Reprinted from Patch.com. Byline: Eric DeGrechie, Patch Staff
Abhinanda Datta died unexpectedly Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Evanston. She was 28.
Datta is survived by her parents, Amitabha and Sahana, of Kolkata, West Bengal (India); her beloved dog, Muffin; elder sister, Aanandita, of Mumbai, Maharashtra (India); and her brother-in-law, Pranay Rao.
Datta was born and raised in India. Her grandfather, Dr. Amaresh Datta, was an eminent Shakespearean scholar and Abhinanda took after him with a great interest in English literature, according to her family. The elder Datta died last August at the age of 101, and a state funeral was held in his honor.
“Writing has always been a passion, but when I learned about the abuse women my age faced, I decided to forego fictional stories to write about those who needed to be heard,” Abhinanda Datta once wrote. “That is how at the age of 14 I decided that I would dedicate my life to making a difference.”
Even before graduating from high school, Datta started having her work published. She reported on topics like the abuse of women, yoga and India’s 60th year of independence, while also critiquing books, films and music for The Telegraph in Schools, the largest student-run newspaper in East India.
“She had a natural gift of the gab, and had an excellent command over her English. This helped her to be a meticulous editor,” said Biswanath Dasgupta, editor-in-charge, The Telegraph In Schools. “An excellent artist, she blossomed on the pages of her paper TTIS with beautiful illustrations/doodles for poems short stories and cover stories.”
Datta received a high school degree from Our Lady Queen of the Missions in 2011, where she studied English, history, political science and economics. She was also involved with the drama team, school band and editorial board at the school in Kolkata.
At Jadavpur University in Kolkata, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 2014 and a master’s degree in English Literature two years later. After graduation, she was a retainer for the books page of The Telegraph where she wrote stories on books and authors.
In 2017, Datta was a journalism resident for Cape Argus in Cape Town, South Africa.
After Medill, she began working for 22nd Century Media and eventually became an editor for the media company that was formerly based out of the suburbs of Chicago. Datta worked there until the company folded in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Datta’s work has also appeared in The Huffington Post, Medill News Service, Medill Justice Project and Chicago Magazine.
After the closure of 22nd Century Media, Datta became a field editor for Patch, a national media company based out of New York City. At the time of her death, she was covering the Illinois communities of Plainfield, Oswego, Bolingbrook and Romeoville for Patch.
“Abhinanda joined Patch in the early days of the pandemic, a strange time for us all, but she dove right in without missing a beat, covering the chaos of the early days of COVID-19,” said Shannon Antinori, regional manager and Abhinanda’s manager at Patch.
During her time at Patch, Datta received much recognition for her work, which included reporting on countless bars and restaurants trying to survive during the pandemic, animal rescue, important community fundraisers and corruption in government.
Datta, who was also an artist, said about this piece created earlier this month, “Couldn’t throw away these lovely flowers I received a few weeks ago. So, I turned them into art.” (Courtesy of the Datta Family)
“I have a yearly book challenge, so I read. My goal for this year is 100 Abhinanda’s sister, Aanandita, said she modeled while in college.
“Most people will remember her for her love for animals, her artwork, her fierce passion for causes,” Aanandita Datta and Pranay Rao said in an email to Patch. “She obviously loved writing. In books, horror, fantasy and romance were her favorite genres. Stephen King and Virginia Woolf were among her favorite authors. We also connected on our angst with George R. Martin not writing the next ‘Game of Thrones’ book.”
A company-wide virtual memorial service was held for Datta at Patch on March 18. Her reporting and artwork were featured as her colleagues and management reflected on her time with the company.
“I was just absolutely blown away by her skills and how she put them to use at Patch,” said Lauren Traut, managing editor at Patch. “She will be greatly missed. She was such a bright spot.”
A funeral service was held March 19 at Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago. The service was broadcast live via Zoom for family members and friends unable to attend.
Datta was cremated after the funeral, according to family. Her ashes will be sent to India in the future for a puja, a worship ritual performed by Hindus.
Datta’s family said she leaves behind some books and “loads of artwork” as her main possessions. They are looking to donate her books to a charity and her money to an animal welfare group in the near future.
Photo courtesy of the Datta family.