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29 August, 2019 10:49:58 AM


A tribute to Rizia Rahman

For her, creation of literature was not for mere entertainment, it was aimed at generating awareness in society also
A tribute to Rizia Rahman

With the death of Rizia Rahman on August 16 last, the country has lost a powerful novelist and a committed writer. She died at the age of 79 while undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospitals in Dhaka.

She was suffering from cancer. The passing away of Rizia came as a shock to the innumerable readers of her novels. She was a popular name in the domain of post-independence Bangla fiction. She strove assiduously to chronicle the lives and historical events through her novels. She created a separate trend in post-independence Bangladesh novels. Her contributions to Bangla novels are outstanding. Rizia did not have the desire for publicity unlike many other writers of her time. She had immense confidence in herself.        
For her, creation of literature was not for mere entertainment, it was aimed at creation of awareness in society. A person with a profound human insight, political consciousness and a strong social commitment, Rizia Rahman championed the rights of the marginalised and the rootless people. With her incisive pen she portrayed the oppressed women, tribal people, landless farmers, young idealists, sex workers and slum dwellers. Her conscience stood for the suffering humanity. She was a keen observer of human life.  
She developed a powerful literary style. She was a lover of Rabindranath Tagore’s works. She also wrote for children. Before writing a novel she used to study a lot. She had a rich personal library. She went deep into human nature and had a social commitment. In her seminal novel ‘Bang Theke Bangla’ Rizia has portrayed 2,500 years of history of Bengal. She portrayed the evolution of the nation with special stress on its culture and language. She attempted to portray the plight of the marginalised people in society.
Rizia Rahman was born on 28 December 1939 in Bhabanipur, Kolkata. Her nickname was Jonaki. Her family moved to Bangladesh, then known as East Bengal, after the 1947 Partition of India. She began writing stories at the age of 8 and was published for the first time when she was 12.  Her stories and poems appeared in the newspaper Satyajug. Rizia’s academic life was disrupted time and again.
Her father who was a physician was transferred from one place to another and she had to change school frequently. After the untimely death of her father, she pursued her studies under the care of her maternal uncle in Chandpur. Due to conservative attitude of her uncle and his family, she could not stay there longer. She passed matriculation examination as a private candidate. After marriage she went to Balochistan with her husband. She had insatiable thirst for obtaining education defying various impediments. She passed intermediate and degree examinations from Eden Girls College. She obtained MA in Economics from Dhaka University.
Rizia started writing a novel titled Ghar Bhanga Ghar while she was appearing at the MA final examination from the University of Dhaka. After the examination was over she completed the novel within a span of only 15 days. This speaks volumes of her literary genius. In 1967 Rahman’s first book was published. It was a collection of short stories titled Agnisakkhara. From then on, she went on portraying people from different segments of life and historical events.

Rizia Rahman started her career with the editorship of the literary magazine Tribhuj. She was a trustee of the National Museum. She was also member of the executive committee of the Bangla Academy and was associated with the National Book Centre.
Rizia projected in her novels the lives of the santals, slum dwellers, sex workers, historical events such as the Portuguese invasion, Baluchistan rebellion and anti-British movements. Her novels like Uttar Purush, Alikhito Upakhyan, Shilay Shilay Agun, Ekal Chirakal, Baghbandi and others have left lasting impressions in the minds of readers. Her novel Alikhito Upakhyan is based on the times after the Indigo revolution in Khulna. The life of the tea garden labourers has been reflected in the novel Surjya Sabuj Rakta. She painted the lives of the Santals in Barapukuria Coal Mine in her novel Ekal Chirakal. The lives of the people of the past and the present Dhaka came alive in her novel Prachin Nogorite Jatra. The lives of the weavers of once famous Muslin have been reflected in the novel Abe Roaar Kotha. The novel Kachhei Sagor tells of the Liberation War.
Rahman published her first collection of short stories, Agnisakkhora, while studying at the University of Dhaka. Her novel Bong Theke Bangla was published in 1978 to critical acclaim, exploring the evolution of Bangladesh’s nationality and language. Her fourth novel, Rokter Okkhor, was inspired by an article called “The Prostitutes of Dhaka” which was published in the largely circulated weekly Bichitra. She was unable to conduct research for the book by visiting brothels herself, relying instead on weekly reports from a male journalist to gain an understanding of a sex worker’s living conditions. It created a huge stir in Bangladesh upon publication because of its frank depiction of prostitution in the country.
The adroit depiction of the history of Bengal, the ethnicity, the evolution and the life struggle of the people at the grassroots has put her novels in high esteem. Rizia Rahman has more than 50 published books to her credit. Her novels like Rokter Okkhor (1978) and Bong Theke Bangla (1987) have given her a permanent place in the history of Bangla fiction. Her novel Rokter Okkhor, based on the lives of sex workers, is a bold attempt that has exposed the dark world.
Rizia Rahman’s novels are Uttar Purush (Posterity, 1977), Rokter Okkhor (Blood Words, 1978), Bong Theke Bangla (Bengali to Bangla, 1978), Alikhito Upakhyan (An Unwritten Story, 1980),  Surja Sabuj Rakta (Sun Green Blood, 1980), Shilay Shilay Agun (Stones in Fire, 1980), Aranyer Kache (Near the Forest, 1980), Dhabal Jyotsna (White Moon-light, 1980), Ghar-Bhanga-Ghar (Broken-house, 1984), Ekal Chirokal (Now and Eternity, 1984), Prem Amar Prem (Love, My Love, 1985), Jharer Mukhomukhi (Facing the Storm, 1986), Ekti Phuler Janya (For a Flower, 1986), Shudhu Tomader Janya (Only for You, 1988), He manab Manabi (Oh! Man and Woman, 1989), Harun Phereni (Harun did not Return, 1994). Her collections of short stories are Agnisakkhara, Nirbachito Galpo, Char Dashaker Galpo and Dure Kothao. Her books for children are Ajab Ghorir Deshe, Jhilimili Tara, Motishiler Bari O Onnanya Galpo.     
I had the opportunity to read some of Rizia’s novels and her two autobiographical books, namely Abhibasi Ami and Nadi Nirabadhi. Rizia Rahman received Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1978 and Ekushey Padak in 2019.
She also received Jessore Sahitya Parishad Puraskar in 1984, Bangladesh Lekhak Sangha Sahitya Padak in 1985, Kamar Mushtari Sahitya Padak in 1990, Anannya Literature Award in 1995, Humayun Kadir Smriti Puraskar, Jasimuddin Shwarna Padak and Shawgat Shwarna Padak.  Rizia Rahman would enjoy cooking and got delight in feeding people. Many of her relatives, friends and admirers would enjoy her hospitality at her home at Uttara.  The death of Rizia Rahman is an irreparable loss to Bangla literature. Let her soul rest in eternal peace.

The writer is  Assistant Editor of The Independent


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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