Rupa to publish Didi Nirupama Devi by Alo Shome

Pic Credit: Rupa


Legendary writer Nirupama Devi’s Didi is the story of a diligent, assertive and capable woman who, according to her own admission, loves to be in charge of things. Surama can take responsibilities and deliver on them as creditably as the chief executive officer of a large company. Yet, for her husband, she is only a co-wife. As divorce did not feature as an option (Didi was published in Bengali in 1915, years before divorce was legalized by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955), Surama’s challenge is to lead a fulfilled life within the parameters of her weird circumstances.

To complicate matters, Surama continues to love her husband, though she tries hard to hate him. In fact, there is no villain in the story. Even Amar, who brings home a younger woman as his second wife, is gentle and benevolent. The novelist, very convincingly, makes him a victim of circumstances. The second wife, Charu, a child-woman when the story begins, is extremely fond of her Didi, Surama. The friendship of the two wives of one man forms the fulcrum of the narrative.

Consisting of strong sub-plots, one of which depicts the painful process by which a young widow sublimates her sexuality and submits herself to God, the only way of living allowed to her by the society of her time, Didi is a reminder why society needed to change for women to live their lives with dignity.


Nirupama Devi was part of a new breed of women writers who were winning the hearts of readers in the late nineteenth-century Bengal. Her most productive years as a writer were between 1913 and 1927. Her major novels and novellas include Annapurnar Mandir (1913), Aleya (1917), Shyamali (1919) and Bidhilipi (1919). Didi, her longest and most critically acclaimed novel, was originally published in 1915. Shyamali, depicting the life of a deaf and dumb girl, was adapted into a play and created a stir. Nirupama Devi passed away on 7 January 1951.

A published short story writer and poet since the age of 18, Alo Shome has been engaged in translating Bengali classics into English for the last 15 years. Her work as a translator has been praised highly by critics and readers alike. She has translated Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Krishna Charitra (published in 2008), Mir Mosharraf Hossain’s Bishad Sindhu (published in 2018), and a collection of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s essays on Hinduism titled Many Threads of Hinduism (published in 2015). Didi is Alo’s fourth undertaking as a translator.

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