The mystic woman, Neera, repeatedly appears in Sunil Gangopadhyay's poetry. Who is Neera? A character? A reality? A real beauty? A woman who exists or does not exist? Or something beyond our knowledge!
Neera's presence is found in a minimum of 70 poems by Sunil! Can anybody claim that Neera did exist on this earth as a woman? Was Neera a merely female character portrayed by Sunil, a female of his imagination, Sunil’s beloved who did not exist in reality? Or, Neera is the pseudonym of a real woman!
Sunil never provided us with a clear answer about Neera. Not surprisingly, though, poets possess the habit of doing so, as to concealing reality to create and keep the abstract hegemony alive or to give readers the chance to imagine in their own way.
To repeat once more, Sunil never gave us a clear answer about Neera. The question remains what his intention had been regarding exposure of Neera! As Sunil is that exact same person who openly admitted nearly everything, his every failure. The same person who spontaneously exposed his love life, sex life, conjugal life, and political views did not feel comfortable talking about a female character. What was actually beneath the surface? We will try to find out this.
Was Neera Sunil’s lover whom Sunil never forgot or did not want to! Or, missing Neera, Sunil took the shelter in his last abode, poetry!
The article "Lohit Konaya Prem", initiated by Beethi Chattopadhyay, and published in Ananda Bazar on 6th September 2014, informs us about four women who left notable marks in Sunil’s life and impacted Sunil in different ways.
In his adolescence, the poet had feelings for a senior girl living in his neighbourhood. Sunil, a teenager, felt so hurt by the insolence and arrogance of that girl’s lover and his extreme behaviour towards that girl affected Sunil badly. Their relationship did not last.
Sunil, the dynamic young man, fell in love with a Banedi girl of Kolkata after the partition. In that Anandabazar feature, there was no girl’s name mentioned. Nevertheless, Manjubash Mitra writes in his book "Sunil Gangopadhyay and His Literature" that the girl's name was Aparna.
However, at that time, Sunil was unemployed. And Sunil loved his vagabond life as well. Therefore, he couldn’t marry the girl.
Afterwards, French woman Margaret Mathieu came into Sunil's life. But the fact is, Sunil himself wrote about Margarita in his book “Chabir Deshe Kabitar Deshe”- his memoir in France. His love for Margarita also did not end in marriage. They broke up.
After three failed relationship trials, Swati Banerjee appeared. Swati was the one! Yes! She was the one who was with the poet till the last breath of the poet.
Beethi Chattopadhyay wrote, "Even at seventy-two, seventy-five, seventy-eight, the heated debate sparked on Sunil's apparent extramarital affair. However, it's still questionable whether the debates were vague or not.
Sunil never openly wrote those words. The talk of all those lovers is alive and living silently among all the lovers who cherish love in their hearts. Those conversations, commentaries, and the lovers’ tune lives in a melody that may never be heard and is precisely bright like the sun beneath the clouds.
The article “Sunil Gangopadhyay's Neera: the diverse Views on Women” by Subrata Mall, Professor of Bengali Department at Prabhu Jagat Bandhu College, India, questions, “ Is Neera, Sunil’s creation is nothing but the consequence of his three relationships that didn’t work.
The answer to this question now sleeps in the eternal silence of the creator of Neera, and the answer will be sought till the end date of Bengali literature. The rest depends upon the readers.
Subrata also opined that Sunil’s Neera exists in reality. If we can fathom Sunil’s spirit of love, Neera can be found everywhere and anywhere within every woman. One can not put Sunil’s Neera to compare repleting the character with real women; to reach Neera, the only way is fathoming the whole using Sunil’s lenses.
Sunil achieved enviable success in almost all branches of literature - stories, novels, poems, rhymes, plays, poetic plays, travel stories, autobiography, and whatnot!
Critics may applaud Sunil for his famous trilogy, Purbo-Poshchim, Prothom Alo, and all his evergreen write-ups. But to the romantic Bengali mass, Neera is the undying symbol of love. Like Jeebananda Das's Banalata Sen, Sunil's Neera will remain a significant romantic name in Bengali literature, whose actual identity may remain concealed forever.
Our Youtube story -Nira-the-mystic women. Click the blue to watch the Bengali story.