Sagarmoy Gosh: The Legend of a Man

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Sagarmoy Gosh: The Legend of a Man 4/3/99 12:00 AM
[the Independent, April, 3, 1999]

Sagarmay Ghosh: The legend of a man
by Karunamaya Goswami

I take it upon myself as an obligation to write a few words by way of paying
homage to the memory of Sagarmay Ghosh, the late illustrious editor of the
weekly, now fortnightly Desh, the most renowned Bengali literary journal
published from Calcutta by the Ananda Bazar Publications Ltd. He was suffering
from respiratory complications and died at the age of 87. Son of Kalimohan
Ghosh, a compatriot of Rabindranath Tagore who practically meterialized his
dream of Shriniketan, Sagarmay was born in a village six miles to the south of
Chandpur, an important riverport of Bangladesh which, of many other things,
supplies the bulk of silvery Hilsa caught mostly from the Padma. Sagarmay
obtained his school education from the Shantiknekatan and got the Bachelor's
Degree from Calcuttta University. He inherited the swadeshi spirit from his
father and took part in the anti-British movements. He was sentenced to six
months' imprisonment in the year 1932, and it was in jail that he came to know
Ashok Kumar Sarkar at whose invitation he joined the Desh on December 1, 1939.
Step by step he rose to the rank of the editor on May 1, 1976 and continued to
be so till November 1, 1997. Later he acted as the honorary editor.

Sagarmay Ghosh was perhaps born to be an editor. The history of Bengali
literary journals is pretty long. If it is counted from 1818, the year
Digdarshan was published, it is almost two hundred years old. True, the
Bengali people were and even today are largely poor and illiterate. The
limited enlightened middle class had never failed to come up with support for
ventures of publishing literary journals and as such the enthusiasm for
publishing literary journals.

The publication of Desh is perhaps the most important venture in the two
hundred years' of Bengali literary journals. Its success in creating
generations of Bengali writers is phenomenal, and Sagarmay Ghosh is the real
builder of the achievement. As an editor, as far as I understand, he can be
compared to none other than Ramananda Chaterjee of Prabasi. One, who has
continuously observed Sagarmay Gosh work at his desk, only knows how
difficult it is to become a real editor. He possessed all the virtues to
become a celebrated writer. He wrote only a few books. But he dedicated all
his abilities to enable others to write. His devotion in this respect was
proverbial. It reminds me of Dinendranath Tagore. He had all the abilities to
become a poet, lyricist and composer. But he dedicated all his life in taking
care of Tagore songs. He could not think of doing anything of his own. The
tradition of Tagore songs would not have been the same as it is today had
there been no Dinendranath. The tradition of Desh as the most leading Bengali
journal would not have been the same without Sagarmay Ghosh to serve it. He
has left behind an instance of how great an editor's contribution could be
towards the development of his language and literature. Sagarmay had
gradually raised the quality of Desh which could be unhesitatingly termed as
world class. For many more decades to come he will remain a source of
inspiration for the editors of Bengali language journals, although it will be
difficult for them to reach his height.

I thankfully remember how kindly he received me when I called on him at his
Desh office. He was going through a huge bunch of letters sent from different
places for publication in the Desh's letters to the editor section. It was
1993. I went to Calcutta as a member of a Government delegation sent by the
Ministry of Cultural Affairs to attend the Bangladesh Festival in Calcutta
organised by the Bangladesh's Deputy High Commission there. I presented him
with a copy of my huge-looking Sangeetkosh, a dictionary of world music
published by the Bangla Academy, Dhaka. Sagarmay Ghosh was also widely known
for his wisdom in music. He looked visibly happy at the sight of the book and
kept it at a corner of his table with a sense of affection. It appeared, as
we talked, that he was aware of the literary and musical developments in
Bangladesh and was full of appreciation for some young Tagore song
performers. I received a letter from him after six months or so in which he
suggested some improvements and new inclusions of entries in case Sangeetkosh
ran through the second edition. It proved of what a serious type of man he
was. I again met him in 1995 when I visited India and Pakistan as a leader of
a cultural delegation sent by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to take stock
of Nazrul studies in the various universities and research and performing
institutes in these two countries. I presented Sagarmay with a copy of my
book on Tagore songs in which I contradicted an opinion on compositional
style of Tagore given by his elder brother, Shanti Dev Ghosh, an eminent
Tagore scholar and Tagore song performer. I also received a letter from him
after some months in which he said, in support of me, that it was not unfair
on my part to think that Rabindranath was inspired with the idea of totally
composed music of Europe which many critics including Shantidev prefer to

I pay my sincerest respect in memory of Sagarmay Ghosh who became an
institution and legend in his lifetime.

[The Independent, april 3, 1999]

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