The interview is the first interview with renowned writer Humayun Ahmed. It was taken on 21 January 1986. Then Humayun Ahmed returned from the United States and began to gain popularity. Assistant Professor of Dhaka University. This interview from that time reveals a young writer who is bright, funny and confident. And here besides Humayun, his mother Ayesha Faiz and his wife Gultekin Ahmed are about him. All in all, this is an excellent arrangement to understand Humayun Ahmed at that time. Interviewed by Shakur Majid .
Humayun Ahmed’s words
I was an eighth grade student (1980) when I first met a writer named Humayun Ahmed while watching Humayun Faridi’s play ‘Nirbasan’. Later I found out that three more novels of this writer have come out – Writer’s camp award-winning ‘Nandit Narake’, ‘Shankhaneel Kargar’ and science fiction ‘Toma Akhti Vahalaba’. It didn’t take me much time to read all three books at once due to their accessibility. After that, I did not read any of his writings in Eid number or any other paper for quite some time. Many friends used to say that Humayun Ahmed is dead. I believed myself. Then suddenly one day I saw a drama by Humayun Ahmed on television probably titled ‘Pratham Paharre’. But the doubt was not over yet. It was suspected that ‘Nandit Narake’ is Humayun Ahmed. Or someone else? Then, of course, when I opened the Eid numbers, I saw the name of the long-desired novelist—a long seven-year Ph.D. in polymer chemistry who has established himself in a unique position in modern Bengali prose literature, which is his alone. And if the relentless demands of the publishers and the absolute love of the readers are the criteria of popularity, then Humayun Ahmed is undoubtedly the most popular novelist of Bangladesh.
On behalf of ‘Disha’, I and Babu went to her residence in Azimpur in the late afternoon of 21 January 1986. The tidy drawing room of the shabby middle class. His younger sister is doing watercolors on the floor. Welcomed by cartoonist Ahsan Habib (younger brother of Humayun Ahmed). Humayun Ahmed came out with a happy face and asked, “Tell me, brother, what can I do?”
I said, start with your personal life?
(Since the purpose of arrival was fixed by prior communication.)
: No objection.
He told that he was born on November 13, 1948 in Mohanganj (uncle’s house) of Mymensingh. Father Shaheed Faizur Rahman Ahmed (martyred in the war of independence), mother Ayesha Akhter (Ayesha Faiz). He is the eldest among three brothers and three sisters. The police officer traveled to many places as a child, traveling with his father. Gained diverse experience. He completed his primary education at Kishorimohan Pathshala in Mirabazar, Sylhet and passed his secondary and higher secondary examinations from Bogra Zilla School and Dhaka College respectively. [I learned from his younger brother cartoonist Ahsan Habib, In 1965, he got second place in combined merit list from Rajshahi Board in secondary examination. However, he requested not to write this. Science is his favorite subject and taught in Dhaka University for some time after getting second position in MSc in Dhaka University (known from his brother). After getting his doctorate in polymer chemistry from North Dakota State University in America (in 1982) he is currently employed as an assistant professor at Dhaka University. I asked, why did you return to the country instead of staying abroad?
: I returned, so that I could write ‘these days and nights’ for you. Who would write if not returned?
I changed the topic and started writing-related questions, since when did you have a passion for writing?
: Spelled out since the day I read the first story, I think. But I don’t remember the distant childhood memories. I’m talking today.
: How was the first text printed?
: The notebook written in ‘Nandit Narke’ was given by friend Anis Sabet to the editor of ‘Mukhpatra’ newspaper. It was printed. There is no interesting story behind the first print. Ahmad Chafa then secured a publisher for the first book. Khan Brothers and Company.
: The second one (Sankhanil prison)?
: Wanted by the publisher.
: Why are the names of the husband and wife in ‘Nandit Narake’ and ‘Shangkhanil Prison’ the same?
: New name not found.
: What is the similarity between the character of the boy and the writer’s personal life?
: I guess I’m not that good. But I also want to be like a kid sometimes. Apart from that, the writer is also a bit stupid like a boy.
: How did you get the plot of these two novels?
: I don’t remember. But I never sit down to write with a plot in mind.
Humayun Ahmed said, he never sits down to write a plot before writing something. As you write, suitors come, characters are created, stories are made. Writing does not require any kind of atmosphere or any kind of material for ‘mood’. He also has the experience of writing continuously for seven-eight hours under pressure. But usually he writes and reads when he gets free time.
: Do not write in private?
: I would try if I had a bigger house.
: Don’t wish for a bigger house?
: sometimes happens.
Humayun Ahmed’s story bride and groom are from middle class family. According to him, I have seen the middle class well. How to write beyond this limited experience?
: Why? He also wrote some things in the plots of upper-class families—such as ‘Eka Eka’?
: Saw some high class ones too.
: When did you leave stories and novels to write plays?
: In 1974, I adapted the novel ‘Nandit Narake’ into a stage play. In 1975, I gave a radio dramatization of ‘Shankhanil Jail’ for radio. Wrote first drama for TV ‘Pratham Prahar’ in 1980.
: Why did you come?
: for money.
My only advice to new writers is to read, read a lot, read all authors. It will take over the language. It will also be clear how a writer is ‘treating’ the characters. Again, eyes and ears should be kept open. For example, how a person of a profession talks, how they walk should also be seen. Apart from that, if you read poetry, it seems that the possession of the language comes quickly.
Then we talked about Bangladesh Television’s most popular serial drama ‘Aisab Din Ratri’. He said that a drama of this week was enlarged due to the interest of Mr. Mustafizur Rahman. In the drama series. The drama was also enjoyable for him as a spectator. But sometimes it felt like it wasn’t happening the way he wanted.
: Then want to write drama series?
: Maybe I will write if I am in financial trouble.
: Do you want to write stories for movies?
: If someone wants to make a good film on the Liberation War, then I will write.
A feature (or fault) of Humayun Ahmed is that in most of his stories certain names recur repeatedly. But each character is unique. When asked why this happens, he gave a simple answer, ‘I can’t find a new name.’ I don’t want to believe it. Seems like a go-to answer to hide something. His wife (Gultekin) who was sitting next to him said, ‘He asks me my name while writing a novel. If I can’t say it right away, I write the previous name? That’s how the same name comes up again and again, nothing else really.’
: Well, do you know ‘Neelu’?
: Why does this name come up again and again in your stories and novels?
: The name is beautiful. [At this point his wife said that when they were in America, there was a Sri Lankan family living next door, a girl named Neelu in that house. Humayun Ahmed showed with his hand, so much (four-five years old) girl].
: Nilganj – why come?
: probably from blue.
Humayun Ahmed also wrote many of his novels, the titles of which were published long ago. However, the novel cannot be called an extended form of the story. But why? Same answer of Humayun Ahmed, can’t find new name. According to him, given for the sake of naming. [So he never thinks about the merits of naming?]
: Well, do you ever doubt the quality of your writing when you write so much?
: Yes, I write a lot. I can stay without writing again. After the first four novels were published, I wrote nothing for seven years. There may come a time when I write nothing.
: To prevent boredom, what will you do if no one reads your writing?
: What else to do? Is there anything to do but be upset?
: Well, why do you write?
: Hard to say, but love to write.
: Do you write with the slightest hope of immortality?
: No. Immortality is for great men. I am not a great man, but a common man.
: Do you ever consider yourself a popular novelist?
: When I found out that the first print of my same book was sold out in a month. [But this is a mild horror novel, not a work to boast about.]
: Do you identify yourself as a writer or a teacher?
Why borrow from Rabindra-Jivanananda in the title of the novel?
: Because I am not ashamed to borrow from them.
: What would you say if ‘You’ doesn’t make sense as a romance novel [as written on the cover]?
: I won’t say anything.
: Well, a little different question, can children be friends without love?
: Why can’t you?
: The kind of friendship between two boys and two girls, can there be a similar friendship between a boy and a girl?
: Of course not. Because there is something Freudian about it.
: Then he said…
: Actually, the matter is a bit complicated. You ask another question.
: What is the most memorable event of your life?
: Getting the Bangla Academy Award for writing three novels is a memorable event for me. No, no, don’t write that. Then people may think I am proud. Enter Gultekin (wife) introduction.
: Sad event?
: Death of father.
After a while the entertainment started again. Some talk about literature started.
: Whose writing is your favorite in Bengali literature?
: Vibhutibhushan Banerjee, Manik Banerjee, Tarashankar, Bimal Kar, Satinath Bhaduri, Sunil Gangopadhyay.
: How does Shankar feel?
: good Some of his early novels are very good.
: Apart from Bengali literature, do you read any foreign literature? Who is dear?
: once read a lot. still reading Favorite is John Stein-Beck. Remak.
: In your opinion, between the big story and the novel, where is the difference?
: I don’t know.
It seems like the day I read the first story spelled out. But I don’t remember the distant childhood memories. I’m talking today.
: In the preface to ‘Sankhanil Prison’, he referred to ‘Nandit Narake’ as a ‘story’, whereas it was considered and awarded as a ‘novel’. So why tell the ‘story’?
: There is no use in asking me these things. Such questions should be asked by the student of literature. I once wrote a book review in ‘Robbar’. Later everyone started narrating it and I also put it in my story book (‘Ananda Bednar Kavya’).
: If you were asked to define a novel, how would you define it?
: No way. If I knew what a novel was, I would have written it myself. Is any of what I wrote really a novel?
: Do you have any plans to write a full-length novel in the future?
: Yes, I will write a novel on a large canvas on the Liberation War; And for this I am also studying.
: Bankim, from Sharat to the present day the genre of novels has changed a lot. What do you think is the reason?
: Effect of time. A novel is a picture of time. Novels will change as time changes.
: How much practical experience do you think is necessary in creating a novel?
: A lot.
: What qualities must a good novel have?
: Society and tomorrow will emerge in a worthwhile novel. The author will try to give a vision. A novel is not just a story. Something beyond the story.
: Is a good story essential for a good story?
: Well, how can social reform be done with literature?
: I don’t know. I myself do not write anything thinking about social reform.
: When writing, what kind of reader do you consider?
: Science fiction written for younger readers. When I write everything else, I don’t remember what class of readers I am writing for. Those who want to read.
: Why is there no political statement in your writing?
: You can see from now on.
: That means politics will come?
Humayun Ahmed shook his head.
: What kind could it be?
: I don’t want to say anything in advance.
: The reason for not coming so long?
: For so long I was inclined towards telling stories. I neglected the society that created this story yesterday. It seems that personal happiness and sadness are all.
: Do you think that every man should do politics?
: off course. It’s a part of our life.
: What political ideology do you personally believe in?
: I wholeheartedly believe that every human being has equal rights.
: There is also some talk about personal likes and dislikes.
: Who is your favorite among the young writers of Bangladesh?
: Imdadul Haque Milan, Manju Sarkar.
: Favorite novelist?
: Syed Haque, Shaukat Osman, Shaukat Ali.
: Shamsur Rahman, Nirmalendu Guna.
: Humayun Ahmed.
: Jibanananda Das’s ‘One Day Eight Years Ago’.
: ‘Nripati’ (written by himself, to be premiered in February).
: Father did not come to your novel?
: Baba has appeared in my stories many times, in many ways (Shankhanil Jail).
: As for that mother comes less often…
: Perhaps you are not true.
Finally, I asked Humayun Ahmed, tell me something for new writers.
: I have only one word for new writers, read, read a lot, read all authors. It will take over the language. It will also be clear how a writer is ‘treating’ the characters. Again, eyes and ears should be kept open. For example, how people of a profession talk, how they walk, these should also be seen. Apart from that, if you read poetry, it seems that the possession of the language comes quickly.
What Ayesha Faiz said about Humayun Ahmed
We left Humayun Ahmed and wanted to talk to his mother. He sent his mother and went inside himself. His mother, a woman wearing a white cloth red striped saree, came and sat next to us. I started the story with Mrs. Ayesha Akhtar (Ayesha Faiz).
: What do your children do?
: Eldest son Humayun Ahmed. Maj’s son Zafar Iqbal, doing his postdoctorate in America, writes for children, has three books out. Chhota Ahsan Habib has passed MSc in Geography from Dhaka University. He draws good cartoons again, he is the assistant editor of the cartoon magazine ‘Inmad’. Eldest daughter Sufia Haider, a professor of Bengali at Pirojpur Women’s College, is her husband’s lawyer. Major daughter has passed B.Sc and is in Dhaka, her husband is major. Younger daughter Roksana Ahmed also painted very well, won the Shankar Award. Studied up to class eight, in a deaf and dumb school, and is dumb again, unable to speak.
: All your children are talented and well known in society. What are you proud of?
: Of course.
: What do you think you have contributed to their success?
: No, I have no contribution. They have earned their recognition.
: Well, how was your eldest son Humayun Ahmed as a child?
: He was very clever. Talked like an old man and understood a lot. Apart from that, he was very good in education. Got scholarship in class eight, second stand in matric. His father (Shaheed Faizur Rahman Ahmad) used to keep all his papers in a file. I still have the papers in which his picture appeared, his name appeared. His father used to say, keep them carefully in the cupboard, your son will be very famous one day, then the paper men will come looking for these.
One night when everyone was sleeping, his father called him. He went very scared. I was there too. His father handed him the manuscript and said, ‘Keep it carefully. You will be a very famous writer one day.’
: Did you understand that Humayun Ahmed will be a writer one day?
: Her father understood.
: He came to Dhaka then. Student of Mohsin Hall. Once he wrote a novel. Probably ‘Shangkhanil Prison’. We all read at home. But he did not have the courage to teach his father. One day he gave me the text and sent it to his father. Then he just wandered past me and wanted to know what his father said when he read it. After a couple of days like this, one night when everyone was sleeping, his father called him. He went very scared. I was there too. His father handed him the manuscript and said, ‘Keep it carefully. You will be a very famous writer one day.’
: Has his father read any of his published writings?
: No, he was martyred in the War of Independence in 1971.
: How do you like Humayun Ahmed’s writing?
: Very good. I don’t think he wrote it. Looks like someone else might.
: Not bad at all?
: Well, do you think that your character or part of it came in the role of ‘mother’ in any of his novels or dramas?
: What do I know (laughs). I don’t understand my character, but many people say that I am the mother of these days and nights. I don’t think so.
: The author is more.
: Mention a fault in his character.
: He is very angry. Don’t stay angry for too long.
: Tell about an incident from his childhood.
: We were in Sylhet Mirabazar. There was a cow house next to our house. One night he woke me up and said, Mother, listen, the cows talk. But he still sometimes says that he hears cows, it is his madness, or something else, nothing is understood.
: Are you satisfied with all your children?
: Of course.
Humayun Ahmed gave the opportunity to talk with his wife. Gultekin Ahmed (now Gultekin Khan) is the granddaughter of Principal Ibrahim Khan. After reading Humayun Ahmed’s novel ‘Shankhanil Prison’, class eight student Gultekin Ahmed wrote a letter to Humayun Ahmed, a young lecturer of Dhaka University. See you later. Communication increases. As a result of closeness, Gultekin became Humayun Ahmed’s housemate after passing SSC in 1976. The mother of three daughters, Nova, Sheila and Bipasha, took charge of the girls herself. He has no future plans for them. That will be whatever it may be.
I asked him, well, when you read Humayun Ahmed’s ‘Nandit Narak’ or ‘Shankhanil Prison’ before marriage, did you consider these two novels to be autobiographical of the author?
: It seemed a bit.
: Nandit the hell boy secretly loved a girl. He never had the courage to tell the girl that love. His love remained unrequited forever. Well, would you be sorry for that boy? (Humayun Ahmed is smiling)
: That would have happened.
: What would you do if the writer had extra feelings for a heroine even after marriage?
: That’s a story. And really, if he did something, he would feel bad.
: Well, did any of your characters appear in one of his (Humayun Ahmed’s) novels?
: came in pieces, not completely. [Humayun Ahmed replied, she had a lot in common with Neelu’s character in ‘Eiseb Din Ratri’]
: Well, how do you help Humayun Ahmed in writing?
: Sometimes I make tea. Apart from that, I make a lot of spelling mistakes while writing and correct them.
: Are you proud of him?
: Well, imagine one day that no one is reading his writings, then what will be your mental state?
: Then if he leaves writing and gives some attention to the world, then it will be good.
: How do you like his writing as a reader?
: I always like his writing.
Humayun Ahmed drinks a lot of tea. He gave us tea twice. On his farewell, he presented Babu and me with two of his latest published books (‘Pratham Prahare’). There was a bit of talking while walking. He said that all the experiments he has done in writing novels are worthwhile. Not everyone can catch this technique. Only those who write novels can.
Humayun Ahmed is now busy writing a novel about ‘Eisab Din Ratri’. Writes 20 pages every day and gives 20 pages to the press.
While walking, once a road went in both directions. He took the path of Anindya Prakashani by saying goodbye to us in a very inelegant manner. We were also busy looking for a rickshaw. I took a good look at Humayun Ahmed from hiding. Rabindranath Tagore’s song was playing inside me, ‘How do you sing O Guni?’
By now the most popular (currently) novelist of Bangladesh, winner of the Shibir Award, Bangla Academy Award, Alkat Sahitya Award and Osmani Smriti Medal, has disappeared.
Interviewee Shakur Majid’s words
The incident of interviewing Humayun Ahmed is the two major events in the life of me and Humayun. The big thing for me was that after reading just three books (‘Nandit Narake’, ‘Shankhanil Karagar’ and ‘Love for you’) I became an avid reader of this author. I became curious about the author. Later, I was more moved by seeing his one-act play ‘Pratham Prahare’ and serial ‘Aisab Din Ratri’ written by him on Bangladesh Television. I was a student of cadet college then.
After leaving the college, I came to Dhaka and enrolled in BUET and while taking the bill for a story written by me in an infamous monthly newspaper, I heard from the editor that they do not pay any bill for stories-poems of new writers, they bill for features or interviews.
Then I said to the editor of that newspaper, can I have an interview with Humayun Ahmed?
The thing to say is that the editor of that newspaper didn’t know Humayun Ahmed, he only knew about the drama ‘Eisab Din Ratri’. He agreed to say it.
Then I appeared to Humayun Ahmed posing as a journalist of that newspaper, mainly to satisfy my curiosity about this writer.
After speaking for two days, I wrote the interview on 18-page foolscap paper and took it to the newspaper office, the editor asked me to bring it down to two pages.
I brought the interview back. Meanwhile, I came across another new literary magazine in the newspaper stalls arranged on the pavement of Paltan. I bought the magazine for 5 taka and took this article to the editor of that magazine.
The next thing that happened was that it was printed as a cover story in the fortnightly ‘Disha’ newspaper on February 2, 1986. I received a bill of Rs.600.
After this incident, I continued to express myself as a ‘journalist’ by writing regularly in this newspaper. After that, while studying at BUET, I made a living by doing various types of journalism.
After the death of Humayun Ahmed on July 19, 2012, it was found out that this is the first interview of this writer, where he spoke candidly. At the time I am talking about, Humayun Ahmed’s television plays began to be reported only in bits and pieces. But this is his first solo interview. Then I not only interviewed Humayun Ahmed, but also tried to capture what Humayun Ahmed was like in the eyes of his mother Ayesha Faiz and his then wife Gultekin Ahmed (now Khan).
Today I opened the entire interview here for the readers of Prothom Alo. It is better to say that the interview was conducted when I was 21 years old. But here again at the time of publication, to keep the originality of the text intact, it has been kept in its original form without any major editing. However, contemporary orthography has been followed in terms of spelling.