Sunil Gangopadhyay—the Nonbeliever Poet
Sunil Gangopadhyay wore many hats—poet, novelist, short-story writer, historian, and essayist. While all the hats sat easily on him, he had an avowed preference for the poet’s hat. He said, “This birth is only for poetry……I long to live long only for poetry” in his ode to poetry, Only for Poetry.
Trying to bracket Sunil’s poetry into genres would be a hugely futile exercise but his writings in his later years betrayed his repulsion for and exasperation with bigotry, fundamentalism, and indoctrination.
Sunil finds rationality and science are getting drowned in a sea of faddish beliefs and exhorts the nonbelievers to unite in the poem Sorbohara Abishwasi that roughly translates to Wretched Nonbelievers.It is a moot point whether he would have been able to write this today without hurting some sentiments or being branded anti-national.
Here is an English version of the poem’s last stanza, ineptly interpreted by me.
Losing the battle as I age
Losing every day without a cease.
Don’t hurt the other man’s faith……
Don’t hurt the other man’s belief….
So many beliefs floating around
Numbers bloating each day.
So many types of beliefs…
The saffron-clad has ordained that
Street dogs shall lick the blood of the
Child of other faith, trickling on the road
It is his firm belief.
The faithful flag bearer believes that
the throats of girls should be slit
Who dare to sing;
They should don burqas
When they play tennis;
This is also his firm belief.
They with bomb-strapped torsos
Moving toward annihilation;
They with toothy smiles and rippling
muscles wishing to trod on the world;
They are the squad of believers
All are believers, all are faith sentries
And I wish to say in my
Weak and broken voice
“Wake up and unite
Ye wretched nonbelievers of the world
You got nothing to lose but your faith.”
Translated by Dev Baul
Here is the poem recited by Manishikha Baul—Odissi Dancer, Performing Artist and Social Activist
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