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Bangladesh: Mourning the Death of a Legend

A few hours ago, Bangladesh's treasured and most well-known Bangla writer and film maker died from colon cancer leaving millions of fans mourning. Humayun Ahmed (64) was a popular author, playwright and film director who captivated millions of people with his famous characters Himu, Misir Ali, and Baker Bhai in Bangla literature, TV and film over the last three decades.

Humayun Ahmed studied at the Dhaka University, where he later joined as a Lecturer in Chemistry. He went on to obtain a PhD in polymer chemistry from the North Dakota State University in the United States. In the mid 1990s he left his job at the University to devote all his time to writing and producing film.

Humayun Ahmed. Image courtesy Wikipedia. From public domain.

Humayun Ahmed. Image courtesy Wikipedia. From public domain.

When his first novel Nandito Noroke (In a Blissful Hell) was published in the early seventies, he came into the limelight. His second fiction “Shankhanil Karagar” (Shankhanil Prison) is dubbed as one of the greatest works of fiction in the world by his compatriots. He has published more than 200 fiction works and plays which are well read among Bangladeshis.

During the 1980s he started writing ‘dramas’ [note: serious TV serials are  known as dramas in South Asia] such as “Eisob Dinratri” (These days and nights), “Bohubrihi”, “Kothao keu nei,” which were immensely popular in the country.

He ventured into film making during the 1990s both as screen-writer and director. His first film “Aguner Parashmoni” (Philosopher's stone of fire) won the National Film Award in eight categories, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Tributes are pouring in to social networking sites from his mourning fans. Here are some  reactions on Twitter:

@Bhalomanush: Just heard Humayun Ahmed, a stalwart of ‪#Bangla‬ literature, is no more… Today we are all Himu.

@iv1ii (Iyad Chowdhury): Rest in peace Humayun Ahmed. You'll be missed. Bangladesh lost one of it's greatest sons. #HumayunAhmed #Bangladesh #Bangla #literature

@hsami (Hassan Sami Adnan): R.I.P. Dr. Humayun Ahmed. A true legend of modern Bengali literature. A huge loss for us all that'll never be replaced.

@shirinAkhter: People like Humayun Ahmed never dies.He will live as long as the Bangla literature will live. he has a space in every booklovers heart.RIP

Aminul Islam Sajib, an eager fan, expresses in one line his feelings “For Bangladesh, it’s like the moment when pop singer Michael Jackson died”. He narrates in his blog:

He wrote many stories, short stories and novels that touched our minds. [..] He made characters. Characters that we — Bengalis — know like the world knows superheros. He wasn’t limited to any single genre. He wrote horror, he wrote thriller, he wrote mystery, he wrote romance, he combined many genres in one single story. He had that ability. He had the amazing gift to get into the readers’ mind and force them to keep reading until the story is finished.

He was not only a writer, but also a film director. Yes, many writers can write so that readers can draw the image on their mind. But not everyone can grab that image from the readers’ mind and come up with an exact screen version of that. Apparently, Humayun Ahmed knew how to do it.

Image courtesy Radio Foorti. A collage from a picture of Faisal Masum.

Many acknowledge how his work created a generation of avid readers. Sajib writes in another post:

He turned many people into bookworms just by the magic of his words.

Humayun Ahmed, as a person, was not far from controversy although he had a huge number of passionate devotees. Some claim that his work was popular-appeal but had lesser literary merit than his compatriots.

However, Nazrul Islam [bn] writes on Facebook:

যে লেখকের মধ্যে কোটি মানুষ নিজের কণ্ঠ খুঁজে পান… তাঁর মৃত্যু বেদনা ছাড়া আর কিছু দেয় না!

The writer, in whom millions of fans find their voice…only brings pain with his demise..

Proloy Hasan [bn] acknowledges in Facebook:

একটা পুরো জাতিকে, বিপুল সংখ্যক মানুষকে, একটা তরুন প্রজন্মকে বইমুখী করা, পরিবারের লোকদের হলমুখী করা, এসব বিরল ও অসম্ভব কঠিন কাজগুলো তিনি করে গেছেন। সবাই এটা পারেন না।

He has done many rare and challenging feats like making a nation, a large number of people, especially the young readers of fictions, audience of theaters. Not everybody can do it.

Here are some of his works translated into English:

* 1971

* Gouripur Junction

  • Nazmulrana50

    he will live in the heart of 15 crore bangladeshis till the earth is alive .

  • sutapaa

    I am from India. It is only last year when I discovered his books from the free downloadable bangla sites in internet. His words gave me strength when I was depressed. He taught me to let go the past and laugh. I did laugh a lot while reading his books. Its been said the more you laugh the more you live. He added some lovely, joyful moments in my life. I wanted to talk to him but I couldn’t get the chance. Now I know I did talk to him when ever I read his books. He was like sitting beside me when I read. I know his thoughts, he wanted people to be happy, to laugh and to spend joyful time with the loved ones. I will not let him down by not laughing loud anymore, but I will try to be happy, to laugh more and to cherish the moments of my life. I will read his books again and again and talk to him while sitting by his side. 

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