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Remembering Sankha Ghosh and His Timeless Poetry

The celebrated poet passed away on Wednesday, April 21. He was 89.

The Bengali poet, Sankha Ghosh (February 5, 1932–April 21, 2021), who was born in erstwhile East Bengal, passed away in Kolkata at the age of 89, due to COVID-19-related complications. In an article written in Ananda Bazar Patrika this January, the poet Joy Goswami paid tributes to Ghosh for developing his taste and for teaching him the virtue of baring oneself in poetry, since the age of 26 when he bought his first book.

Reading his poems in Bengali, one is immediately struck by the delicate voice, making its way through ironies. In April 2018, Ghosh walked along with other poets and theatre artists to protest against communal violence during Ram Navami celebrations.

In another pubic rally he attended on June 21, 2013, Ghosh referred to Rabindranath Tagore’s part in public protests during the first partition of Bengal and the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, as part of the legacy of Bengal’s political culture. Ghosh was awarded the Jnanpith Award in 2016 and the Padma Bhushan in 2011.

Here are three of his poems, translated from the Bengali original:

Holiday

Maybe, it had come. I did not see anything.

Now, has it gone too far away?

I shall go. I shall go. I shall go.

Everything is set. Now, there is only

Leave-taking,

Eyes on everyone,

In the moment of parting, I bow, I bow.

Your name?

I do not have a name as such, two boats

Moored together,  

Far away, everyone has cast their nets in the sea.

 

Shut up, be Wordless

Why do you talk so much? Shut up,

Be wordless

At the root, encircle the murmur of caresses

Write ageing, write ageing

 

The tamarisk tree, the elevation of sand, breaks down,

The wind flies,

Below your eyes, the universe of my eyes

Wakes up

Beneath the currents, a whirlpool, beneath the whirlpool, stillness,

Write ageing,

Write ageing, write ageing

Shut up, be wordless.

 

Feathers

By everything it erases, this night is your equal.

All wounded faces, silted. Sometimes

Near or far, the phosphorus lights up. Nothing, nowhere

Has peace. The waves flow, just like you

All alone, like you, so unconcerned.

Whenever I think of you, all the wounds

Like feathers, place their hands on the heart,

Even though I know you never desired me.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is the author of The Town Slowly Empties: On Life and Culture during Lockdown (Headpress, Copper Coin, 2021), Looking for the Nation: Towards Another Idea of India (Speaking Tiger, 2018), and Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (The London Magazine, 2013).

All translations are by the author.