Shankha Ghosh

‘Rehabilitation’ explores the pain of the refugees after the Partition of Bengal. With stark imagery, it delves into the lasting impact of this tragic event.

Shankha Ghosh

Nationality: Indian

Shankha Ghosh was an influential poet and literary critic that reshaped Bengali literature.

He also taught at many educational institutions, retiring in 1992.

Key Poem Information

Unlock more with Poetry+

Central Message: The stark effects of socio-political unrest and violence on human lives

Speaker: A refugee

Emotions Evoked: Anger, Courage, Depression, Hopelessness

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 20th Century

'Rehabilitation' by Sankha Ghosh is a poem about the pain of displacement and loss after the partition of Bengal. It is a reminder of the human cost of political upheavals.

Rehabilitation‘ by Shankha Ghosh is a heartfelt poem exploring the tragic loss of one’s homeland due to India’s partition. Using vivid imagery, it captures the emotional turmoil experienced by those affected. Crafted with finesse, the verses depict the speaker’s intimate connection with their surroundings and the shattered memories of a fragmented society. Through nature, landmarks, and personal reflections, the poem conveys a pervasive sense of exile and the struggle for identity in the face of extreme upheaval.


‘Rehabilitation‘ by Shankha Ghosh is a moving poetic reflection on the displacement and intense emotional impact experienced by individuals after India’s partition.

The poem explores the theme of millions losing their homes as a byproduct of India’s partition. It vividly depicts the shattered realities and emotional turmoil experienced by those affected by that historical event. Through powerful imagery and descriptive language, the poem captures the loss and nostalgia that permeate the lives of the displaced people.

The speaker’s intimate connection with their surroundings, the fragmented memories of a once-unified society, and the desperate struggle for identity in the face of upheaval are beautifully conveyed, painting a tragic picture of the impact of historical events on individual lives.

Literary Devices

The poem ‘Rehabilitation‘ employs several literary devices to effectively convey its themes and emotions. These devices are:

  • Metaphor- Metaphors are skillfully utilized, like comparing the lost possessions to the sun sinking in the western sky, highlighting the speaker’s profound sense of loss.
  • Imagery- Throughout the poem, vivid imagery paints a detailed picture of the speaker’s experiences and surroundings after the partition, such as “Flying hair / Naked path.”
  • Irony- Irony is employed when the speaker, now displaced, finds themselves reduced to the role of a beggar, highlighting the stark contrast between their previous life and their current state.
  • Symbolism- The various symbols used in the poem, such as broken temples, grass and pebbles, arrows, and spears, represent the shattered realities and hardships of immigrating people in the wake of a tragedy.
  • Zoomorphism- The skillful use of personification brings life to memories depicted as a “serpentine crowd” and time drifting under the speaker’s feet.
  • Repetition- The repetition of the phrase “Whatever was around me” is beautifully employed to emphasize and reinforce a particular idea.
  • Enjambment- Finally, enjambment keeps the flow of the narrative uninterrupted, engaging the reader in the journey of relocation and the struggle of people through the continuation of the sentence or phrase without a pause beyond the end of a few lines in the poem.


The structure of the poem ‘Rehabilitation‘ follows a free verse format, lacking a strict rhyme scheme or meter. It is divided into three stanzas, each exploring different aspects of the theme of displacement after India’s partition.

The first stanza sets the tone and introduces the sense of loss and nostalgia experienced by the speaker. It consists of short, fragmented lines that mimic the fragmented memories and shattered realities of the people who had to leave everything behind. The use of enjambment creates a flowing and continuous narrative, allowing the emotions to build and intensify.

The second stanza shifts focus to the present situation of the speaker, emphasizing their unfamiliarity with a new city. The lines become more fragmented, reflecting the disjointed nature of the speaker’s existence.

The final stanza delves deeper into the impact of the partition, employing powerful imagery and symbolism. The lines become a bit longer and more descriptive, painting a vivid picture of the speaker’s surroundings and the struggles they face. The stanza culminates in the ironic depiction of the speaker as a beggar, leading to an uphill task of rehabilitation.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

Whatever I had around me
Grass and pebbles
Broken temples
Whatever was around me
Solitary sunset
Whatever was around me
Arrows and spears
A homestead
All shiver with their faces turned west.
Memories are like a serpentine crowd
Under the mango trees, broken boxes
One step denying another
And suddenly all are homeless.

The opening stanza of the poem presents an elaborate description of the speaker’s surroundings after the partition of India. It begins by emphasizing the humble and ordinary elements of the speaker’s former life, represented by grass and pebbles. This suggests a connection to nature and simplicity, which is now disrupted by the turbulence of the partition.

The mention of reptiles and broken temples adds a layer of symbolism to the stanza. Reptiles, often associated with change and adaptability, allude to the transformative and unpredictable nature of the partition. The broken temples signify the destruction and loss of religious and cultural heritage that accompanied that tragic historical event. It further emphasizes the disarray and turmoil caused by the partition.

The repetition of “Whatever was around me” serves to underscore the speaker’s disorientation and homeless state. It highlights the abruptness of the change and the loss of familiar surroundings. The subsequent references to exile, folklores, and a solitary sunset evoke a sense of loneliness and isolation, marking the emotional toll of being uprooted from one’s homeland. He has mentioned simple things like grass and landslides, even his home that he had to leave behind.

The stanza concludes with an image of everyone shivering with their faces turned west. This image captures the collective fear and uncertainty that permeated the lives of those affected by the tragedy. It suggests a longing for what was left behind and an anticipation of the unknown future.

The stanza also employs powerful metaphors and vivid imagery. Memories are likened to a serpentine crowd, implying their unpredictability and the difficulty of navigating through them. The mention of mango trees and broken boxes underlines the sense of loss and fragmentation experienced by the speaker. The line “One step denying another” conveys the struggle to move forward in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Stanza Two

Whatever is around me
Sealdah station
High noon
Pockmarked walls
The void
Under my feet drifts Time.

In the second stanza, Ghosh continues to provide a detailed and alive portrayal of the speaker’s environment after the partition of India. The use of specific locations and imagery adds depth and significance to the description.

The mention of Sealdah station, a bustling railway station in West Bengal, sets the scene and emphasizes the sense of displacement that the speaker experiences, as it suggests they were a refugee from East Bengal. The reference to “high noon” suggests the intensity and harshness of the surroundings, perhaps reflecting the challenging conditions that the protagonist had to face. In the next line, the description of pockmarked walls evokes a sense of decay and destruction, reflecting the physical scars left behind by the partition. It symbolizes the lasting impact of the violent events and the deep sense of loss experienced by the people.

Further, the poet represents a sense of being trapped and directionless in the phrase, “Blind alleys,” while the mention of slogans hints at the political and social unrest during the partition period. The Monument, likely a reference to a historical or cultural landmark, highlights the contrast between the past and present and the disruption of established symbols and identities.

The mention of the bed of arrows and lamp-posts evokes a sense of danger and uncertainty, drawing the picture of the hostile environment in which the speaker finds themselves. The imagery of the Ganges flowing red suggests the bloodshed and violence that accompanied the partition, adding to the somber and tragic tone of the stanza.

The reference to bones and darkness within serves as a metaphorical representation of the deep emotional wounds and the hidden traumas suffered by the people affected by the partition. It conveys a sense of internal struggle and pain of the refugees. Ghosh further says that the Howrah Bridge is a silent observer of this violence. The imagery of time moving under the speaker’s feet symbolizes the ever-present passage of time, relentless and indifferent to the individual experiences of suffering and adversity.

Overall, this stanza offers a poignant description of post-partition India. It effectively conveys the disarray, danger, and emotional weight experienced by the speaker and the wider community.

Stanza Three

Whatever is fountain around me
Flying hair
Two flintstones that scrape each other
And ignite my daily rehabilitation.

In the concluding stanza, Ghosh describes the aftermath of the violence and turbulence of the Partition. The phrase “Whatever is fountain around me” suggests a continuous flow of experiences and sensations that surround the protagonist. The speaker says the hair of the dead flies in the air, insinuating that the violence has left a trail of death and destruction. The path beneath the speaker’s feet is a witness of the same. Men with torches search for anyone left behind, alluding that the violence might not be over yet.

In the following lines, Ghosh delves deeper into the existential and introspective aspects of the speaker’s experience after the partition of India. The phrase “Whatever is transparent around me” suggests clarity and openness in the speaker’s perception of their surroundings. It implies an acute awareness of their environment and a willingness to confront difficult truths.

Next, the phrase “The sound of the dawn” represents the beginning of a new day and symbolizes hope and renewal. It signifies the possibility of a fresh start and the potential for healing in the face of adversity. The image of the body after a bath conveys a sense of purification and rejuvenation, suggesting a cleansing of the past and a readiness to move forward.

Further, the mention of “the Shiva of the cremation ground” is metaphorical and holds profound significance. Shiva, in Hindu mythology, is the deity associated with destruction and rebirth. Here, it represents the transformative power of death and the inevitable cycle of life. It alludes to the deep existential questions and the contemplation of mortality.

The lines “Each day, a thousand days, a birthday” emphasize the enduring impact of time and memory. They highlight the weight of past experiences and the passage of time, underscoring how every moment, whether ordinary or momentous, contributes to the collective memories that shape one’s identity and perception of the world.

The image of the beggar sitting in the fading dusk conveys a sense of loss, vulnerability, and marginalization. It serves as a metaphor for the speaker’s own state of being, reflecting their sense of longing in the aftermath of the partition.

The metaphor of “two flintstones that scrape each other” captures the friction and conflict between what was lost and what remains. It symbolizes the internal struggle and tension that fuels the speaker’s daily process of rehabilitation. It implies that through the confrontation of past and present, the speaker finds the spark of resilience and the drive to rebuild their life.


What is the theme of the poem ‘Rehabilitation‘ by Shankha Ghosh?

The theme of the poem ‘Rehabilitation‘ is the suffering of refugees after the Partition of India in 1947. The poem is written from the perspective of a refugee who has lost everything, including their home, their city, and their people, and now has to try to settle down in a different city.

Why is the poem titled ‘Rehabilitation?’

Ghosh titled the poem ‘Rehabilitation‘ because it is about the process of rebuilding lives after a major trauma, such as the Partition of India in 1947. The speaker of the poem is now a refugee, struggling to rebuild their lives in a new city. The poem explores the challenges of rehabilitation.

When was the poem ‘Rehabilitation‘ by Shankha Ghosh published?

Rehabilitation‘ was first published in the Bangla language in the anthology “Shreshtho Kobita” in 1970. It was later translated into English in the year 2019.

What is the historical context of the poem ‘Rehabilitation?’

Ghosh’s ‘Rehabilitation‘ talks about the mass exodus caused by the Partition of Bengal in 1947. The division between West Bengal and East Bengal led to the displacement of millions, with 5 million Hindus leaving East Bengal and 2 million Muslims leaving West Bengal due to violence and unrest.

Similar Poetry

Here are a few other pieces of poetry that talk about the sufferings of the people during India’s partition:

Poetry+ Review Corner


Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.
Shankha Ghosh (poems)

Shankha Ghosh

There is currently no rating and description for the tag of Shankha Ghosh.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

20th Century

Through its thematic depth, innovative language, and social relevance, 'Rehabilitation' exemplifies the diverse and transformative spirit of 20th-century poetry. The poem demonstrates Ghosh's ability to skillfully fuse lyrical beauty with intellectual depth, a characteristic prominent in modernist and post-modernist poetry. The poem's intricate imagery reveals Ghosh's mastery of creating detailed and thought-provoking visuals, capturing the essence of the human condition in a changing world.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem is a notable example of modern Indian poetry for its engagement with historical events and its innovative use of language and other poetic devices. The poem reflects on the impact of the Partition of Bengal in 1947, highlighting the social cost of political unrest. Ghosh's skillful and precise language creates vivid visuals, showcasing his mastery of poetic techniques. The poem's introspective and subjective nature, delving into the speaker's emotions and personal experiences, aligns with the individualistic tendencies seen in modern Indian poetry. Through its thematic depth and artistic craftsmanship, 'Rehabilitation' represents the rich and diverse landscape of modern Indian poetic expression.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The theme of failure is subtly woven throughout the poem, leaving hints and suggestions rather than explicit declarations. The image of "broken boxes" beneath the mango trees implies a sense of shattered dreams and unfulfilled potential. Furthermore, the mention of the beggar "who sits in the fading dusk" suggests a state of resignation, hinting at the disappointments and setbacks experienced by the individual in the wake of the political turmoil in the country.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem subtly delves into the theme of a journey, depicting the transformative process of rebuilding one's life after displacement. The line "One step denying another / And suddenly all are homeless" implies a painful shift and the beginning of an uncertain journey. The mention of "One step" suggests movement and progression toward an unknown destination. Overall, Ghosh portrays the daily struggle of a refugee after moving to another city, and the ongoing journey of personal growth and renewal.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

New Life

While the poem primarily explores the pain and displacement caused by the Partition of Bengal, there are strong but subtle indications within the poem that hint at creating a new life, as suggested by the title itself. The mention of "transparent" elements, such as "the sound of the dawn" and "the body after a bath," symbolizes purity and rejuvenation, alluding to the potential for new beginnings. Furthermore, the image of "Two flintstones that scrape each other / And ignite my daily rehabilitation" suggests the sparks of transformation and the daily process of rebuilding and finding meaning.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem strongly reveals the glimpses of suppressed anger throughout. The line "One step denying another / And suddenly all are homeless" suggests a simmering discontent and frustration beneath the surface. The mention of "broken temples" and "pockmarked walls" hints at the destructive consequences of this suppressed anger. Additionally, the "the stormy torch" implies killings and tension in a generation marred by the religious divide. These subtle references within the poem allude to the presence of hidden anger, adding depth and complexity to the overall exploration of partition and its emotional aftermath.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Ghosh delicately but powerfully explores the emotion of courage, portraying the inner strength and resilience of individuals in the face of displacement. The line "Whatever is around me / Landslides / Arrows and spears" suggests a hostile and challenging environment, yet the speaker persists. The image of a solitary figure sitting amidst the fading dusk, implied by the line "As the beggar who sits in the fading dusk," signifies the quiet bravery and determination to endure. These subtle allusions throughout the poem emphasize the unwavering spirit and the hidden courage found within individuals who navigate the aftermath of trauma and uprooting from their homeland.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


In this poem the poet, with great sensitivity, delves into the emotion of experiencing depression, unveiling the profound emotional struggles that arise from leaving one's home. The line "Memories are like a serpentine crowd" implies the overwhelming weight of the past and the burden it places on the individual. The mention of "broken boxes" beneath the mango trees signifies shattered hopes and a sense of despair. Additionally, the image of the beggar "sitting in the fading dusk" evokes a feeling of desolation and melancholy, suggesting the depths of depression experienced by the speaker. These subtle inferences throughout the poem hint at the presence of depression, offering a poignant portrayal of the emotional turmoil that can accompany a great loss.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The poem is a great example of feeling hopeless, depicting a deep sense of despair and desolation that rose due to displacement. The line "All shiver with their faces turned west" suggests a collective sense of fear and helplessness. The imagery of "pockmarked walls" and "the Ganges flowing red" hints at a bleak and ominous atmosphere, further emphasizing the prevailing hopelessness. Additionally, the mention of the beggar "sitting in the fading dusk" signifies a state of resignation and a lack of prospects. These lines collectively evoke a pervasive feeling of hopelessness, highlighting the mammoth challenges faced by individuals after the partition of India.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


While the poem primarily focuses on the topic of the partition of Bengal and its consequences, there are subtle indications that allude to the abuse of power by the colonial rulers that contributed to the violence and eventual partition. The mention of "broken temples" implies the destruction and desecration of sacred spaces, which can be seen as a metaphor for the cultural and religious abuse at the time. Additionally, the image of "arrows and spears" suggests the tools of aggression and subjugation employed by those in power.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


It strongly explores the topic of adversity, depicting the hardships faced by people in the wake of the Partition of Bengal. The line "Whatever is around me / Landslides / Arrows and spears" suggests a hostile and challenging environment, symbolizing the adversities faced by the speaker. The mention of "broken temples" and "pockmarked walls" further emphasizes the destructive consequences of this adversity. Additionally, the image of the "Ganges flowing red" signifies mass murders happening at the time.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem is a very good example of chaos, reflecting the tumultuous consequences of the partition of India. The line "Memories are like a serpentine crowd" implies a sense of disorder and confusion, where memories intertwine in a chaotic manner. The mention of "broken boxes" beneath the mango trees suggests disarray and scattered fragments of the past. Hence, this verse strongly evokes a powerful sense of chaos, reflecting the turbulent and disorienting nature of the events surrounding the erstwhile times in Bengal.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem was written on the premise of a very dark period in Indian history, i.e., Partition. It acknowledges the significance of the past and its impact on the present. The poem implicitly references the historical events of the Partition of Bengal, which has left a lasting imprint on society. The mention of "broken temples" and "pockmarked walls" alludes to the historic sites and structures that were scarred by the present violence. These subtle references throughout the poem highlight the intertwined relationship between personal and collective history, emphasizing its relevance in shaping our understanding of ourselves and our society.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

Free Verse

"Rehabilitation" by Sankha Ghosh stands as a compelling example of free verse poetry, showcasing the poet's mastery of this form. The absence of a prescribed rhyme scheme or meter allows Ghosh to freely explore his thoughts and emotions, lending the poem an organic and spontaneous quality. The lack of formal constraints grants him the freedom to experiment with line breaks, enjambment, and unconventional structures, enhancing the overall impact of the poem. Ghosh creates a vivid and immersive experience for the reader, making effective use of the flexibility offered by free verse. This allows him to delve into the complexities of the human condition with unbounded creativity and a sense of natural rhythm.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem is an apt example of lyrical poetry, which is characterized by its subjective and emotional nature, often expressing the poet's thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences. This genre typically employs strong imagery, musical language, and a focus on individual emotions and introspection. 'Rehabilitation' aligns with these characteristics, as it explores its theme of partition through evocative imagery and a reflective tone. The use of poetic devices and the intimate exploration of the speaker's inner world are indicative of the lyrical genre, making it an apt categorization for Ghosh's poem.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+
Deepti Sharma Poetry Expert
Deepti is a management graduate and a former entrepreneur who has a passion for poetry and literature. She reads, analyzes, and writes poetry, such as her published anthology 'Emotionally yours,' and has won many contest prizes for her poetry and literary fiction too.

Join the Poetry Chatter and Comment

Exclusive to Poetry+ Members

Join Conversations

Share your thoughts and be part of engaging discussions.

Expert Replies

Get personalized insights from our Qualified Poetry Experts.

Connect with Poetry Lovers

Build connections with like-minded individuals.

Sign up to Poetry+
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Got a question? Ask an expert.x

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?

Share to...