Noted Bengali poet Shanka Ghosh, who tested positive for covid-19 recently and was in home isolation, died on Wednesday in Kolkata, a report in the newspaper Anandabazar Patrika confirmed. He was 89.
Born in 1932 in Chandpur district of what is present-day Bangladesh, Ghosh was one of the most distinguished writers of his generation, which included famous names like Sunil Ganguly and Sakti Chattopadhyay, who revolutionised Bengali modernism. In spite of his close friendship with the members of the so-called Hungry Generation, Ghosh cultivated a style that was distinctive and could not be easily pigeonholed as the flag-bearer of a specific literary movement.
Ghosh's early poems are classically composed, harking back to the legacy of the greats of Bengali literature, especially Rabindranath Tagore, to whose style he was profoundly indebted. At the same time, Ghosh did not abjure the romantic mode or politically hard-hitting poems, chronicling the tragedy of the Partition, hunger, poverty and the blood-streaked Naxal era. So powerful were his poems that they drew flak from the establishment during the Emergency of the 1970s.
In recent years, Ghosh remained a vocal critic of injustice, speaking out against the plight of people, leading protests against the government, when many of Bengal's leading intellectuals shied away from putting their necks out. On 21 June 2013, for instance, Ghosh led a large protest march from College Square to Esplanade in central Kolkata.
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"He was the most prominent face of a march by thousands of citizens protesting against the gang-rape and murder of a college student in Kamduni, a village north of the city, and Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress ... party supremo Mamata Banerjee’s subsequent handling of the situation," as Shamik Bag reported in Mint.
In spite of his political convictions, Ghosh remained a meticulous artist and careful thinker till the end. A noted scholar of Tagore, he also taught at major universities. A gifted essayist and a deeply sensitive writer who always had his ear to the ground, he incorporated the language of the people, the cadence of the streets, into the complex and luminous world of his writing.
Padma Bhushan Sankha Ghosh was conferred the Jnanpith and Sahitya Akademi awards, besides the prestigious Rabindra Puraskar for his oeuvre. Last year, the iconic Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee also died due to complications of covid-19 at the age of 85.
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