13 May, 2021

Sunil Gangopadhyay

Haunted by bleak images of riots, famine and migration, he took refuge in literature.

Swapan Nayak
Sunil Gangopadhyay

I had heard some commotion outside our Grey Street home in north Calcutta, and rushed to the window to find out what was going on. People were running helter-skelter down the toad, clutching on to shoes, clothes and sundry knick-knacks. Danga legeche! (riots have broken out), somebody cried. I had then quietly sneaked out, mingled with a crowd looting a provision store, casually picked up a latai (kite-string bobbin) bursting with coloured strings and scampered home.

I was young, loved flying kites, but couldn't afford them. So I thought filching the latai was good fun. Till I returned home and ot a sound thrashing from my father. It took me a while to realise that something was going wrong, awfully wrong. It was the summer of 1946, I was 12 years old, and communal madness was sweeping Calcutta. People were being butchered; the city's streets were blood-splattered. I saw bodies writhing and going into rigor mortis. There was a feeling that Muslims were behind all this. And many of us were behaving like born-again Hindus.

The year...

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