May 16, 2021

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Conch Ghosh, the angel of Bengali poetry

I first read Shankha Ghosh’s poem in ‘Krittibas’ magazine. Shakti Sunil Shankha: These three poets were enchanting the Bengali poet. Krittibas was edited by Sunil Gangopadhyay. A group of poets has formed around that magazine. Our Belal Chowdhury was also in that team. As far as I can remember, a bunch of Sankh Ghosh’s poems were printed in one of the issues of Krittibas. The name was ‘Days and Nights’. Later his first book of poetry was published under this name. Such a soft enchanted poem, what a wonderful use of words, what a sweet play of rhythm! What a wonderful poet! In seventy-four I saw Shankhada face to face. Came to Dhaka. There was a performance of Rabindranath’s song at the Bailey Road Women’s Association Hall. Sitting in the middle of the artists on stage. Wearing a white dhoti and Punjabi, he is a full-fledged Bengali babu.

The organization of the event is excellent. Shankha Ghosh is talking about one of Rabindranath’s songs. After finishing his speech, an artist is singing that song. Wonderful arrangement! After reading the poem, I imagined the face of Shankha Ghosh in my mind, as if the man is very much like that. I felt for the first time that a man can speak so beautifully, that he can captivate the audience with the softness of his voice. As is the softness of his poetry, so is the melody of his voice. I never imagined that I would ever meet this great poet. I can get very close to him. I will be able to inaugurate any book fair by standing next to him on the same stage.

Since that day’s event, I have been collecting the writings of Shankha Ghosh wherever I find them. I am fascinated by the fall. There is no comparison between him in poetry. One by one, all his outstanding books of poetry began to be published. ‘Inherent underworld’, ‘Primitive herbaceous’, ‘The sound of oars in the ribs’. He won the Rabindra Award for ‘Dhoom Legeche Hridkamale’. He received the Academy Award for his book of poetry, Babar’s Prayer. Narsingh Das won the award for another outstanding book of poetry, ‘Ignorant is big, not social’. And much later came the words ‘face covered in advertisement’. A few lines of this poem came back to our mouths,

I am standing alone

For you in the corner of the alley

I think I will show my face

The face is covered in advertisements.

Victoria Ocampo, a girl from Argentina, was in love with Rabindra. Shankha Ghosh wrote an outstanding book on Rabindranath and Ocampo. ‘Rabindranath of Ocampo’. This book drove us crazy. Conch Ghosh wrote about Rabindranath and Ocampo with so much care, so much maya, so much research. Shankha Ghosh’s ‘journals’ have greatly aroused the knowledgeable readers of literature. He has written about so many topics in literature! I remember two children’s novels written by him. ‘Sakalbelar Alo’ was written for children by Pujo Sankhya Anand Mela. Another teenage novel is ‘Rows of Supremacy’. Like poetry, prose language is also incomparable by Shankha Ghosh. From the moment I met him, I felt as if I had met a sage, an angel. Morning light is playing in his heart all the time.

A literary festival was held in Calcutta for several years. ‘APJ Literary Festival’. For the first time, the first floor of the Oxford Books Bookstore was set up. Four poets and writers were the initiators of the service program. I have been invited from Sankh Ghosh, Shirshendu Mukherjee, Samresh Majumder and Bangladesh. The ceremony was inaugurated by lighting the Mars lamp. Conch’s body has been going bad for a long time. Don’t go to ceremonies. Although he did not speak at all. Sitting side by side, everyone spoke to the audience, only Shankhadai did not say anything. Even from so close, there was no talk with him that day. There was a gap of one year in the middle. I was also invited to the APJ Literary Conference that year. What is the reason for not going. The festival is jointly organized by Patrabharati and Oxford Books. Tridivakumar Chattopadhyay, the proprietor of Patrabharati, is the editor of Kishore Bharati. Also popular as a writer. Managing Director of Calcutta Publishers Guild. My special friend. Patrabharati has also published two of my books. The following year I was again invited to the APJ Literary Festival. This time the event is in a field. There are some book stalls on one side. Beautiful stage has been made by pulling the awning. The previous ceremony was one day. The service is for two days. Sankh Ghosh and Sanjeev Chatterjee came on the last evening. I was placed between Shankha Ghosh and Sanjeev Chatterjee. On one side is such a great poet, on the other side is the king of humor, writer Sanjeev Chatterjee! I’m a little constricted. Even after that, he started talking to Shankhadar. That first talk with him. He says very little, listens more. Sanjeev Chatterjee gave a very juicy forty-five minute speech on his literary ideas. There is no place to hold sesame seeds in the field to listen to his speech. As Sanjeevada writes, so he says. I co-edited ‘Teen Laughter Story’ with him. There was already an identity. Sanjeevdar was wearing pants and fatwa that day. Shankhada has been in his clothes all his life. White dhoti-Punjabi. I’m wearing a blazer. Winter is coming. Sanjeevada once said to me in a very interested voice, ‘I understand it is very cold in Dhaka!’ I understood Sanjeevada’s subtle joke and I felt very hot. I thought I would take off the blazer.

The next joke came from Shankhadar. After the speech, I got down from the stage and sat next to Shankhadar. Some viewers-listeners have become quite interested in getting to know me. Some enthusiastic children came to get autographs. Shankhadar’s hand trembles when he writes. For this it seems that he avoids autographs etc. The children are taking my autograph. Conch

The book is also increasing towards. Shankhada said to me in his usual soft voice without giving autograph, ‘Milon, give me my autograph too.’

A few years ago, Sankh Ghosh received the ‘Jnanpith’ award. Selina Apa (Selina Hossain) and I were then in Calcutta. Book fair is being held in New Town area. We went to be guests. A young poet named Arunima gave the good news of getting the Jnanpith of Shankha Ghosh. Many days after Subhas Mukherjee, another Bengali poet received this prestigious award. Researcher Emanul Haque is well known to us. Shankhadar is very fond and beloved. Said, let’s go to Shankhadar’s house. Congratulations to him.

Can this opportunity be missed? We went to Shankhadar’s house. As I was leaving, I remembered Badal Basu. Ananda was the captain of Publishers. A few months ago that evening, when I landed at Calcutta Airport, I heard about his death. I went straight from the airport to Badaldar flat. A lot of space in the middle of the flat houses. There are Badal Basu’s fan friends. I saw Shankhada sitting in a chair with a sad face. It is understood by looking at the face, seeing everything as if you are not seeing anything again. He is in his own world.

Selina Apa, Emanul and I went to Shankhadar’s flat that evening and sat in his living room. For Shankhadar, I have taken the complete version of my book ‘Nurjahan’ published by Ananda Publishers. Selina Apa has taken flowers. Shankhada was in his bedroom. We have to wait a little. Then he came. Wearing that white dhoti-Punjabi. I thought an angel came and appeared among us. Then how many words, how many stories! An outstanding evening passed.

Corona took away our angel. Born on 5 February 1932, passed away on 21 April 2021.

Shankha Ghosh loved Bangladesh very much. The original house was at Banaripara in Barisal. Born in Chandpur. How many childhood years did he spend in Pabna in his father’s career? Shankha Ghosh is not his real name. His real name is Chittapriya Ghosh. He has taught literature at Jadavpur and Visva-Bharati Universities. 34-35 books of poetry, 48 books of prose, 23 books of children and adolescents. How many prizes, how many honors throughout his life! Visva-Bharati’s ‘Desikottam’, Government of India’s ‘Padma Bhushan’. Shankhada left everything behind. Is this departure actually a departure? In the words of Rabindranath, ‘going is not going’. Conch Ghosh is an immortal name in Bengali poetry. Even after his departure, this poet remained enlightened in many places of Bengali poetry.

Shankhada, in the world where you have gone to the unknown, where you live forever, may your heart be filled with the light of morning.

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