Sunil Gangopadhyay—The Modern Mascot
Perhaps it’s not a death, it’s merely a date. The date that will remind us that poet-novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay is not among us anymore. After influencing and threatening the traditional Bengali mindset for over five decades with his radical literary thoughts and creative galore, Sunil’s words are now set free into the heart of a society that needs a moral crusade over conventional prejudice.
Born in Madaripur, Amgaon village on a rainy day in Faridpur district (now Bangladesh), Sunil skillfully embroidered the sentimental attachments of two nations (Bengal and Bangladesh) and its common men through his extraordinary literary excellence. His literary appeal was universal—above all political jingoism and diplomatic hegemony.
The name Sunil Gangopadhyay appeared when Bengali literature was floating aimlessly in the vacuum that was created after the demise of Rabindranath and was in dire need of a clairvoyant who could fill the gap and spearhead the wagon, beating existing experimental deadlocks in the contemporary Bengali literature. Finally the pathfinder Sunil Gangopadhyay emerged and the rest as they say is history.
From the very beginning, he made it explicitly clear that he was going to be unruly in his style of writing. That was the period when Bengali minds could not withstand variations which is not branched out of Rabindranath’s immortal works. Sunil, in a way, cut that thread and offered a new-age literary style which was more pragmatic in its approach and simpler in its ornamentations. His characters and protagonists were crafted scrupulously in a frame of practical legitimacy that made many of his readers twitched their eyebrows and caused restless discord within his peers and among other critics.
Being the mascot of modern-Bengali-literary-Renaissance, his works were painted with variegated shades of emotional moods with the manifestation of human inner most desires. His was the first voice who advocated the idea that literature can be practised beyond the boundaries created by Rabindranath.
Like every Bengali intelligentsia, he too had an inclination towards leftist wing which could be understood from some of his works (with reference to the film Protidwandi wherein the protagonist Dhritiman was seen saying that the greatest achievement of this century is the winning of Vietnam-war over the colonial imperialist).
According to Sunil, to be a writer you need to be an avid reader first. “You need to allow your thoughts grow and those need to be written in your own way. You can’t be under the influence of your favourite writer.” concluded the poet-novelist in an interview. Being a proponent of Bengali literature he used to rub shoulders with some of the stalwarts of contemporary foreign poets like Allen Ginsberg. He was the first Bengali writer selected for International writing programme organised by Paul Engle of Iowa University. He had a great acquaintance with Marguerite—a French lady who equally shared the same enthusiasm for poetry and Sunil mentioned her name in one of his interviews and acknowledged that because of her he came to know many things about French literature.
Till his last moment Sunil Gangopadhyay lived a life that was vivid and echoed with his poetic rhymes. The soul of his writing is simplicity that deals with real life flesh and blood that captivated his readers for decades. With his mortal body turned into ashes with the rising fumes, Sunil Gangopadhyay and his works will still remain with us for centuries reminding us his relentless spirit.