Leela Majumdar (Bengali: লীলা মজুমদার Lila Mojumdar), (26 February 1908 – 5 April 2007) was a Bengali writer.
Born to Surama Devi and Pramada Ranjan Ray (who was the younger brother of Upendra Kishor Ray Choudhuri), Leela spent her childhood days at Shillong, where she studied at the Loreto Convent. Surama Devi had been adopted by Upendra Kishor Ray Choudhuri . Lila’s grandfather had left his three daughters in care of his friends after his wife died. In 1919, her father was transferred to Calcutta, and she joined St. John’s Diocesan School from where she completed her matriculation examination. She ranked second among the girls in the matriculation examinations in 1924. She stood first in English (literature) both in her honours (graduation) and Master of Arts examination at the University of Calcutta. The family she belonged to made a notable contribution towards children’s literature. Sunil Gangopadhyay says that while the Tagore family enthused everybody with drama, songs and literature for adults, the Ray Chaudhuri family took charge of laying the foundations of children’s literature in Bengali.
She joined Maharani Girls’ School at Darjeeling as a teacher in 1931. On an invitation from Rabindranath Tagore she went and joined the school at Santiniketan, but she stayed only for about one year. She joined the women’s section of Asutosh College in Calcutta but again did not continue for long. Thereafter, she spent most of her time as a writer. After two decades as a writer, she joined All India Radio as a producer and worked for about seven-eight years.
Her first story, Lakkhi chhele, was published in Sandesh in 1922. It was also illustrated by her. The children’s magazine in Bengali was founded by her uncle, Upendrakishore Ray Chaudhuri in 1913 and was later edited by her cousin Sukumar Ray for sometime after the death of Upendrakishore in 1915. Together with her nephew Satyajit Ray and her cousin Nalini Das, she edited and wrote for Sandesh throughout her active writing life. Until 1994 she played an active role in the publication of the magazine.
An incomplete bibliography lists 125 books including a collection of short stories, five books under joint authorship, 9 translated books and 19 edited books.
Her first published book was Boddi Nather Bari (1939) but her second compilation Din Dupure (1948) brought her considerable fame From the 1950s, her incomparable children’s classics followed. Although humour was her forte, she also wrote detective stories, ghost stories and fantasies.
Her autobiographical sketch Pakdandi provides an insight into her childhood days in Shillong and also her early years at Santiniketan and with All India Radio.
Apart from her glittering array of children’s literature, she wrote a cookbook, novels for adults (Sreemoti, Cheena Lanthan), and a biography of Rabindranath Tagore. She lectured on Abanindranath Tagore and translated his writings on art into English. She translated Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea into Bengali.
Satyajit Ray had thought of filming Podi Pishir Bormi Baksho Arundhati Devi made it into a film in 1972. Chhaya Devi played the role of the young hero, Khoka’s famed aunt Podipishi.
For a special Mahila Mahal (women’s section) series of All-India Radio, dealing with the “natural and ordinary problems” in the everyday life of a girl growing up in a typical, middle-class, Bengali family, she created Monimala, the story of a “very ordinary girl” whose grandmother starts writing to her from when she turns 12, continuing into her marriage and motherhood.
She was married to Dr. Sudhir Kumar Mazumdar, a renowned dentist, in 1933. For two decades she devoted herself to housekeeping. Her son Ranjan and daughter Kamala were born in 1934 and 1938 respectively. Her husband died in 1984. Apart from her children, she had, at the time of her death, two grandsons, two granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.
Holde Pakhir Palok, Tong Ling, Maaku, Podi Pishir Bormi Baksho, Boddi Nather Bari, Din Dupure, Chhotoder Srestho Galpo, Monimala, Bagher Chhokh, Bok Dharmik, Taka Gaachh, Lal Neel Deslai, Basher Phul, Moyna, Shalikh, Bhuter Bari, Aaguni Beguni, Tipur Upor Tipuni, Patka Chor, Aashare Galpo, Chiching Phank, Je Jai Boluk, Chhotoder Tal Betal, Batash Bari, Bagh Shikari Bamun, Baghyar Galpo, Shibur Diary, Howrahr Dari, Ferari, Nepor Doi, Aar Konokhane, Kheror Khata, Ei Je Dekha, Pakdandi,Sreemoti, Cheena Lanthan,Moni Manil, Naatghar, Batashbari, Kaag Noi, Shob Bhuture.Bak Badh Pala. Her autobiographical sketch Pakdandi provides an insight into her childhood. Her autobiographical work aar konokhane(আর কোনোখানে) was much acclaimed.
Holde Pakhir Palok won the state award for children’s literature, Bak Badh Pala the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Aar Konokhane Rabindra Puraskar. She had also won the Suresh Smriti Puraskar, Vidyasagar Puraskar, Bhubaneswari Medal for lifetime achievement, and Ananda Puraskar. She has been awarded the Deshikottama by Visva Bharati, and honorary D.Litt. by Burdwan, North Bengal and Calcutta Universities.