Before the noted Bengali writer died, he was reported to have lamented to a journalist as to the very short span of the human life. In that one line, the fiery desire to live on and carry on writing and living among nature became evident.
But, to put it harshly, we all have our time limits, some get a little more than others, while some are taken away at the height of their creative brilliance.
The solace may be, as one Humayun Ahmed fan once told me, in believing that good things should never be taken till full satisfaction.
A little hunger for it must remain.
As we passed five years since the death of the storied writer, countless essays and articles have appeared in the media as to how this writer has enriched contemporary literature.
But, as a fan of Ahmed’s work and having been acquainted with both his ferociously romantic/idealistic characters like Himu plus the avidly scientific rationalist Misir Ali, one feels that they have silently become integral parts of our lives.
Of course, this comparison between two people with two different outlooks on life may not be appreciated, but look closely and there lies a link that connects the Bohemian and the logician.
Two romantic iconoclasts
Would it be right to call Misir Ali a romantic? I certainly think so.
Because, Ali, the rational thinker, is hardly guided by material values. Living alone, he is similar to many of the ordinary but enigmatic characters depicted by Satyajit Ray in his short stories.
These characters are unobtrusive, yet, they are not like the rest. Perhaps the inherent message was: Even within the hoi polloi there are those who are different.
In the books, Misir Ali is seen trying to solve complex psychological afflictions, bordering on the supernatural. Sometimes we see an answer, at times the possible end to a story is deliberately left behind a cloak of delectable confusion with several possibilities given.
The frisson is actually in that puzzle where we are tantalised by so many potential endings.
Ali, by the way, slips away into his isolated life -- a romantic recluse for whom untangling the haunting sides of existence become his raison d’etre.
The opposite is, of course, Himu, the overt almost exuberant wanderer, an urban ascetic of sorts –- the trademark yellow Panjabi, no care for a regular income or work, living off the largesse of others and attracting vigour from the moon beams.
Himu in the real world
Humayun Ahmed has woven fantasy within a starkly realistic middle-class setting. His recognition is well deserved because stitching an almost unrealistic character in a very harsh world is tough. Himu has thrilled millions, but would you want to be him in real life?
Well, many actually did become care-free philosophers with lofty ideals, only to be swiftly brought down to earth.
For many, who drifted into a realm of compassion, empathy, and, sorry to say, impracticality inspired by Himu, the lessons of life were fast and severe.
From the two characters, Misir Ali and Himu, let’s take the best of both in small doses, and that’s how Humayun Ahmed should be enjoyed
It’s absurd to expect that a man without any real objective in life would be socially pampered. In reality they are more likely to be targets of snide remarks, ridicule and ostracism.
Again, would you expect such a person to have a girlfriend? Sorry again, don’t think so, perhaps in the best of cases a sympathetic ear but never a devoted lady friend.
Yet, Himu thrills us all.
We may frown at such a person against a canvas of reality, but in the pages of a book we love him because he brings out that latent wilderness in all of us which modern society has brutally suppressed.
The success lies in his ability to help us leave materialistic aspirations and, at least, fantasise about things that are stuff of fairy tales.
I mean, how about creating a synthesis between magic and materialism?
A warning: Never let the former overtake the latter. Sorry, even in our dip into romanticism there has to be a balance.
The realist and the romantic
From the two characters, Misir Ali and Himu, let’s take the best of both in small doses, and that’s how Humayun Ahmed should be enjoyed. The phrase “bristi bilash” is now used widely simply because of the writer. We crave mesmerising full-moon introspection because, over the decades, Humayun Ahmed has implanted that yearning in us.
And, in a life where we are constantly competing to beat the other person in material possessions, Ahmed has created a place in our minds which sometimes rebels and says: “To hell with it all, I got the moon, the soft balmy night, and poetry.”
Towheed Feroze is a journalist working in the development sector.