Litterateurs mourned the death of renowned poet, folklorist and Ekushey Padak-winning writer Ashraf Siddiqui saying that the country has lost a pioneer writer-researcher, who had enriched Bangla literature through his versatile works.
Ashraf, who was the director general of Bangla Academy from 1976 to 1982, died aged 93 in Apollo Hospital in the capital on Thursday.
He had won many prestigious awards including Ekushey Padak for literature in 1988, Bangla Academy Award for juvenile literature in 1964, and the UNESCO award in 1966.
Eminent writers and poets shared their condolence messages with New Age and also spoke on Ashraf Siddiqui’s life and works.
Writer Selina Hossain said, ‘I knew him personally. I had worked with him at the Bangla Academy. His works give the readers a glimpse into plight of the marginalised people in society. His poem ‘Taleb Master’, which portrays sufferings of people during the famine of 1943, is a timeless creation.’
‘He always gave me manuscripts for editing. I had learned a lot from him. His works need to be promoted among the younger generation. He will live on through his creations,’ added Selina Hossain.
Bangla Academy director general Habibullah Siraji said, ‘Ashraf bhai was 20 years senior to me. I had a good relation with him. He never misbehaved with anyone. He was a man of letters who made outstanding contribution by writing books on folklore. His works need to be preserved for the upcoming generations.’
Writer Anwara Syed Haq said, ‘Though I did not have any personal relation with him, I have read his works. Country’s younger generation should read his books for enriching themselves.’
Poet-translator Jewel Mazhar said ‘Ashraf Siddiqui had made a great contribution to folk literature and enriched Bangla literature. His short story “Golir Dharer Chheleti” was in our syllabus. I was overwhelmed reading the story at that time.’
Jatiya Kabita Parishad general secretary Tarik Sujat said, ‘I met him eight years ago at a programme by Bangla Academy. He had a good relation with my father. He was a well-behaved person. I have read his works. The younger generation will benefit greatly by reading him.’
Born at village Nagbari in Tangail on March 1, 1927, Ashraf was educated in Shantiniketan, Dhaka University and Indiana University in the United States.
His poem ‘Taleb Master’, set against the backdrop of the Bengal famine, written in 1948 very quickly established him as a poet of the masses.
His books, ‘Lok Shahitttya’, ‘Bengali Folklore’, ‘Our Folklore Our Heritage’, ‘Folkloric Bangladesh’ and ‘Kingbodontir Bangla’ are considered primary text books for folklore researchers in South Asia.
He introduced the folk tales of Bengal to the global audience through his writings such as ‘Bhombol Dass: The Uncle of Lion’, and ‘Toontoony and Other Stories’. ‘Bhombol Dass’ was published by Macmillan in 1959 and was translated into 11 languages.
Ashraf is also admired for preserving the Bengali oral folk culture by cataloguing the tales and riddles in the written form.
He taught at many government colleges, including Rajshahi College, Chittagong College, A M college of Mymensingh, Dhaka College and Jagannath College, and Dhaka University.
His lasting legacies are the Bangla Academy’s Ekushey Book Fair which took its institutional form during his tenure as the director general of the academy. He played a key role in establishing Kabi Nazrul University in Trishal and articulated the demand for transforming Jagannath College into a university.
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