Maverick Bangladesh author, poet and playwright Syed Shamsul Haq has died of lung cancer at the age of 81.
According to doctors at United Hospital in Dhaka, the Bangla literary stalwart exited life’s stage at 5:26pm on Tuesday.
After being diagnosed with cancer, the prolific author went to London for treatment in April but returned on Sep 2 to spend what remained of his life in Bangladesh.
Doctors in London had little hope that he would recover.
Syed Haq, who left his indelible mark on all forms of Bangla literature with his gifted touch, is survived by his writer wife Anwara Syed Haq, a son and a daughter.
A pall of sadness descended on Bangladesh’s cultural arena at the news of his demise.
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in separate messages, have expressed their grief over the eminent writer’s passing away.
In his immediate reaction, poet Muhammad Nurul Huda wrote on Facebook, which roughly translated in English from Bangla reads: “From now on, the master of poets Syed Shamsul Haq, who is one of the foremost creators of contemporary Bangla poems and multidimensional creativity, has stepped into immortality.”
“His creations, his being are indestructible, his entity is indestructible and his light will forever shine in the minds of the Bengalis.”
After he returned from London, Haq was admitted to the private hospital. The prime minister on Sep 10 visited him there and made it known that the government would bear his treatment expenses.
Haq was taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Monday afternoon after his condition deteriorated. He had been kept on life support since the early hours of Tuesday.
Later in the afternoon, poet Muhammad Samad, after visiting him, told reporters that a decision to take Haq abroad could not be taken since he was in critical condition.
Several hours later, doctors pronounced the renowned writer dead.
Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, the celebrated actor who took on many roles in scores of plays and dramas written by Haq, broke into tears at the hospital on hearing the news.
Awami League General Secretary and Public Administration Minister Syed Ashraful Islam also went to the hospital.
The family later took Haq’s remains to his Gulshan residence, ‘Monju Barhi’, named after his wife.
“When he was bedridden in the hospital, he had asked us to take his body home after death. That’s why his remains were taken there,” poet Pias Majid, who is close to the family, told bdnews24.com.
Around 9pm, Haq’s remains were taken back to the United Hospital to keep them overnight in the mortuary.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, who had gone to Haq’s home to condole his family, told reporters that the body would be taken to the Bangla Academy at 10am on Wednesday for all to pay their respects.
An hour later, the body will be taken to the Central Shaheed Minar for people from all walks of life to pay tributes.
After a Namaz-e-Janaza at Dhaka University Central Mosque after Zuhr prayers in the afternoon, the writer will be taken to his ancestral home at Kurhigram town’s Thanaparha and laid to rest, said actor and cultural personality Ramendu Majumder.
Syed Shamsul Haq was conferred the Bangla Academy Award in 1966 – the youngest to the feat at the age of only 29, Ekushey Padak in 1984 and Bangladesh’s highest civilian honour, Independence Award, in 2000 for his myriad contribution to Bangla literature.
Born on Dec 27, 1935, he had fiercely opposed the fundamentalist, anti-independence stream in Bangladesh.
He had started his journey with a poem titled ‘Ekoda Ek Rajyae’ (Once Upon a Time in a Kingdom) in 1953, but his book ‘Taas’ (Playing Cards) was published first.
He was unstoppable from then on. His literary genius goes across genres and he is known to wield equal mastery over essays, novels, poetry, film screenplay, songs and plays. Haq has written over 100 books.
Although he touched all the branches of Bangla literature, his identity as a poet was the foremost one, thinks his friends in the cultural arena.
Some of his best-known plays, including ‘Payer Awaj Paoa Jay’ (We Hear the Footsteps) and ‘Nuruldiner Sara Jibon’ (The Entire Life of Nuruldin), are considered milestones in the history of theatre in Bangladesh.
His literary works have also been included in the curriculum of school, college and university levels in Bangla literature.
‘Guerrilla’, a 2011 film based on the events of the 1971 Liberation War, was also adapted from his novel ‘Nishiddo Loban’.
Many still mention his ‘Hritkolomer Taane’ column published in the Dainik Sangbad that they say popularised newspaper column writing.
Syed Haq’s biography ‘Pronit Jibon’ is also acclaimed by critics and connoisseurs alike.