It felt empty like a zillion broken hearts; it felt lonely like the sky; and it felt uninhabitable like a pre-human planet. This is exactly what I felt when I heard that he wasn’t there anymore. We all learnt that he was on his way out with, what the physicians said, an incurable ailment.
It was expected for his admirers and followers to accept the reality of a human lifespan. But did we accept that? Had we prepared ourselves to let him go? Were we ready for the demise of such a stalwart who’d never be born again on the face of this earth, not to speak about in a Bangla language environment? At least, I wasn’t.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to a guru who taught me more than my educational institutions and professional organisations have. It was one sentence, just one sentence: “Ekram, the most difficult task for a writer is to sit at his writing table immediately after waking up [early] in the morning.”
That did the trick for me; and his guidance was solely instrumental for me to write my first novel.
Years before this valuable advice, I first got introduced to Syed Shamsul Haq through his Neel Dangshon at the Jhenidah Cadet College library. After that, I felt eager to reach out for Nurul Diner Shara Jibon, Judhdho ebong Judhdho, and Khelaram Kheley Ja. I read these works during my university days in the 80s.
Having been oriented in a revolutionary environment at that time, these works worked like magic in my mind. They imbued the sense of literary value in my psyche more than any English literature textbooks could.
At that time, I only knew him through his works, although I saw him from a distance speaking at cultural congregations. I hardly had any courage to go up to him and get introduced. However, finally, I met him face-to-face when I was working with the British Broadcasting Corporation in Dhaka. We had invited him to our morning news analysis show on few occasions. It was then, I could come to understand some of the aspects of his deep insight on life and the living beings around him.
Intimacy grew between us and his family became family friends with mine. Coming closer to him helped me to grow more interest in him and I completed reading some of his other novels and poems from his early years.
I left the BBC and became the editor of a few magazines in ICE Media, and I was profoundly happy to get Syed Shamsul Haq as the editorial adviser of those magazines.
It was at that time I discovered his editorial acumen in guiding us. He took special care, while guiding us, with the content of Bengal Barota -- a literary and cultural magazine.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to a guru who taught me more than my educational institutions and professional organisations have. It was one sentence: ‘Ekram, the most difficult task for a writer is to sit at his writing table immediately after waking up [early] in the morning’
Journalism had taught me to be a newsman and I surely had some deficiency in editing literary and cultural content. I also had some problems with modern-day spellings of many Bangla words. Even today, I don’t have the right words to express my gratitude to him for enriching my knowledge about the literary world.
And it was at that time, I wrote my first novel. I had the intention to show him the manuscript before publishing the work of fiction. However, it was near impossible to find spare time from his busy writing schedules.
I discovered that his expectations from me, regarding writing, was very high, but I doubted I had impressed him then. However, a couple of years later, I had an opportunity to do so.
The members (with myself included) of Dhaka-based book club called The Reading Circle had decided to read Nurul Diner Shara Jibon and discuss the play in Syed Shamsul Haq’s presence. I instantly volunteered to recite Jago Bahey, Konthhey Shobai from his epic play that I watched both on stage and on television several times.
I had practiced the verses several times before my recitation in front of him, and he was the first person among the lot to start clapping: “Good recitation,” he had commented. I will always cherish that moment. Then we all listened to him speak about his Nurul Diner Shara Jibon. It was quite enthralling and educative to listen to a legend, and that too, being Syed Haq.
Coming back to my novel. I had finished the manuscript of Ek Dushtu Cadeter Golpo quite some time ago when I worked with Syed Haq in ICE Media.
I didn’t give it to any publisher for about three years, but when Onnesha Prokashon published it in Ekushey Boi Mela this year, I was over the moon.
It’s my first work of fiction, and I thought I must get it launched by someone truly illustrious. I thought of many writers, but not of Haq bhai. I assumed he would be too busy to take out time for a book launch of a small writer like me.
But surprisingly, the unexpected happened. My friend from college, Shakoor Majid, was instrumental in this. The Cadet College Club in Dhaka organises its own Boi Mela every year and we invite an eminent writer to inaugurate the fair. Shakoor proposed that he would invite Syed Haq and Anwara Syed Haq to inaugurate the fair, and we were told that they’d also launch books written by the ex-cadets in 2016 Boi Mela.
And that was it. Syed Haq launched my first novel on Ekushey February 2016. Nothing could have been more inspirational than this.
Even if there is a void in my heart because I can’t see him physically, my spirit remains overwhelmed with inspiration that he had left behind.
Ekram Kabir is a writer.