Tuesday, 23 October 2012

My Sunil.

As I sit here with a remorseful heart, memories with rushing emotions all jumble my mind. Sliding  back to my Delhi days ,when with bated breath I would wait for Desh Pujabarshiki to hit the stands some days before puja,  I remember rushing to the door as soon as it arrived and scanning  through the contents  and before anyone could lay their hands on the magazine. Then for hours together I would be well settled in a chair, deeply immersed in the stories.

Born and brought up in a probashi bangali family in Delhi, my list of Bangla authors and their stories was very small and precise. It started with Satyajit Ray, seconded by Sunil Gangopadhay and Shankar. The extended list which included Samaresh Majumder and Sirshendu Mukhopadhay ,Samaresh Basu, Sayyad Mustafa Shiraj,Nabanita Debsen,and many many others were formed much later when I had reached high school.
In the years, when invading the forbidden territory of the adult literary  world was a hidden pleasure I often derived, I was quite intrigued by my mother’s intense interest in a one page article in Desh weekly magazine, titled ‘Nillohiter Chokhey’. One fine day, I picked up the magazine and started reading when my mother was taking her afternoon nap.

And I fell in love. It was a love at first read. Nillohit, the unobtrusive observer wrote one page journal, anecdotal and about life. Just that. There were no grotesque rhetoric, no hyperboles, no extra embellishments to prove the penman’s worth. Simple style, easy read, right from the heart and detailed observation of the smallest nuances of life. Nillohit was of course the pen name of the erstwhile novelist Sunil Gangopadhay. My young heart was snared by Sunil.

Every week I would wait for him with bated breath for a peep into his world, and derive great fulfilment once I was through the lines. It was an affair which led me to venture deep into the wealth of Bangla contemporary literature. Thus my sojourn into English Literature and Bangla continued side by side.

Year 1974: Anandamela started publishing Kakababu series.Kakabau was an investigator assisted by his nephew Santu in all his adventures to unravel the great mysteries of the world around us. I waited for their incredible journeys and adventure into the unknown terrains. But being an ardent Feluda follower, Kakababu could only remain that in my heart, respected, interesting and adventures Kakababu. But Sabuj Dipwer Raja, a serial in the same magazine would most certainly  have me as its first reader in our house. Sabuj Dipwer Raja was followed by many more adventurous journeys with him namely: Kakababu O Sindukrahasya, Kakababu O Bajralama,Santu Kothay,Kakababu Kothay, Vijaynagarer Hire,Jangaler Modhe Ek Hotel and it continued.

As the years rolled, my peregrination with Sunil continued. It was an odd relationship, as if I knew all that he wrote but have not really thought about it like he did. His words revealed to me the mysteries of  a whole alternate universe of adventurous and bohemian thoughts.

He won many accolades, many felicitation and praises and criticisms alike but to me as his reader, those were but a small cover page introduction to a 2000 page novel. I had never had the opportunity to read his first serial in Desh, published in 1965 ‘Atmaprakash’ but have often heard it being referred to as quite a revolution for its aggressive and 'obscene' style. But that really, did not matter to me. He was known for his bohemian thoughts, but that again was a point of fatal attraction for me to his novels and short stories.
Often in a raging discussion, friends would ask me to read his poems which they said were more potent than his prose. I read one or two of them but thought they were too surreal for my liking. I chose to read his prose.

 Exposed to the nonchalance towards vernacular literature of the erstwhile Delhi crowd, it was with a gladdened heart that I shifted to Kolkata after my marriage. I was excited as, this was the city which hosted all my favourite  Bangla authors. But to my mild surprise I discovered that in niche South Kolkata crowd, very few were there who shared my enthusiastic passion. By this time I have already finished reading Shei Shomoy and Purba Paschim along with numerous other novels and short stories of Bangla literature. But these two works of literature had yet again robbed my heart. Intense research, photographic detail congregated storyline and my induction to Bangla was somehow being fortified by these creations of Sunil Gangopadhyay.

It was then that Prathom Alo was published. I had received two thousand rupees from a benevolent relative who could not attend my marriage. With glee in my heart I bought the entire set of Prathom Alo and Shei Shomoy . I was ecstatic. The brilliant ensemble of literature, history and a beautifully woven central theme made the novels an absolute fantasy. I was again completely floored.

It was in1995, during one of my trips to Shantiniketan that I chanced to meet him in the platform of Bhubandanga station. I was rooted to the spot and stared at him unabashedly for quite a long time before conjuring up the courage to go and talk to him. I went up to him and must have muttered or stuttered something out, which, till today is a mass of confusion in my mind. He just looked at me for some time and smiled a nice gentle smile. It was as if he knew. I must have said something appropriate as he had actually spoken to me for some time. I was one miniscule portion of his huge brigade of admirers mainly dominated by women. But yet he spoke. The train to Kolkata had arrived and we all boarded the train. I carried his essence in my heart and still remember each and every moment with a blurred memory of the words exchanged.

I am not a well read person and neither have I ever prided in reading everything that he has ever written but in later years, one of my relatives in Delhi had translated two of his great works into English. I had read them but never had had the heart to tell her that it was adequate and not really rewarding. But then the flavor of the original is always lost in translations isn’t it?
 ‘Sunil Gangopadhyay is no more’. I can never accept it. He will always reign over my heart through his creations as he will undoubtedly continue to reside in millions more. Today, now, when with a saddened heart I write I am reminded of these lines by John Keats:
When old age shall this generation waste, 
        Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
    than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all 
        ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
Sunil Gangopadhay will always live as he had captured beauty and enslaved it in his creations.


  1. Totally different to look at it from someone's view point who was not born and brought up in Bengal. Refreshing.

  2. Very well written. Liked it. :)

  3. Puja vacations in school, pujabarshiki desh, anadamela, kakababu's adventure,adda with college friends ( regarding the characters in sunilbabu's novel)....those golden memories revisited..thanks..

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