Subhash Mukhopadhyay was an Indian Bengali poet from modern Indian era. He is also called as ‘Podatik Kobi’ in Bengali. The poet got famous due to his writing style to reach people. He wrote about common people’s problems and that’s how he won their hearts. He was quite into politics in his early years after his education. The man has got the right words for the right time which helped in both his careers as a poet and politician.
He was born in 1919 on 12th February in Krishnanagar which was in the Nadia province of West Bengal. Subhash was a bright student since he was a child. He excelled in philosophy and chose it as his prime subject. He graduated with honours degree in 1941.
Slowly he gained interest in politics. He had a strong urge to create change in the society and eradicate injustice. In 1942, he joined Communist Party of India and finally stepped into the game. He exercised power of his words to reach out to people. Especially in Bengal he became the voice for the whole population when the state suffered violence, riots, war and partition. It all happened in 1940s when this poet jumped to grab the stage.
He married Gita Bandyopadhyay in 1951. They both adopted three daughters and son completing their family of six. The kin stuck together until the very end.
Literature in Activism
During his student years, he published his first book ‘Padatik’. It took over the whole crowd. The book was uniquely written for the Bengali society and captured its audience with mesmerising poetry. He was a practitioner of justice along with words. He rooted a path between poetry and politics which made him one of the first literary people into activism.
He was on the front end of Anti-Fascist Writer’s and Artist’s Association in 1942. It was formed in opposition of the murder of a writer named Somen Chanda. Subhash was jailed in the late 1960s as a political prisoner. That made him tough and changed him forever. It was visible in his poetries and brought in better pieces of work. In 1982, he started losing touch with his party members from Communist Party of India.
Subhash was also an active member of journalism. He edited for many newspapers and magazines. He tried his hand on prose and gave many novels and children books. He edited Sandesh – a Bengali magazine for children, with the famous director Satyajit Ray.
As it is clear he was a versatile writer, he didn’t have a specific genre to write on. The variety is seen in his list of writings. Here it is:
- Padatik (The Foot Soldier)
- Chirkut (The Parchment)
- Phul Phutuk (Let the Flowers Bloom)
- Joto Dureii Jai (How Distant I may be)
- E Bhai (Hey, Brother)
- Kaal Modhumash (Tomorrow is Spring)
- Cheley Gechhey Boney (The Son has gone to Exile)
- Bangalir Itihaash (History of Bengalis)
- Desh Bidesher Rupkotha (Fairy Tales from Home and Abroad)
These were all the famous poems penned down by this Bengali Poet and earned the name of ‘Podatik Kobi’ which means ‘Infant Poet’ in Bengali.
Mukhopadhyay was a respected man who earned a lot in his career as a poet. His poems made a difference in people. He wrote for people and also fought for them. As a member of a political party, Podatik Kobi made sure people got justice. He had got numerous awards for his work.
Firstly he received a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1964. He was a fellow of the prestigious institution and its Executive Board’s member. He was also Deputy Secretary of the Progressive Writers’ Union. Then he was awarded with Afro-Asian Lotus Prize in 1977, he helped in their organisation. He is the recipient of Kumaran Asan Award and Tajikistani recognition of Mirzo Tursunzoda Prize in the same year of 1982. This is followed by Ananda Puraskar and the highest honour in Indian literature, Jnanpith Award in 1991.
In the last few years of his life, he received the Indian civilian honour of Padma Bhushan in 2003.
Inspiration Lines from his Poems (Translated in English)
the icy winds of winter
will one day push me over there
Earth, let me never
see the face
of that day
Before that happens
please tie my eyes
to my two feet
like a pair of anklets
– From the poem ‘Let Me Never See’
Whether flowers bloom or not, it’s Spring today
On the paved footpath
with feet dipped in stone
a rather wooden tree
laughs out loud
chest bursting with fresh green leaves
Whether flowers bloom or not
it’s spring today.
– From the poem ‘Whether Flowers Bloom or Not’
In his Memory
Subhash Mukhopadhyay died on 8th July in 2003 due to heart and kidney failure. The political poet is remembered in West Bengal. A metro station and train was named after him as ‘Kavi Subhash Metro Station’ and ‘Padatik Express’ respectively. They both were made for increasing convenience for passengers, completing the poet’s first objective. A book ‘Day is Breaking’ which is a collection of his famous poems and his endeavours was published in the memory of the poet in 2014.
It was a great loss for Indian literature when he passed away but he has left beautiful poems for us to treasure. A writer may be dead but his thoughts and ideas are immortal, that’s how Subhash still remains between us.
Written By: Rituparna Desai