Kolkata: With tears in eyes and flowers in hand, thousands of people from India and abroad bid a touching farewell to legendary Bengali writer and Sahitya Akademi president Sunil Gangopadhyay. The renowned author's mortal remains were consigned to flames at a south Kolkata crematorium Thursday.
A swelling crowd of mourners, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, attended Gangopadhyay's final journey which began Thursday morning and stretched over six hours, traversing spots which played big roles in his life.
Paying tribute to the writer who delved into all genres of literature but considered poetry his first love, Banerjee walked about five km alongside the flower-bedecked cortege from the Rabindra Sadan complex to the Keoratala crematorium.
In the morning, Gangopadhyay's body was taken out of a mortuary for its first halt at the Ananda Bazar Patrika Private Limited office. This was where he once worked, as an associate editor.
Eminent writers Shirshendu Mukjerjee, Mani Shankar Mukherjee alias Shankar and ABP officials garlanded the body of the author, who died Oct 23 following a heart attack.
The hearse next moved to the Rabindra Sadan complex, the city's cultural hub. People queued here as the body was placed for public viewing.
Gangopadhyay, the author of over 200 books, was known for his wide acceptability, liberal views and open-mindedness.
In death, he united the city and its politicians, novelists, poets, theatre and celluloid personalities, painters, and countless admirers in grief.
Besides Banerjee and her ministers and party leaders, Left Front luminaries were present in strength. Former state chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, state Communist Party of India-Marxist secretary Biman Bose and state Revolutionary Socialist Party Kshiti Goswami were among those who paid floral tributes.
Poet Sankha Ghosh, theatre personality Bivas Chakraborty, painters Jogen Chowdhury and Subha Prasanna were among the mourners, many of whom were seen sobbing, reading Gangopadhyay's poems and singing his favourite Rabindra Sangeet as they filed past the body.
A team of Bangladeshi writers, including novelist Imdadul Haq Milon and some of Gangopadhyay's admirers from European countries too, were present.
The time allowed for public viewing of the body had to be extended, as the queue got longer and longer.
After a brief halt at the Sahitya Akademi office here, the cortege, escorted by Kolkata Police, headed to the crematorium, where Banerjee was seen personally monitoring the arrangements.
Filmmakers Mrinal Sen and Aparna Sen, authors Suchitra Bhattacharya and Nabanita Deb Sen, and film and theatre director Sumon Mukhopadhyay also paid their respects.
Gangopadhyay, 78, had left generations of readers in India and Bangladesh mesmerised over decades with his creativity and writing style, and was one of the most popular poets in post-Rabindranath Tagore Bengal, with his "Nira" series of poems having retained their popularity, particularly among youth, through the years.
A prolific writer, his magnificent range covered diverse literary genres: novels, children's fiction, poetry, literary criticism, travelogue and essays.