The pen stops
12:00 AM, January 26, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:54 AM, January 26, 2018

The pen stops

His unique style made his works instantly identifiable.

In a writing career spanning over four decades, he penned about 400 books, telling stories of the poor, the untouchables, the middle class and their struggle as well as the partition of the sub-continent and Liberation War of 1971, among numerous other subjects.

But the pen of Shawkat Ali, a giant of a writer in Bangla literature, has stopped. 

He died at a city hospital yesterday morning at the age of 82.

The celebrated author, who also wrote poems and stories for children, was admitted to the Labaid Hospital with lung infections and kidney and heart ailments on January 4.

He was put on life support on January 6. Later, he was shifted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital where he breathed his last.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed their deep shock at his passing. Both described it as an “irreparable loss for Bangla literature”. 

Leading writers, poets, cultural personalities, eminent citizens and hundreds of his admirers also expressed shock. Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu and Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor were among the many who mourned his death.

"Shawkat Ali created a colourful world in Bangla literature. He was unique and created a different style for his stories and novels," said noted storyteller Hasan Azizul Haque.

"His writings contributed immensely to Bangla literature and language. His works will inspire us for years," he said.

Born on February 12, 1936, at Raiganj in Dinajpur of West Bengal, Shawkat began writing when he was a class-nine student. He wrote poems in his early career.

In the college years, he involved himself in communist movements. Subsequently, he wrote for Nutan Sahitya, a mouthpiece of leftist politicians.

Many of his stories, poems and write-ups for children were published in Dainik Millat, monthly Samakal and Daily Ittefaq.

Shawkat Ali received a number of prestigious awards -- Bangla Academy Award in 1968, Ekushey Padak in 1990, Philips Literary Award in 1986, Lekhak Shibir Medal in 1978 and Ajit Guha Literary Prize in 1982.

His most celebrated books include Prodoshe Prakritojon, Dakkhinayaner Din and Uttarer Khep, Kulay Kalsrot, Shesh Bikeler Rod, Sthayee Thikana, Kahini O Kathapokathaon.

Of them, Prodoshe Prakritojon is considered as his magnum opus. Published in 1984, it tells the story of the oppression faced by the lower-caste people in the times of Sena Empire that ruled the Bengal through 11th and 12th centuries. It is also a story about how the “untouchables” stood up to their oppressors.

Uttarer Khep was made into a film in 2000.

A number of his writings are yet to be published.

He was laid to eternal rest at Jurain graveyard after Asr prayers yesterday. 

Earlier in the day, his body was kept at the Central Shaheed Minar from 3:00pm to 4:00pm where people of all strata of life paid their last respect.

He passed his IA from Surendranath College in 1951 and BA in 1955, subsequently completing his MA in Bangla literature from Dhaka University in 1958.

He joined daily Millat news desk in 1955. Later, he went to Thakurgaon to start working as a schoolteacher, but returned to Dhaka within six months to start his MA.

He taught Bangla at Jagannath College in Dhaka between 1962 and 1987. Later, he joined the Dhaka head office of District Gazetteer as an assistant director and later became its director. He was made principal of Government Music College in 1989 from where he retired in 1993.

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