A piece to treasure
It is often claimed that Bangladesh is a land brimming with stories and tales. There are a number of storytellers relentlessly manufacturing catchy stories drawing upon their experiences as Bangladeshi. Some of them are quite adept at this maneuver. Mujtoba Ahmed Murshed, in my opinion, fits into this brigade of writers as far as his volume of stories titled Ghumanta Brikshera (The Sleeping Trees) is concerned. Gleaning nuggets from everyday events in the lives of common people, their beliefs, myths, emotions, Murshed has created some touchy and insightful human narratives. With six stories in total, the volume published in 2005 by Oitijjhya is a rainbow of multi-hued human issues. With a crackerjack and elegant style and a captivating language, it has packed a punch on my reading experience. Some of them hit me close to home. Let me give you the synopsis of the stories down below.
The first story of the volume is "Sukher Polestara" (Plaster of Happiness) which depicts the life and emotions of a middle class, meagerly paid man named Tamjeed Chowdhury. Battling hard with his conscience, he overcomes the greed over some recently found money lost by an Arab man. The Arab promises to call him the next day and manages for him higher education abroad. Does Tamjeed's newly arisen hope meet a success? The next story, however, centers around a hereditary thief named Bhoota who is charmed by the beauty of the unsatisfied young wife of a neighbour. A mission of burglary turns out to be a romantic encounter. Another story titled "Seat Number A-4" is about a cinematic episode in the lives of two Dinajpur-bound co-passengers of opposite sexes. After a series of melodrama, hide and seek, pretension there arises a chance of happy ending. Does the possibility sustain? The story "Anabik Trishna" (Massive Thirst) is a poignant story of a dumb man named Gonga who can produce only some meaningless sounds. A man without a specified identity of origin and religion, he enjoys access to every homestead in the village and is otherwise charming. However, a fatal disease overpowers him only to make him a new center of attention for the village folks. The writer invests his sympathy and empathy in producing this human narrative.
Another human narrative is played out in the story "Kalo Nadi" (Black River) where two former lovers meet by chance in an awkward place at a cringe-worthy situation. Likewise, the story "Surjalokey Sarisrip" (The Reptile in Sunlight) details the pathetic story of a young lady who is haunted by an accident of his near and dear ones that took place in front of her back in her teenage life. In a turn of event, she gets entangled in an untoward trouble due to helping an unknown road-crash victim up to hospital. The story "Srote" (Stream) captures the plight of a landless sharecropper named Tameez crushed by poverty and helplessness. In his dying moment, he tries to latch onto an amulet given by a faith-healer underscoring his last-gasp effort to live. "Sinoritar Lokta" is rather a sharp satire on an egotistic person and by extension the class who are vulnerable to humiliation and all sorts of troubles because of their ever-insatiable ego. An egoist with a comically big name called Tasadduq Hussain Tariqul Islam Chowdhury boasting of his family background and pedigree is met by a pickpocket. The pickpocket capitalizes on his weakness and bamboozles him in a nifty manner by snatching away his purse.
All stories have human dynamics and an undeniable emotional appeal. Murshed masterly portrays everyday experiences with vivid and luminous images. He proves a discriminating eye for the surrounding world and provides it with fictional flavour. He can also claim credit for incorporating superstitions, local beliefs, hocus pocus into his stories in a faithful manner. He strikes a balance between realism and romanticism. His dialogs are quite catchy with a faithful use of local dialects where necessary. The language has a degree of poeticality since he is also a poet and a rhymer. You cannot always predict the ending of the story as new twists and turns surface as the stories unwrap. It seems to me that the writer does not overdo with plotlines. However, a little bit of tweaking in terms of narrative design and language can make the volume all the more attractive. The only fault that irritates my eyes as a reader is typos and misspellings that merit editorial intervention.
Suffice it to say that Mujtoba Amed Murshed is a mighty storyteller with a literary career spanning over three decades. His volume Ghumanta Brikshera bears the stamp of his craftsmanship. It is conceptually deep, linguistically powerful and emotionally impactful. He points out the inconsistency and loopholes of our society and brings them under critical scrutiny throughout the collection. He eulogizes humanity and celebrates life struggle of common folks as claimed in the blurb. Those who love Bengali literature should pick up the book and navigate through it. Those who clamor that there is not enough quality prose fiction in contemporary Bangladeshi literature should rush to take up the volume and give a quick flick through it. I believe the gutsy Murshed has more mojo up his sleeves and will offer us more quality pieces in the days to come.
The writer, studied English Literature at the University of Dhaka, can be reached [email protected]