February 16, 2018: I arrive half an hour earlier and occupy the silent balcony on the 9th floor. It is the Biswa Sahitya Kendra building at Bangla Motor. On this floor, Baatighar, also a book publishing house, presents readers with one of the largest bookstores in Dhaka. From the balcony the cityscape appears like a Tolstoyan visual narrative: Everything is glowing in a shaft of sunlight. Looking down I can see the treetops stirring in the fresh spring air, rickshaws scurrying like diligent ants, tailgating cars slumbering in traffic jam and clouds floating by up in the sky.
I am here to attend a talk that Selina Hossain, one of our most famous writers, will deliver.
It is almost a quiet literary gathering. The silence, in all likelihood, is caused by the impressive interior design of the store. Once you are here, you won’t be able to resist an irresistible pull of a literary landscape, augmented by an ambience resembling Dhaka’s Lalbagh Fort.
It is in this silence that Selina Hossain starts her talk about her life and literary career. She recalls what inspired her to write. She recounts a story of a poor, old man in Chapainawabganj, who came to their house on many occasions. After so many years, she can still see his face – its contours, wrinkles and the swarthy outlines. It is this image that, among other peculiarities of the old man, she cannot forget for the rest of her life. She feels, she explains, doomed, locked with this piece of memory, an image implanted indelibly on her mind.
Talking about her novel, Hangor Nodi Grenade, she explains how she creates paradoxes in her novel as well as its visual aspects. In the novel, a mother hands over her son to the Pakistani army during the Liberation War to save an entire village from their attack. “The story is based on a real event. It portrays a valiant mother who sacrifices her son with this belief that it is better to sacrifice one life than perish thousands.”
Before she concludes, she refers to her readers as the main source of her inspiration. “Readers,” she says, “never accept literature which lacks quality and artistic values. Readers are the ones who never hesitate to throw writers in the dustbin of time if they cannot produce good works. Their words and supports have inspired me so far and have guided my literary career.”
Her pen, which has never stopped since the 1960s, has enriched Bangla literature immensely, producing a large number of works across all genres of fiction and non-fiction.
The riveting lit gathering, co-panelled by poet Maruful Islam, ends with the launch of Selina Hossain’s new book Amar Jiban Amar Rachana.