Poet Shankha Ghosh, the last of the Mohicans of the post-Jibanananda Das era of modern Bangla poetry, died from Covid-19 at the age of 89 at his residence in Kolkata today.
The poet had been suffering from fever. He tested positive for coronavirus infection on April 14, reports our New Delhi correspondent quoting his family.
His treatment started at home four days back, as he declined to be treated in a hospital, they said.
Shankha Ghosh's condition had deteriorated last night and he was put on a ventilator this morning before he breathed his last around 11:30am, family sources added.
Ghosh left behind two daughters, Semanti and Srabanti, and wife Pratima.
Fellow poet and Ghosh's family friend Subodh Sarkar said coronavirus has snatched away Ghosh when he was needed the most at a time when West Bengal "is faced with the threat of fascism".
"He was soft-spoken and mild but his pen was powerful, always speaking against the air of intolerance and killing of democracy in the country. He used to be a participant in all movements for free and liberal thinking," Sarkar said.
Suave in nature and low-profile, Ghosh was always firm in his ideological conviction and passionately clung on to values he believed in. That is why even in his advanced age with a frail health he wrote a poem protesting intolerance, authoritarianism and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). He showed this trait in his character as far back as 1950s with the poem "Yamunavati", inspired by the killing of a girl during the movement against food price hike in Kolkata.
Born on February 5, 1932 as Chittopriyo Ghosh in Chandpur of the then undivided India, the poet, however, belonged to Banaripara in Barishal. He spent his formative years in Pabna where he did his matriculation from Chandraprabha Bidyapeeth in 1947. He did his BA from the prestigious Presidency College in 1951 and obtained his masters' degree from Calcutta University.
Son of headmaster and Bangla grammarian Manindrakumar Ghosh, Shankha Ghosh spent several years teaching in Bangabashi College and City College in Kolkata, Delhi University, University of Iowa (USA), and Visva Bharati, and doing research in the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Shimla. He retired as a teacher in Jadavpur University in Kolkata in 1992.
A recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award in 1977 for his eponymous book of poems Babarer Prarthana (1976), Ghosh was honoured with a second Sahitya Akademi award 22 years later for his translation of a Kannada language play into Bangla. He also won the Jnanpith award in 2016, Desikottama from Visva Bharati in 1997, Rabindra Puraskar, Saraswati Samman and several other prizes. All these for a man who hardly cared about awards.
In 2011, Shankha Ghosh was conferred with the Indian government's third highest civilian honour Padma Bhushan.
He was equally respected in Bangladesh and West Bengal, once again driving home that culture knows no border.
Among his notable works are: Dinguli Raatguli, Dhum Legeche Hritkomole, Mukh Dheke Jaai Biggapone, Gaandharba Kobitaguchcha, Chander Bhitorey Eto Andhakar, Jal-i Pashan Hoey Aache .
If Shankha Ghosh's main domain was poetry, he was equally facile with his prose and particularly carved a niche for himself as an expert on Rabindranath Tagore. He was the Director of Rabindra Bhavan from 1989 to 1990.
Ghosh's poems have focused on unfathomable depths of human sensibilities, putting the stamp of his inimitable personal style and conviction giving voice to the people of his time, a voice that transcended the confines of time and space. His creativity as a poet found ample reflection in his literary criticism, particularly in his interpretation of Tagore.