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President’s tryst with the power of the word

President Pranab Mukherjee presented the Sunil Gangopadhyay Memorial Award for excellence in Bengali literature to poets Nirendranath Chakraborty (for 2012) and Sankha Ghosh (for 2013) at a special ceremony at Raj Bhavan on Saturday.

The award was instituted by The Bengal in memory of the author, who was the NGO’s president at the time of his death in October 2012. Sponsored by Shree Cement, the honour is supported with a cash reward of Rs 2 lakh and a citation for outstanding work in Bengali literature.

(Top) Gargi Roy Chowdhury and Goutam Ghose

Arindam Sil and Ekavali Khanna took the audience through the poets’ works after actress Gargi Roy Chowdhury sang Tagore’s Sarthoko janamo amar as the welcome song and filmmaker Goutam Ghose recited a few lines from Sunil Gangopadhyay’s “metaphoric poem” Jol Barchhe.

President Mukherjee — described by Nabaneeta Dev Sen, the current president of The Bengal, as “a lover of poetry” — addressed the gathering in Bengali. “I’m thankful to The Bengal for inviting me to hand over this award to two of Bengal’s most veteran poets. I have also, like many of his readers, been a passionate reader of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s work. As a student of history I can say that the kind of sincerity and consciousness with which he wrote such well-researched novels, we don’t get to see in all writers. I won’t call myself a critic or a voracious reader but reading poetry, novels and short stories is a part of my daily life. I’m glad that Nirenbabu and Sankha Ghosh are with us and we hope that their work will elevate the world of Bengali literature further,” the President said.

Also present at the gathering alongside governor MK Narayanan were Gangopadhyay’s wife Swati, artist Jogen Chowdhury, actor and sheriff-designate Ranjit Mallick and filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and others.

Text by Mohua Das