Remembering Humayun Ahmed

Remembering Humayun Ahmed

In 1974-1975 as a new student in Dhaka University Chemistry Department I got to know a young teacher. Shy and restless he walked in rapid pace looking firmly on the ground and seemed occupied in deep thought always. A cigarette was often in his hand. Students often commented of his shyness in the class, about how he looked away when he was talking to them. He had already attained a certain fame with his book “Nondito Norokey”, as the department Chairman Professor Ali Nawab reminded us when introducing him.

In the subsequent years, maybe only 2, since he left the country around 1977-78 I got to know him very well. Often visiting his Babar Road house where we used to have great adda and fun and joy in very simple things, such as making potato chip which a very simple chip-maker, as one instance I remember.

Those were very turbulent but simpler times when people had little material things compared to now but a close relationship often prevailed between people. Humayun Sir loved the tea I used to often bring for him from my home area and often asked for it; I was happy to keep him supplied with tea. He urged me to write and organized such that I was included in the departmental TV program. I found that he was very bright, very simple and full of fun and humour. He used to be very close to Ahmed Sofa who was a big guru for all of us in those days.

Later he ended up in Fargo in North Dakota and I was in Oregon and also in Seattle, Washington where I met him when he visited his brother Dr. Zafar Iqbal. After coming back to Bangladesh, he set upon writing seriously and made history. Everyone knows that part of history. In those days, starting from 1984 till 1990 I met him a few times, often in the chemistry department. Our converstions used to be like this:

Humayun Ahmed: Tumi ki ekebarey chole ashso deshey:

Me: Na sir, berate ashsi

HA: Ekebarey asho nai keno?

Nothing was more important to him. He wanted all of us, who had left that the country to come back and soon. Because I lived in Seattle in those days he often used to urge me to “convince Zafar to come back home soon”.

For a long time I did not see him. He had entered another space by then. He had left the Chemistry department and had become a hyper celebrity. When a TV character created by him was to be “killed” in a TV episode there was a procession against it. His movement was curtailed, he often had a body guard with him. He had become a legend, an icon, the most popular writer of bangle language of all times.

During that period of high frenzy I met him during the publication of his book “Jotsna O Jononir Golpo”. I was visiting Bangladesh briefly and my friend Faridur Reza Shagor asked me to come over to the venue where the book was being launched. There I met Mazharul Islam who took me to see Humayun Ahmed; he came forward and gave me a hug and invited me to come to a party at Dhaka club at night. I remember I had to buy a pair of proper shoes to enter that party as I was going around wearing sneakers. I realized that time had changed in Bangladesh for our generation. I was happy to be in that party however where I met Prof. Anisuzzaman and Sunil and Swati Ganguly. Humayun Ahmed at one point came and hugged me and Sunil together and stood like that for a while. I was exposed to a part of his personality that I had never seen before. Years fame and celebrity status had changed him but he remained deeply warm and affectionate and had opened up in a way that I had not seen earlier.

Two days ago I talked to Mazhar Bhai as he, Sir to all of us, lay in a comma. I felt as though a part of me was ripped apart, that those days that I had spent with him had now suddenly become a deep fountain of grief; one feels such emotion only for closest of relatives and loved ones. That Humayun elicited such profound grief in me is a sign of his greatness and humanity.

These two days he was constantly in my mind, and has been in the mind of millions. I reached Dhaka tonight to hear that the end has indeed come for him.

With unbound grief we remember him who has given us so much in his life and leaves a grief stricken nation in his passing. From the depths of our hearts we now accept him in the community of those immortal ones, who although are not amongst us physically, we still always carry them in our hearts, as though they are alive. He now belongs to such a timeless center of Bangladesh’s memory.

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