June 20, 2021

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Our cultural arena became more empty

I don’t know how many more obituaries to write. After becoming the director general of Bangla Academy in 2016, Habibullah Siraji told me the news and said, ‘Brother Gaffar, I will publish a collection of essays about you from Bangla Academy. Everyone will have written in it. I will write about you too. ‘Only two years ago. Now I am writing about Habibullah Siraj. I’m alive. To me Sirajji is a memory now. I am writing his obituary.

kalerkantho When I got the news of his illness a month ago and found out that he has been put on life support; That’s when I realized we were going to lose him. All I had to do was take notice of his illness and pray for his recovery. Since I have Sirajji with his name, I thought at the time of my first introduction, his home is in Sirajganj. He corrected my mistake and said, “My home is in Rasulpur village of Faridpur district.”

Siraj died at the age of 63. 18 years younger than me. He was born on December 31, 1947. I was born on December 12, 1934. The two of us have birth similarities. But the age gap was huge. So from the first introduction he gave me the right to say ‘you’. He gave respect to his elder brother till his death.

My acquaintance with Siraj was abrupt. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1972, I returned to Dhaka from Calcutta. The weekly mouthpiece of the Mujibnagar government was ‘Joy Bangla’. It was published from Calcutta during the war of liberation. I was the executive editor. Abdul Mannan of Tangail, the home minister of the Bangabandhu government, took the initiative to publish ‘Joy Bangla’ from Dhaka after the government of independent Bengal moved to an invasion-free Dhaka. This time I got the responsibility of full editor. Nasu Khan (Bangabandhu’s relative) was a close friend of Minister Abdul Mannan. He left one of his office rooms in Motijheel for use as ‘Joy Bangla’ office.

One day Nasu Khan brought a young man to this office. He said, “His name is Habibullah Siraj. The handwriting is very good. You can make him your assistant in ‘Joy Bangla’. ” Siraj said, ‘I am an engineer by profession, addicted to writing poetry.’ I said, ‘Journalism? Siraj said, ‘You teach, I can.’ Nasu Khan brought him. So his job in ‘Joy Bangla’ became easy.

Like prose writing, his handwriting in prose was also very good. I asked him one day, which of the modern poets do you like? Siraj said, Amiya Chakraborty. I said, what is he! Buddhadeva Basu or Jibanananda is not your favorite poet? “They are also my favorite poets,” said Siraj. However, I like the fact that Amiya Chakraborty has liberated modern poetry from rhythmless incomprehension and made the reader understand it. Suppose a line in Amiya Chakraborty’s poem, “Will you not promise me?”

I said, do you want to go back to the Rabindra-belt? Siraj said, ‘Tell me who didn’t go? Almost all the poets of the thirties rebelled against Rabindranath. Later, one by one, everyone surrendered to Rabindranath. I don’t think Rabindranath will be forgotten even in the 22nd century. I am not a poet yet. I have just started writing poetry. I want to add understanding to modernity. ‘

Another day while working in the Joy Bangla office, Siraj read me a poem written about the liberation war. Modern in word choice and form; But the statement is straightforward. I told Siraj that day, ‘I like your poetry, for the same reason Nirmalendu Guna, I also like the poetry of Rudra Muhammad Shahidullah. But the impersonal presence of the poet in your poetry is a little more. ‘

Long ago. I liked Siraj’s words. So I wrote it down in my diary. I was in the country till September 1984. I used to meet Siraj from time to time. I used to listen to his poems in literary chats. I used to read his poems in the literary pages of newspapers. After moving abroad, there was no direct communication. During my long stay abroad for 45 years, Habibullah Siraj has gone from being a poet to imposing his own personality in poetry. Has become an influential literary figure.

Once he came to London and was invited to a literary conference. He ran to my house. He said, ‘Brother Gaffar, I have written about a dozen books, poems, novels, essays. I can’t drag it to London anymore. So I’m going to give you two books. ’He gave me a poem and a novel. I have recently read two books, ‘Shredded Afternoon’ and ‘Lined Lights’. In my opinion, the real evaluation of Siraj’s talent has not yet taken place in our country. If so, he should be given a permanent seat in literature. Siraj will not be lost. I have not read all his books. So it is not possible to discuss his poems and novels in detail. He was tasked with discussing his contemporary and contemporary literary critics.

He received the Ekushey Padak in 2016 for his contribution to Bengali language and literature. He was involved in various cultural institutions and movements of the country starting from Kabita Parishad. One morning in 2016, the telephone rang at my London home. Habibullah Siraj’s Voice: Brother Gaffar, I have been appointed as the Director General of Bangla Academy. Pray. After the post of Director General of Bangla Academy became vacant, I was afraid that the bureaucrats would not appoint a person who had any connection with literature and culture. Who will ruin the reputation of this academy.

Hearing the news of the appointment of Habibullah Siraj as the Director General of the Academy, the fear of the mind was removed. I have thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in my heart. He did not fall for the bureaucrats. One is eligible for the post of Director General of Bangla Academy

Put the person. Siraj was going to fill the vacancy of the late Shamsuzzaman Khan, the former Director General, with qualifications. But he also had to leave.

He left on Monday, May 24. Many of our poets, writers and intellectuals have already been killed in the Corona attack. Now Habibullah Siraji also passed away due to other diseases. He will live long in the minds of his poet-loving, literary-loving friends. I will remember that I am alive for a few days.