Razia Khan proved
her prowess as a capable writer quite early. She
was just 18 when she wrote her major novel Bot
tolar Upannayash. In spite of having all the elements
of a super sentimental, emotion-filled, mellow
love story Bot tolar upannayash never becomes
one. The mark of an original writer was distinct
the way relationships between men and women are
handled, with surprising maturity.
She had both the profundity of thought as well
as the mastery over the language to scrutinise
this relationship in all its complexity and variation.
In Bot tolar Upannayash the writer depicts love
in two different colours through the two couples,
Moin and Sumita and Heti and Ahsan. While love
between the first couple is that of the ideal
kind and platonic, the love affair between Anglo-Indian
Heti and Ahsan is more of a physical kind. Heti,
who is kind of a scandalous character with many
disreputable relations, sincerely loves Ahsan
and bears his child with the full knowledge that
Ahsan won't marry her. Khan doesn't condemn this
affair, rather portrays the character of Heti
with such sympathy and her love with Ahsan with
such affection that the reader is also made to
respect their (Heti and Ahsan) love affair rather
than be critical of it.
More often than
not Razia Khan's novels are 'novels of characters'
in the sense that it is the characters the novel
evolves around and develops on. The story-line
is often of secondary importance and is used more
for giving an extra dimension or an added perspective
to the understanding of the characters. Characters
are seen continually indulging into thinking,
taking imaginary trips into the long past, fondling
sweet memories and nursing hidden sorrows. In
this way the writer allows us to follow the inner
actions of the protagonists as they reminisce
their past. The characters develop through their
inner conflicts, the play between hope and disenchantment.
In both Bot tolar upannayash and Draupadi the
writer adopts this technique.
Khan receiving the Anannya Literary Award, 2003.
Themes that recur
in her writing include Isolation, disenchantment,
disillusionment “because these are the net results
of my life”, she says. Individualism and social
norms are often at loggerheads in her novels.
In many of her works she astutely depicts how
man's natural instincts are crippled by pretentious
social values, how a social institution like marriage,
when it fails, destroys the very life force of
an individual. In Bot tolar Upannayash we see
in spite of their intense love for each other--Moin,
a Muslim loves Sumita, a Brahmin Hindu-- religious
backgrounds stand in the way to the fruition of
their love into marriage. Though they final overcome
this hurdle in the end, the long bargain pushes
Sumita towards the edge of insanity. In Draupadi
we see how a failed marriage eats upon the very
vitality of Noyon, making her languish from its
in Khan's novels are never simple,
straightforward flat characters, but complex and
multi-dimensional characters. Like the modern
man he is restless, incapable of being naively
content with life; he tries to understand life
and seeks find his own identity in life's larger
scheme. Both Sohrab and Noyon, two of the principal
characters in Draupadi, and Moin in Bot tolar
upannayash are seen dig deep into their consciousness
in their attempt to understand themselves, to
realize their relationship with others. While
talking about chracterisation in Khans's novels
Islam refers to this pernnienal self-quest which
he says is markedly evident in many of her protagonists,
perhaps because of the writer's own quest to understand
The unusual settings
of the stories, perhaps a result of
extensive travel around the globe, set her novels
apart. Different cultures interplay with each
other giving a unique dimension to the stories.
Khan used London, Dhaka and Kolkata as the settings
of her novel Draupadi much before Sunil Gangopadhya
used them in his novel Purbo Pashchim.
Islam also reminisces his class room experiences
with Razia Khan as his teacher and later colleague.
She merged with whatever she used to teach. She
brought with her her passion into the classroom.
Razia is not only one of the major writers of
Bangla literature throughout the 60s, 70s and
80s, but a significant writer of English literature,
Islam says. He mentions Khan's 'Argus, Under Anesthesia'
a book of her English poems as remarkable.
Chowdhury describes her writing as “unpretentious”,
which he believes is a reflection of her own character.
As in her life Razia Khan never shies away from
speaking her mind, she boldly writes what she
believes in. In his opinion modernity is what
easily distinguishes Razia's writing from many
others writing during the same time.
In her close to
50 years long writing career Khan has authored
a good number of novels. Some of the notables
ones are Anukalpa, He Mohajibon, Padobik, Draupadi,
Brhastonir, Shikhor Himaddrir,, Bandi Bihongo,
among notable books of poems are Sonali Ghasher
Desh, in English 'Argus under Anaeshasia', 'Cruel
April'; more than a hundred short stories and
essays and a play Nongra natok. Razia Khan has
received all the significant awards for literature:
the Bangla Academy Award in 1975, Ekushey Padak
in 1997, Kamor Mushtari Padak in 1985, Lekhika
Sangha Gold Medal in 1998, and Anannya Shahitya
Purushkar in 2003. She also bagged a PEN prize
for a play.
Her latest preoccupation
includes writing a Bangla book of poetry and an
English novel on “the conflict between good and
evil”. Aptly named 'Ishwar and Iblis' (God and
the Devil) , about the novel says Khan “these
are primeval concepts but they are operating forcibly
in human life. “I have chosen these theme in the
pattern of a story from modern life.”
No doubt Razia
Khan with all her remarkable contribution to Bangla
literature hasn't received the praise and appreciation
she deserves. “It must have made Razia a bit Obhimani,
but I hope she won't nurse her obhiman any more
but come among us and lighten us with her enlightening
presence,” Kabir Chowdhury says in his concluding
lines. We cannot agree more.