Humayun Ahmed

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Recounting the ordinary with extraordinary zeal

by Tazkia Tarannum

For more than three decades Humayun Ahmed captivated the heart of the Bengalis like a magician. We burst into tears with him, laughed out loud with him, sobbed with him and were utterly frustrated, bewildered and furious with him at the dramatic turns and twists in many of his novels. More than just a writer, a novelist, a dramatist, song writer or even a film maker, he was an individual- lovingly cherished in most Bengali’s heart.

He had created something for every group of reader including preschool children and adolescents. One remembers enjoying his imaginary tale of ‘Rani Kalaboti’ just as much as one will enjoy Brother Grimm’s fairy tales or ‘Thakur Ma’r Jhuli’. The beautiful and arrogant queen, ‘Rani Kalabati’ sneered at the reflection of the moon in the pond thinking she was prettier than the moon which had ugly scars on it. Nature taught her a lesson by transferring those scars from the moon to her face. Out of anguish she was about to commit suicide. Right before drowning herself in the pond she caught a glimpse of the moon once again. However, this time she marvelled at its beauty and as a reward nature bequeathed her beauty again.

Not only this, stories like, ‘Ekti bhoyonkor obhijan’– a terrifying adventure of a mosquito family to ‘Porir meye meghoboti’ , ‘Neel hati’ or novels like ‘Putul’ added so much to our childhood. Like his literary work for children, his versatility was equally evident in the novels and shorts stories written for adults.

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Many of his critics vehemently attacked him for being superficial and light hearted in his approach and story line according to Ahmed himself. However, ‘Jochona o jononir golpo’, ‘Badshah namdar’, ‘Deyal’ and ‘Moddharno’ captured the different era’s it exhibited distinctively along with the descriptions, contexts etc and even the conversations lucidly captured those times.

Perhaps the virtue of simplicity attracted the middle class Bengalis like magnets to his books. A number of times he penned perplexing aspects of human relationships. For instance, in ‘Amar aachey jol’ two sisters fell for the same person and in the end Dilu the youngest sister committed suicide. Whether such emotions are morally just is debatable, nevertheless we cannot deny their existence or influence.

 

Apart from the emotion love he also played around with other facet of human sentiments. Set in the context of a railway junction, ‘Gouripur Junction’ tells the story of a disabled vagabond Jainal who lived off doing bizarre odd jobs, occasionally even nicking things to survive. Life of such a man is so intensely narrated here you can clearly visualize his mental makeup and the bustling life around him as you read on.

Books like, ‘Rupali deep’, ‘Kichukhon’ had wonderful portrayals of something as trivial as a train journey. This is where his finesse lies, transforming mundane occurrences into extraordinary tales. Like no other he taught us to appreciate the simple pleasures of life for example sipping a cup of tea or relishing the ‘Bashi polao’ like Himu or enjoying the monsoon or moonlit nights.

His unconventional usages of humour or legendary catchphrases like, ‘Tui rajakar’ are still dotingly referred by many. Also he was one of the pioneers to popularize Hasan Raja songs like ‘Nisha lagilo re’, ‘Loke bole re ghor bari bhala na amar’. Along with using folk songs and Tagore songs he had written a number of well appreciated songs like ‘Ek je chilo shonar konna’, ‘Jodi mon kade chole esho’ among many.

He had his unique way of employing Tagore, Jibanando Das and other noted writers of Bengali literature in many of his works. One of his short stories named, ‘Jokhon giyeche dube panchamir chaad’ was taken from the poem ‘Aat bochor aager ekdin by ‘Jibonando Das’. His book ‘Kichukhon’ was named after one of Bonophul’s short stories. Any regular reader of him would often find him quoting Tagore’s famous line ‘Esho koro snaan nobodhara jole’ and similar verses in many of his fictions.

From his satirical serial like, ‘Aj Robibar’ to drama serials like ‘Bohubrihi’, ‘Kothao Keu Nei’ or ‘Ei shob din ratri’ this Bangla academy award winner writer took our TV serials and cinemas to another level. In his last movie ‘Ghetu Putra Kamola’ he dared to depict the rather controversial story of a ‘ghetu boy’. No one could portray those epoch or emotions as skilfully as he did. We could somewhat envisage those times when we see the Jaminder’s wife spitting inside the little boy’s mouth before sending him to please her husband.

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From his collection of travelogues, reminiscing his days in America to science fictions or short stories or movies like ‘Shonkhoneel Karagar’ or liberation war inspired fictions like, ‘Aguner Poroshmoni’ or humorous books like, ‘Ele Bele’ Humayun Ahmed always gave us something we could relate to. Characters like ‘Baker bhai’, ‘Himu’, ‘Misir Ali’, ‘Fiha’, ‘Tilu, Bilu and Nilu’ will forever be etched in our hearts.

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His quest to explore human emotions, lucid narration, touching approach, queer humour and most importantly his eternal love for Bangladesh will keep us mesmerised for many more years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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