In a Facebook post, her cousin Shuddhabrata Sengupta, artist and curator, Raqs Media Collective, wrote, “My cousin, Subhadra Sen Gupta, ‘Bul-di’ to all who knew her, beloved writer of historical fiction and history for children and young readers — who many waves of kids across India adored for how she made history come alive for them with her books — passed away last night due to Covid-19. She fought the disease bravely. Gone with her is her remarkable sense of how the past remains alive, as story, as history, as memory…”
In her long career, Sen Gupta tried to make this sense of the past, of history, approachable for young readers. From biographies of Indian kings such as Ashoka and Akbar to well-researched accounts of the freedom struggle in A Flag, A Song and A Pinch of Salt: Freedom Fighters of India (2007), Saffron, White and Green: The Amazing Story of India’s Independence (2008) to A Children’s History of India (2015), and, most recently, The Constitution of India for Children (2020), Sen Gupta’s books sparkled not just with a historian’s meticulous research but also with a storyteller’s unerring flair for atmosphere.
At the end of each of her books, Sen Gupta insisted on publishing her email id for readers who might want to get back to her with questions and opinions. “It’s important to let them ask questions, to hear them out… I meet children at schools, where I talk less and listen more. In the last five years, I have sensed a confusion about history, and, also, human values…,” she had said in an interview.