Biography of Sunil Gangopadhyay
Sunil Gangopadhyay (Shunil Gônggopaddhae), is an Indian poet and novelist.
He was born in Faridpur in what is now Bangladesh. He studied at the Surendranath College, Dumdum Motizhil College, City College, Kolkata - all affiliated with the University of Calcutta. Thereafter, he obtained his Master's degree in Bengali from the University of Calcutta in 1954.
He was the founder editor of Krittibas, a seminal poetry magazine started publishing from 1953, that became a platform for a new generation of poets experimenting with many new forms in poetic themes, rhythms, and words. Later, he started writing for various publications of the Ananda Bazar group, a major publishing house in Kolkata and has been continuing it for many years. He became friends with the beat poet Allen Ginsberg while he was traveling in India.
Ginsberg mentioned Gangopadhyay most notedly in his poem September on Jessore Road. Gangopadhyay in return mentioned Ginsberg in some of his prose work. After serving five years as the Vice President, he was elected the President of the Sahitya Akademi on February 20, 2008.
Sunil, along with Tarun Sanyal, Jyotirmoy Datta and Satrajit Dutta had volunteered to be defense witnesses in the famous trial of "Hungryalism" poet Malay Roy Choudhury.
He married Swati Bandopadhyay on February 26, 1967. Their only son, Sauvik was born on November 20, 1967.
Author of well over 200 books, Sunil is a prolific writer who has excelled in different genres but declares poetry to be his "first love". His Nikhilesh and Neera series of poems (some of which have been translated as For You, Neera and Murmur in the Woods) have been extremely popular.
As in poetry, Sunil is known for his unique style in prose. His first novel was 'atmaprakash' and it was also the first writing from a new comer in literature published in the prestigious magazine- 'desh' (1965). It was critically acclaimed but some controversy arises for its aggressive and 'obscene' style. Sunil said that he was afraid of this novel and went away from calcutta for a few days. Satyajit ray, the iconic film-maker thought to make a film on it but it wasn't possible for reasons. The central character of 'Atmaprakash' is a young man of core-calcutta'- sunil, who leads a bohemian life-style. The novel had inspiration from ' On the road' by Jack Kerouac, the beat generation writer. 'Arjun, Pratidwandi, filmed by Satyajit Ray (English title: The Adversary), Aranyer Din-Raatri (The Days and Nights of the Forest, also filmed by Satyajit Ray), Ekaa ebong Koyekjon are some of his well known works of fiction. His historical fiction Sei Somoy (translated into English by Aruna Chakravorty as Those Days) received the Indian Sahitya Akademi award in 1985. Sei Somoy continues to be a best seller more than two decade after its first publication. The same is true for Pratham Alo (also translated recently by Aruna Chakravorty as First Light), another best selling historical fiction and Purbo-Paschim, a raw depiction of the partition and its aftermath seen through the eyes of three generations of Bengalis in West Bengal, Bangladesh and elsewhere. He is also the winner of the Bankim Puraskar (1982), and the Ananda Puraskar (twice, in 1972 and 1989).
Sunil has written (and still writes) in many other genres including travelogues, children's fiction, short stories, features, and essays. Among his pen-names are: Nil Lohit, Sanatan Pathak, and Nil Upadhyay.
Though he has written all types of children's fiction, one character created by him that stands out above the rest, is Kakababu, the crippled adventurist, accompanied by his young adult nephew Santu, and his friend Jojo. Since 1974, Sunil Gangopadhyay has written over 35 novels of this popular series, most of which appeared in Anandamela magazine.
One of Sunil Gangopadhyay's cult poems, Smritir Shohor has been turned into a song for the film Iti Mrinalini (2011) directed by Aparna Sen.
Sunil Gangopadhyay's Works:
Hathat Nirar Janya
Sada Prishtha tomar sange
Sei Muhurte Nira
Bandhubandhab - an unusual work on friendship
Purba-Paschim (in two parts) - an epic novel on east and west Bengal
Jeeban Je Rakam
Eka Ebong Koekjon - Bengal & India during early 20th century up to Independence
Pratham Alo (in two parts) - an epic novel on Bengal Renaissance where Tagore & Swami Vivekananda are two of the few main protagonists. Their journey through life as teenagers to grow up being the man they eventually did marks this epic as a literary masterpiece.
Ranu O Bhanu
Moner Manush-made into a motion film by Goutam Ghose, starring Prosenjit as Lalon Fakir, a famous and iconic baul poet of early 18th-19th Century Bengal.
Sabuj Dwiper Raja
Kakababu O Sindukrahasya
Kakababu O Bajralama
Santu Kothay,Kakababu Kothay
Jangaler Modhe Ek Hotel
Santu O Ak Tukro Chand
Kakababu Herey Gelen?
Pahar Churae Atanka
Khali Jahajer Rohosyo
Agun Pakhir Rohoshyo
Kakababu O Chorashikari
"Sadhubabar haat(Short Story)"
"Kakababu O Ek Chhodmobeshi"
"Ebar Kakababur Protishodh"
"Mishor Rohoshsho (Mystery in Egypt)"
"Kakababu O Ashchorjo Dweep"
"Agneyogirir peter madhye"
Kakababu O Jaladashu
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Sunil Gangopadhyay Poems
Neera, sometimes, it seems you are more distant than even the day I was born.
A Truth Bound Sentiment
This hand has touched Neera's face, could I use this hand to commit a sin, ever again? In the late evening glow
With ease I make a million flowers bloom, All at once I light up some suns, moons, stars, In a passing whim I blow out the moonlight
This Hand Has Touched
This golden figurine- oh dear, will she ceaselessly crumble away, In the night, in the sun, in the rain in the arms of another man? Her nipples two bared switches,- switches? Hands tremble at their touch.
By Writing a Poem
By writing a poem I shall now build a palace, by writing a poem I shall claim a limousine, by writing a poem though I may not be elected President I shall demand my fistful of earth: for eons this world has been indebted to the shepherd's song. By writing a poem I shall claim Scotch, premium brand, and a leg of chicken cooked in unadulterated oil, nothing less— for this poem I shall demand countless odalisques— or a woman whose knees I can clasp in a public place and crave sympathy. Whenever I stand at the level crossing I must hear gunfire— after writing a poem I shall not renounce my demands— like a pariah I shall roll in the dust near your feet, wringing blood out of bones—I am still waiting, begging open humanness from humankind's eyes— from the fevered forehead, spit and phlegm I have come for this poem, like a brutal drunk I have incinerated myself and risen from the ashes, awake to the sound of helplessness echoing in my lonesome room I have come to avenge everything by writing a poem.
I once spat into the sea: no one saw me, no one knew— The froth of the impassioned waves swept away my spit. Yet sometimes I am embarrassed, after so many years I can hear the sea curse me. On the mail train's body I once chalked a woman's profile: no one saw me, no one knew— in fact even the stars in her eyes were not there. Before the train could cross a single station, impassioned rains came— perhaps my sketch was washed away. Yet sometimes I am embarrassed, after so many years I can hear the mail train curse me. When I walk the road every day, do I trample its heart? When I catch a woman's nipple with my teeth, am I brutalising her? Sipping wine on wintry mornings do I represent an exploitative class interest? Is it a sin to embrace Saraswati's idol in the first flush of adolescence? I am still not sure about such things. Yet I can distinctly hear the sea and the mail train curse me. Translated by Pritish Nandy.
Calcutta and I
Calcutta is a dead weight on my heart: I must destroy her before I go. I shall seduce her away to Haldia port and feed her sweets spiked with arsenic— Calcutta is a dead weight on my heart. Calcutta counterfeits moonlight, and has learnt to mix thorns and gravel with her kisses. She forgets to add sugar to tea like her tears and has so many paramours that even at noon her thighs separate. How can I let you go, my charmer, so easily to the Supreme Court at Delhi? Instead, when dusk sets, with perfume on my heart I shall clasp you with violence and taxi down the strand. You shall twist to the music in a restaurant and slipping your sari off your shoulders rest two cameras on your breasts— everyone will whistle and applaud. There is such music in your limbs, you are like a brilliant light in the mirror, at your feet I could bring a virgin eulogy in verse from the south of the city. Shall I offer you a lotus on a golden tray? You shall be murdered at midnight. Calcutta, where can you escape my clutches? You cannot hide in Canning Street— and if you run down the broken lanes of Chinatown, I shall chase you like a leopard, leaping across the traffic lights, past miserable Burrabazar, down Chowringhee—the convalenscent's diet— I shall pursue you. My painful love like a strange phantom shall track you down with vengeance. Where can you escape? I shall turn back all the ships on the river and switch on a powerful searchlight in the dark maidan to grab you by your throat. Before I escape I shall pour gunpowder in the secret ducts of your body and light a match between your thighs— rows of mansions will be flung in the air, scattering debris everywhere—all our lovemaking, ornaments, the immortal universe of Chitpur shall be destroyed in an instant. As you have pushed me towards death, you shall have to die with me.
NEERA, DON'T GET LOST
Each day for us was a day of changing birth In the light - like pieces of broken glass in the sky - From the horizon before me, like an exile, you advanced with hesitant steps Your body covered with a white swan's feathers, garland of gunja seeds round your neck I was afraid That wasn't a time for sightseeing, it was a time of banishment Then the city was burning with hate, the knife in the human hand was being planted in the human heart Religion fed on corpses burnt in flames in buses and roads Patriotism was being regurgitated like blood-vomit I was imprisoned in the attic, I couldn't recognise you Then, with a small notebook, I rose and leapt into deep blue space You were, then, standing upon Dakshineshwar bridge, The river in your eye's pupil Profound silence of night-time in the town, all the schoolbells going ‘dong dong' . . . Each day for us was a day of changing birth Do you remember, when you, like cave-woman suddenly wounding adolescence, Had tenderly embraced, very early at dawn, the soft, red winter sun From the kadamba tree on Hari Ghosh Street, at the time, small shards of diamond were slowly falling The day's first blade-sharp tram went by, saying, Awake, Awake As on a revolving stage, all was helter-skelter - now afternoon, now midnight, now evening I was, at the time, shouting out my lungs in a rally, drops of blood dripping from my nose On all sides, hunger was flickering like a serpent-tongue Ah! that enthralling, beggarly, imperious hunger Like the direst circle in hell, that stomach-gnawing hunger At certain moments, I saw, on the verandah, the anxious figure of motherhood, eyes like a bird's I'd dreamed that, one day, the world's mothers would serve steaming rice to all the small, small children Those bullets and explosions on College Street You alighted from the bus, and, at that instant, inside, the festive gunpowder went off With a jump, someone cleared the park railing, and lay down as an ascetic might His face in the grass. Each day for us was a day of changing birth You were once Woman, you became Neera I wore false beard and moustaches and became a clerk in a pharmacist's godown My sandal-strap tore, I squatted before a roadside cobbler No one could recognise me, we're all unrecognisable from the back Sometimes I was the cobbler, and he the pedestrian Sometimes I was the road; people walked by, treading on my breast Sometimes I was silence and, at once, a restless roar You gave a coin to the blind old man, in Sealdah the clock stopped ticking So many people rushing, after getting off a train, stopped, motionless, for a few seconds And then with a crashing sound much destruction ensued Tear-gas smoke the police crying, the Chinese didn't want to be ‘bhai bhai' Deflected by a handbill, people fell into a hole dug in the road - many sprained their ankles Three live cubs frolicked ebulliently in the gutter A group of red-haired Englishmen left after photographing the scene on a French camera You sat alone in the examination hall, the question paper didn't arrive I was bent low, searching for small change in my torn pocket You went to the flower show and flew your sari's aanchal like a flag I lay all evening by the side of a cremation ground. Each day for us was a day of changing birth The body's lustre shines upon all those magic scenes The body peeps inside the poem, sometimes it is shadow; sometimes it's the recalcitrance of flesh and blood Now it drowns, now comes and sits, face to face Kalidasa's bee touched your quivering lip I, having become grass and flower, placed my tongue upon your navel Like Modigliani's woman, the moonlight glistens in your thighs Once I became the child, and you the eternal Mother At one point you were the absolute girl, an adulterous king desired you The ocean flung powerful waves skyward The sky was louring towards hell A tantric was inhaling the smell of the yoni-lotus the great illusion, unsatisfied, was saying, More, more Ah! that playfulness, the heart's openness In the springtime, we lay in bed and composed a hundred histories of copulation Our arms round one another's necks, sitting unclothed by the window at the hour of cow-dust or at dawn A cigarette in my hand, in your hair a golden comb The forgotten earth was returning to us, little by little; from heavenward, the soft sound of a voice At cow-dust or dawn, drop after drop of rainbow-coloured water in the sky You kept staring in that direction; there was no aeroplane anywhere at that moment Speaking in one voice with Keats, you absent-mindedly scolded Newton That split-second was the moment of my rebirth. Neera, our delusion ends, we once again build from sand those tiny houses of sorrow We're still prancing about like naked children On the seashore Sometimes, what a splendid hiding-place, the century's jhau thickets I can't see you, I've dipped my pen in the inkpot in your name I haven't touched you, like a pregnant doe you melted into a mountainous kingdom Storm after storm is blowing away entire sides of horizons A wave of the magic wand is enough to summon from heaven waves of lightning the earth growing in eminence All's sound and sound's deletion, the turning of a page The amloki fruit beneath the hands is sending out intermittent glances; it, too, glances at me with a suppressed smile Neera, you're alone on a faraway boat, you've spread your two wings I'm alone in a distant mail train, can't read the name of a single station You withdrew from the factions in the school committee, went and hid behind a door I'm spending afternoons on a chair in a glass-ensconced room While, on the other hand, so many tree-shadows by the river remain unoccupied Those who'd said that revolution's at hand are now composing their memoirs And those who were wiped out, were too much wiped out The red-haired group's camera is still roaming the nooks and by-lanes No one speaks of love any more Whenever civilization hears of love, it breaks into giggles and laughter When someone visits the bathroom to wash their face, they weep alone and splash their face with handfuls of water Neera, we have much further to go, don't get lost There are many births to change, don't get lost Neera, immortal girl, don't you get lost now!
NEERA, DON'T GET LOST
Each day for us was a day of changing birth
In the light - like pieces of broken glass in the sky -
From the horizon before me, like an exile, you advanced
with hesitant steps
Your body covered with a white swan's feathers, garland of gunja seeds round your neck
I was afraid
That wasn't a time for sightseeing, it was a time of banishment
Then the city was burning with hate, the knife in the human hand was being planted
in the human heart