Sunil Gangopadhyay: A prolific writer
Mir Md Ariful Islam
In my college days, I bought Sunil Gangopadhyay's Shei Somoy (Those Days) from Dinbandhu bookstall. In a breezy spring afternoon, I rode my bicycle and reached the bank of Gomati, a historical river famed for inspiring two literary giants in the Indian subcontinent - Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore.
Finding a cool shaded grass-patch under a Peepal tree, I started reading this historical meta-fiction. I was thrilled by the impressive narrative of Gangopadhyay. He marvellously painted a lively and vivid picture of the city of Kolkata and the whole Bengal in the period between 1840 to1870. The period he depicted was predominantly dark - for ignorance, for religious dogmatism, for a society overflowing with vice and steeped in slumber. However, there were flickers of light in the form of emergence in a few. And it is for these few - Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutta and the Tagore family - that the novel gained a refreshing dazzle in the otherwise despairing atmosphere. I gazed at the flowing stream of Gomati in rapt silence and listened to the echoes of history through his splendid narrative. And thus I encountered one of the great writers of contemporary Bengali literature.
Sunil Gangopadhyay, the swashbuckling writer in Bengali literature, was born on September 7, 1934 in Faridpur, Bangladesh. His father shifted to Kolkata when he was a child and the family settled in North Kolkata. He studied Bengali literature in Surendranath College, Dumdum Motijheel College and City College. He earned his master's degree in Bengali literature from Calcutta University.
In the post-Tagore era, when experimentation in poetry was still rare and style dominated by Tagore, writers like Buddhadeb Basu, Shakti Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay experimented not only with form and style but also with content. Buddhadeb Basu was the senior most in this experiment and Sunil the youngest.
In 1953, Sunil started a magazine called Krittibas which was a laboratory for experimentation in poetry. The orthodox Bengali reader called them aggressive, shameless and exhibitionist. But he and the Krittibas group continued their experimentation. At the same time, he moved on to prose, producing a clutch of fine short stories and then his first novel Atmaprakash (Self-Revelation) in 1965, which signalled a new note in Bengali fiction.
In the 80s, Sunil moved more into prose when he started serialising a massive two-volume chronicle of 19th century Kolkata. The historical novel, Shei Somoy (Those Days), and the following ones - Pratham Aalo (First Light) and Purba-Pashchim (East-West) - shed light on modern Bengal in the making.
In the same decade, Sunil Gangopadhyay - like many of his contemporaries - wrote children literature. He proved to be an instant hit with the Kakababu series, with the eponymous crippled adventurist, accompanied by his young adult nephew Santu, and his friend Jojo. Since 1974, Sunil wrote over 35 novels of this popular series, most of which appeared in Anandamela magazine.
Perhaps from the 90s, Sunil's writing began to show signs of over-production. Yet he kept experimenting in many genres - novels, travelogues, children's fictions, short stories, features and essays. He had many nom de plumes. Among them the famous ones were: Nil Lohit, Sanatan Pathak and Nil Upadhyay.
He wrote relentlessly - even in his old age, despite fatigue and lassitude. Hours before leaving this world forever, he was still writing. A short story and an article remained unfinished at his desk. He breathed his last on 23 October, 2012, at his South Kolkata residence.
* Hathat Nirar Janya
* Bhorbelar Upohar
* Sada Prishtha tomar sange
* Sonali Dukkho
* Sei Somoy
* Pratham Aalo
* Ekti Rat Tinti Jibon
* Achena Manush
* Jomlo Kahini
* Moner Manush
* Saraswatir Paer Kache
* Ardhek Jibon
* Chobir Deshe, Kobitar Deshe