for an Enlightening Pursuit
his grey Khadder panjabi with white payjama; hair, the infectious
smile and the carefully manicured mustaches, he seems to have
retained the same look for over two decades now. Not only
outwardly, inwardly too. The same youthful vivacity marked
with an energetic enthusiasm is still palpable in his aura.
Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed has lost little to time.
aspect of Sayeed's charm that has made him perhaps the most
well known and fondest face in the writers' community is,
of course, his gift of the gab. This particular virtue also
to some extent contributed to his remarkable success of whipping
up a revolution among the youth in making them love reading
through Biswa Sahitya Kendra,. A brilliant, learned but impulsive
talker with a sharp sense of humour it is taken for granted
that when Sayeed talks everybody else will listen. That he
is an artistic talker was known within the Dhaka College campus
during his teaching days. But it was the popular show Eid
Aanadamela in the 70's and 80's and a few other television
programmes which he hosted that made him a national celebrity.
His ability of casting a spell with words was established
for once and for all. It is this fame that came handy when
he ventured to create his dream project Bishwo Shahitto Kendro.
Abdullah Abu Sayeed's mission is to enlighten Bangladeshis.
In his efforts in cultivating minds, he has established the
Bishwo Shahitto Kendro, which with its programmes has reached
far and wide. He recently received the Ramon Magasaysay Award
2004, also dubbed as the Nobel in Asia, for his contributions
to journalism, literature and creative communication arts.
In its citation the Ramon Magasaysay Foundation emphasises
Sayeed's "contributions to his cultivating in the youth
of Bangladesh a love for literature and its humanising values
through exposure to great books of Bangladesh and the world"
for selecting him for the award.
is the lone warrior in his efforts to encourage young people
to read books, something he has done with surprising success
for the last three decades.
the prominent figures of the literary movements of the sixties
and editor of the influential literary journal "Kanthaswar",
Sayeed could choose the secluded life of a full time writer
as did many of his compatriots like Nirmolendu Gun, Abdul
Mannan Sayed, Abul Hasan, Akhtaruzzaman Ilias, Mohadev Saha,
Md Nurul Huda, Rafiq Azad etc. But instead of devoting his
creative capability solely to writing, which would perhaps
have been more convenient an option for him and would have
guaranteed a more secure and promising career, Sayeed opted
for a challenging mission. The essence of his mission is encapsulated
in the now famous phrase: "Alokito Manush" (enlightened
individuals). Although he didn't forsake writing altogether
but, his dream of creating enlightened individuals certainly
ate up a lot of his time he would have otherwise spent with
pen in his hands.
in the late sixties when the young Lecturer in Bangla at Dhaka
College, Sayeed initiated a unique concept -- Pathchokro,
meaning reading circle, whereby every week he would give a
talk on a good book to his students. The initiative received
tremendous response, but the political upheaval just prior
to the independence war and its aftermath, brought Pathchokro
to an abrupt cessation. Within a couple of years of independence,
Sayeed like many others, disappointedly found out that the
"Golden Bangla" they all had dreamed of and fought
for was still a Bangla "made of clay". He however
refused to be despondent. "The process of creating the
Golden Bangla wasn't easy and it required a lot of struggle
and sacrifice in achieving it," he reminisces.
a practising teacher who met the young college students everyday
in the classroom, he diagnosed the disease like a seasoned
surgeon very quickly. Most young people seemed to be constantly
disassociating themselves with the culture of reading, which
was so dominant in the 30's and 40's during his own youth.
"People die with the same values and notions they are
born with and there is no addition no splendour to it in his
lifetime," he recalls his disappointments of those days.
The idea of the 'alokito manush' or enlightened individual
was he felt a necessity of the time. "The society needs
enlightened individuals" became the motto of his life
and Bishwo Shahitto Kendro was created with that aim in view.
wanted to introduce the youth with the best books of the world"
he notes, because, as he puts it, "a good book contains
thoughts, dreams, visions, beauties, in a word, all the most
precious things mankind has created both in the past and the
present." In the last three decades Bishwo Shahitto Kendro
has grown into a well-equipped library with most of the literary
masterpieces most of the major, languages either in original
or in translated versions. But more than that the culture
of reading has grown steadily and widely among the youngsters
across the country.
with a few thousand members who were mainly school going children
in the late seventies and now it has a staggering 1,25,000
members across the country. Reading aside, BSK members are
groomed with a whole package of cultural activities through
organising workshops on filmmaking, photography, creative
writing etc, watching films, putting up cultural shows and
so on. Another Sayeed specialty is the mobile library where
buses carrying books stop at some specified venues to reach
those groups of readers who find it difficult to visit the
Bishwo Shahitto Kendro at Bangla Motor regularly.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004