“It is a call of the soul,”
Children's author Amirul Islam published his first book of rhymes or 'Chhoras' - “Khamkheyali” in 1984. The book earned him the Agrani Bank Children's Literature award and kick-started his journey as a popular writer of the genre.
So far, Amirul Islam has won the accolade of Agrani Bank Children's Literature award five times, along with the Sikandar Abu Zafar Award, Nurul Kadir award, National Chhora Award and Bangla Academy award. The author proudly informs that he has bagged all the awards for children's literature the country has to offer.
The veteran writer has over 200 books in his repertoire, with 20 books being published at this year's Ekushey book fair. All the new publications are for children and include rhymes, stories, novels, science fiction and translations.
Amirul Islam has been a regular at the Ekushey book fair since 1980. Reminiscing on those days, he says the fair used to be organised on a much smaller scale previously. Back then, Amirul Islam came to the fair to sell compilations of literary works. He says, prior to the '80s, the fair only ran for a week and eventually became a fortnightly event as time progressed. The fair coincided with Eid day once, Amirul Islam remembers, adding that it was a fun day for everyone. Gradually, the fair took its existing form to stretch over the month of February.
“It always gives me immense pleasure to come to the fair as it is an occasion to be proud of. It is a call of the soul that has drawn me everyday to the month long since 1984,” adds the author.
Asked if the space of the fair needs to be increased, Amirul Islam says he is for an expansion, but will oppose a shift in the venue from the Bangla Academy premises. Referring to the Taj Mahal, he says such a monumental symbol cannot be moved from its location. Instead he proposes that the event be extended by introducing plans of a multi-storied fair.
Amirul Islam says the Ekushey book fair is a class apart from the Kolkata book fair, as ours represents culture and traditions, while the fair in Kolkata focuses more on the business aspect. Saying, that he has visited many book fairs across the world, Amirul Islam asserts that no other fair represents an ideal like the Ekushey book fair.
The author calls for imparting diversity to the atmosphere at the fair, as it has stayed unchanged for the past decade. Popular writers are reluctant to come to the fair nowadays due to the pressure of large crowds Amirul Islam observes, adding that the authorities should take initiatives to encourage the noted authors to come to the venue more often. He misses the gathering of writers, Amirul Islam adds. For example, he says Abdullah Abu Sayeed, Momotazuddin Ahmed, Nirmalendu Guun, Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury were regulars at the fair once. But the overflow of crowds keeps them away now. Bringing such great personalities back to the fair will add glory to the occasion, the author observes.
Although thousands of books are published at each fair, the quality needs to be kept in check, as texts of poor quality only confuse the nation, Amirul Islam says.
To new writers, Amirul Islam advises reading as it is impossible to become a great writer without knowing about the work of others.
Asked on how much an award inspires an author, Amirul Islam says an award is always inspirational. But he adds that he never wrote for acclaim, but penned words for the joy of it. Writing for his own satisfaction is what he wishes to do for the rest of his life, Amirul Islam says.