Sunil Gangopadhyay—the Nonbeliever Poet

Posted by Dev Baul - 09/09/22 at 01:09 pm

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.

Wretched Nonbelievers

Sunil Gangopadhyay


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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