, moved out of her home and had her own family.”
Raima, who has been in Kolkata for more than a month, says right now there is an incessant flow of guests in the house. ”It’s only that I realise what my grandmother meant for the people of (West) Bengal. Instead of dealing with grief, we are coping with the flow of visitors. The enormity of the loss hasn’t really begun to sink in. It will happen when we are alone.”
However, as a child Raima knew nothing about the legendary aura surrounding her grandmother. “When my sister Riya and I were kids, grandma had already given up films and public life. So, we only knew her as our grandmother and not as this iconic star until the time we became actresses ourselves. It was only then that we realised what a huge reputation our grandmother had.”
Raima is all praise for her grandmother’s determination. “She took a decision to stay out of public view and she stuck to it. It’s easy to withdraw from the limelight, but difficult to resist coming back to it. Once she made up her mind, she stayed away. She left everything and everyone behind. My mom, sister and I were all she had.”
About Sen’s mythic seclusion Raima reminisces, “When Riya and I were kids she took us shopping and boating. She would come home as we would go to hers. But no, she never cooked for me. Neither does my mother. But we’d have lunch together. I’d miss my lunches with my grandmother.”
Raima was amazed by the turnout at Sen’s cremation. “Not even the biggest stars would get the kind of send-off that my grandmom got from her fans. And this, mind you, in spite of the fact that she hadn’t been seen on screen for 40 years.
“When she was being taken I could see people coming out on the road with their hands folded saying goodbye to someone they will never stop loving. They threw wreaths and said prayers for her. This was not a normal farewell. The fans are fanatical about her. They loved her madly even when they hadn’t seen her for decades. Apart from her immediate family the only ones who saw her were the doctors and the nurses who attended to her in her last days. ”
Sen remained private even in death. Said Raima, “The family made sure she remained undisclosed to public view even after her death. We had to respect her privacy.”
“I am looking at her black-and-white pictures. That young beautiful woman resembles my grandmother. But I can’t connect that lovely star with my lovely grandmother. Those eyes and the smile remained the same till the end.”