It may not matter to many Bangalis, but I could feel an overpowering flow of pride in me when I saw the world’s biggest web search engine Google had created a doodle on the occasion of Humayun Ahmed’s birthday. The doodle portrayed Humayun at his estate, meeting his own creation Himu.
I thank the Google authorities for remembering this towering figure of modern Bangla literature and reminding the global audience the contributions he made in developing people’s interest to read books again.
Himu and happiness
The character of Himu took a generation by storm. Himu had a deep understanding of human life and the realities surrounding the efforts that people make in order to find happiness, knowing full well that happiness is like a mirage in the desert.
Himu symbolises many aspects of human life. One word or just one sentence wouldn’t be good enough to define him.
Sometimes, he seemed a lonely soul trying to escape the pangs of life; his aim was to just exist in space. Sometimes, Himu was the embodiment of the outsider that exists in all of us.
Other times, he looked like a person living a life which was larger than life itself, travelling through a thought process that most of us wouldn’t want to adopt. Most of the time, he had easy solutions for the equations of life, ones that seem very difficult to us.
Himu seemed a modern-day existentialist. I have also noticed a shadow of Albert Camus’ characters in Humayun’s Himu, but extremely well-suited for the Bangali audience. I think this character is going to last in the history of Bangla literature for a long, long time.
Humayun wrote over 200 books. In his lifetime, he witnessed each and every book being sold; there wasn’t any book that wasn’t selling. They are even selling more after his death. It is his ability to observe the simple aspects of life which has kept him alive as a writer among us.
He was producing so many stories that, at a certain point of time, some other authors and critics started to label him with derogatory comments. To them, Humayun wasn’t creating serious literature or even any kind of literature.
No author in the history of Bangla literature could tell stories that directly entered the minds of the readers. No one had invented the diction he used while telling his stories
But I think he had created a new genre in our literature. No author in the history of Bangla literature could tell stories that directly entered the minds of the readers. No one had invented the diction he used while telling his stories. There were many authors who unknowingly had adopted his style in their writings.
Humayun taught the Bangalis in this part of Bengal to read books. We have been buying books for a long time, but with Humayun’s entrance in the literary arena, buying books became a passion for many people. Most writers cannot create an era in the way Humayun has.
Master of many
Humayun also excelled as a dramatist. There was a time when we used to watch weekly tele-film dramas on TV. The plots of those stories revolved mostly around love and lost love.
He explored the every-day small emotions having big impact in the minds of social beings who sometimes don’t realise the existence of their collective evolution.
His simple dialogue and situational comedies led the audience to begin to think differently about life. Sometimes, the audience could feel their own existence in Humayun’s stories.
Sometimes, we wanted to become one of his characters. Creating the character of Baker Bhai is one such example.
Baker Bhai was the quintessential arrogant mastaan
with a heart of gold, a loveable villain who won the hearts of millions.
When his character was handed the death sentence in the story, people actually came out on the streets; they arranged processions and demanded that Baker Bhai be saved.
This was an exceptional turn of events which, perhaps, has never happened anywhere else in the world.
It was an amazing thing to see.
The audience was reacting to a fictional character. This showed what impact Humayun had on his audience.
Take Eishob Din Ratri
for example. He had just portrayed the simple goings-on of the everyday lives of the middle class.
However, the portrayal was so different than what many other writers had done that the middle class people themselves started to see themselves in the show.
He was also a filmmaker. People who had stopped going to cinema halls to watch movies were coming back because of Humayun’s films. His films contained songs that everybody loved.
The songs, with his poetic skills, also told stories that were close to our hearts.
Where else can you find a writer who was writing novels, short stories, songs, making TV shows, and creating movies? Maybe there are others, but very few.
We had a larger than life writer among us who himself was the embodiment of a literary era. It is his sheer insight into human simplicities, follies, and emotions which has kept him alive, still, among us.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer and a columnist.