Silent but Near | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 12, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 12, 2017


Silent but Near

It is true that Rashid Karim Gholam Murshed, aka Rashid Karim, surrendered his physical life to death. But it is not true that he gave the terminator everything he had accomplished in his lifetime. He was the winner of the Ekushey Padak, the Bangla Academy Award, the Adamjee Award and notably the Lekhika Sangha Award. He wrote “straight from the heart” about life, men and women, society, and the world as he knew it. He did not venture into anything beyond his realm. And that must be why his works continue to attract devoted readers and researchers of Bengali literature.

My father had a constant urge to write. He found time for it despite being a corporate executive. He read carefully, intently, critically. He underlined whatever he read, taking notes in the margins as he did so. He bought books from street book stalls, bookshops and book fairs. He liked giving books as gifts according to the reader's taste. He did not, however, like lending them as some would not return his prized possessions, something that was quite distressing to him. The rich family library from his childhood and the pulsating literary milieu his brother, Abu Rushd, along with many of his friends, Ekushey Padak winners like him, had created, indelibly shaped the author in him from a very young age.

When I revisit my father's days as a writer, I recall that he required complete silence when he wrote. He preferred his desk to be by the window. He used to dip his fountain pen into the ink pot, tap off the excess ink and then pour his thoughts into the fine writing tablets. His head tilted to the left and his left hand, keeping the paper in place while his right hand produced small, neat, legible words. He made numerous revisions. While creating, he would be in another world altogether.

At the time he was writing Aamar Joto Glani, he would arrange for readings in our flat at 773 Satmasjid Road in Dhanmandi. I remember him saying, “I have written twelve novels. Between Shamsur Rahman and I, we have read out loud six novels from manuscripts.” Occasionally, I would tiptoe into the dining-room to listen to those hypnotic reading sessions. I would see my bespectacled father, sitting upright on the tanned woolen carpet, clad in his favorite punjabi-pyjama, made either from cotton or khaadi, reading clearly, confidently and expressively. There used to be food, drink, and late night discussions. When it came to authors he liked, he would praise them without reservation. He would take reviewing as a responsibility.

During his lifetime, Rashid Karim had witnessed sweeping, significant and gigantic historical transformations. He had left India on 15th March, 1950. But in 1971 we were in besieged Dhaka. I remember one afternoon an army jeep had pulled up at the gate of our house and had summoned all the men to congregate in the compound. Our elderly landlord, my father, and some other men had been assembled by the Pakistani soldiers in front of the gate. Before going down, he had briefly looked at Salima, his beautiful wife and companion through the joys and sorrows of life, and had said to her, “Going. If something happens, go to Apa's.” Apa was, Salima's eldest sister, the lady in white, the Florence Nightingale in Nanibari. Thankfully, nothing tragic happened that day. December the 16th was a joyous day for all of us because it made us sovereign. Abbu believed that all writers and poets, successfully or unsuccessfully, should write about what Bangladesh stood for.

To me, my father was first and foremost a family man. He was always present in our lives. He was my confidant. He was my childhood dictionary. He had captured this scene of our interactions in one of his novels. The word he had chosen for me was 'waif.' One of my favorite memories was when he would return home with newly made music cassettes and sweets for the family. He would leave the house in the morning and come home in the afternoon before lunch with his well-chosen musical discs. He would frequent stores all over Dhaka for them. Upon returning, he would ask me to listen to his chosen songs. In our Kalabagan flat, in his study, I would sit on the floor at the back of his chair and listen to his carefully chosen compilation. He did not like interruptions. Afterwards, we would discuss if we had liked the renditions or not. Another tender moment I remember with him is putting my head on his lap and just resting in silence while he patted me. I was his waif, he would say. All would be well for me afterwards.

It was a tradition for him to listen to music, singing, eating meals together, visiting family friends and members, sitting in silence together, and chatting in a familial environment with his only granddaughter Tishna and whenever possible with his son-in-law Khondaker Mushahed Mohiuddin. I believe he would have bonded with Andrew Fedetz, his grand son-in-law, whom he did not live to see, over paratha, kebab, samosas and books.  I am sure he would have gone to the Dhaka Club to get the biriyani and kebab for Andy. I have little doubt that he would have taken him to the bookshops in New Market.

Were he alive this year, my father would have been ninety-two with the zest for life untouched. What would have made him happy? Perhaps, being remembered and read!

I imagine somewhere in a village in Bangladesh, the passer-by and the local villagers stop to quench their thirst at the tube well set up in his name. A scene from Rabindranath's Chondalika, one of his favorite plays, comes to my mind then.

For me, my father is silent but very near. His memory is etched in my heart. He is in the songs that we once heard together. He is in the lessons he has taught me on all occasions. When I face the vicissitudes of life, I think of him and do as he would have done. Like him, I try to uphold humanity in the work that I do. We carry on the traditions he set up for us.

Cheers and Happy Birthday, Abbu from all of us down below!

Rashid Karim (14 August 1925-20 November 2011) was a major fiction writer of Bangladesh. Among his major works are Uttar Purush (1961), Amar Jato Glani (1975), Proshonno Pashan (1963) and Prakritir Lal Golap (1963).

This anniversary tribute is by his daughter Nabila Murshid, who lives in the United States and works there as a psychotherapist.

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