Bengali poet Shankha Ghosh dies battling Covid-19

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Kolkata, April 21 (PTI): Noted Bengali poet Shankha Ghosh, a Padma Bhushan awardee, died on Wednesday morning while he was in isolation at his residence after testing positive for Covid-19, his family said.

Ghosh, 89, was found to be Covid-positive on April 14.

He was in home isolation on the advice of doctors and was stable, his family said.

However, his condition deteriorated suddenly late on Tuesday night, following which he was given oxygen support, they said.

He died around 8.30 am, they added.

Ghosh, who suffered from several comorbidities, was hospitalised a few months ago due to deterioration of his health condition.

Considered to be having authority on Rabindranath Tagore, Ghosh is known for ‘Adim Lata – Gulmomay’ and ‘Murkha Baro Samajik Nay’, among other books.

Ghosh was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2011 and conferred the prestigious Jnanpith Award in 2016.

He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1977 for his book ‘Babarer Prarthana’.

Condoling the death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Ghosh will be remembered for his contributions to Bengali and Indian literature.

“His works were widely read and admired. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti,” he tweeted.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she was shattered after coming to know about Ghosh’s death with whom she shared a close rapport.

Union Home minister Amit Shah said he was anguished to learn about the death of Ghosh.

“He will always be remembered for his outstanding poems, deeply rooted in the social context. My deepest condolences to his family and followers. Om Shanti!” he tweeted.

CPI(M)’s legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty said that Bengal lost its soul with the death of Ghosh.

Born in 1932 to grammarian Manindra Kumar Ghosh at Chandpur in present-day Bangladesh, he graduated in Bengali from Presidency College and completed MA from Calcutta University.

He started his teaching career at Bangabashi College in 1955, and after a few stints in some other institutes, he joined the Jadavpur University. He retired from JU in 1992.

Ghosh, whose literary career spanned over five decades, was considered one of the most influential modern-day Bengali poets. Originally Chittopriyo Ghosh, he took the pen name of Shankha Ghosh.

Ghosh along with his contemporaries Shakti Chattopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Binoy Majumdar and Utpal Kumar Basu was known as “Pandav” of the modern-day Bengali literary world.

His poem “Yamunavati”, based on the killing of a young girl in police firing in rural Bengal during the Food Movement of 1951, gave him prominence.

His first anthology of poems, “Dinguli Raatguli”, was published in 1955.

The issue of social protest has been a constant theme in his creations.

Some of his poems were lyrical and reflective, while the other works reflected a sense of anguish towards society’s superficiality and existence.

However, his mastery over the Bengali language and his absolute control over the form of poetry is a hallmark of his works, which became epitome of grace and depth. His poems always conveyed a message, but were always free of polemics.

Ghosh’s works have been translated into several languages, including English and Hindi.

He is survived by daughters Semanti and Srabanti, and wife Pratima.

Ghosh was seen at the frontline of the civil society movements in Bengal, often taking on the ruling dispensations over issues of social and political concerns.

He was a vociferous critic of the then Left Front government over its handling of the land movements of the mid-2000s. He took on the Trinamool Congress as political violence rocked the state during the 2018 panchayat elections, and also hit out at the BJP over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Litterateur Subodh Sarkar said that Covid-19 snatched away Ghosh when he was needed the most as “the state was faced with the threat of fascism”.

“He was soft-spoken but his pen was razor-sharp, always speaking against intolerance. He used to be a participant in all conventions and movements for free and liberal thinking,” Sarkar said.

Poet Mandakranta Sen said she has lost a guardian and a mentor.

Ghosh was a polestar in Bengali literature who introduced new idioms in Bengali poetry, giving it new dimensions and never shied away from voicing his views, she said.

Writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay said he was always struck by Ghosh’s simple way of living, spartan lifestyle and humbleness.

“Covid-19 is snatching away one after the other from us,” said a grief-stricken Mukhopadhyay.

Linguist Nrisingoprasad Bhaduri described Ghosh as one of the most prominent faces in the post-Jibananda Das era of Bengali poetry.

Ghosh’s death came even as Bengal was recovering from the demise of iconic actor Soumitra Chattopadhyay who passed away in November, fighting post-Covid complications.

State ministers Firhad Hakim and Sadhan Pandey visited Ghosh’s Kakurgachi residence to meet the grieving family.

“In deference to the wish of the family, we will not arrange any gun salute during his last journey. The family informed us that he had expressed his wish not to be given any gun salute after his death. His body will be taken to the crematorium and his last rites will be performed conforming to all Covid-19 protocols,” Hakim said.

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