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         Volume 10 |Issue 09| March 04, 2011 |


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The Curtain Falls

Shudeepto Ariquzzaman

As usual, it is Humayun Ahmed's books which have been the bestsellers at the Ekushey Boi Mela. According to Anyaprokash CEO Mazharul Islam, the two books – Himur Ache Jaal and Badshah Namdar top the list of books sold at their stall.

The stall of Anyaprokash stands out from others by the massive number of customers surrounding the stall, trying to get an opportunity to buy the books. Considering the sheer numbers, this is a truly hefty feat. Many of them, especially the women, have gone back disappointed. “I have been trying to get close but it is not possible,” says Sabrina, a student of Eden College, and an avid fan of Humayun Ahmed. Her only consolation is that Anyaprokash is going to organise a book fair starting from March 3.

Referring to the crowd, Mazharul says, “This crowd is nothing. We usually have a much bigger crowd at our stalls.” He says that the books that are popular with the readers are found in Anyaprokash and hence the reason for the crowd.

One might wonder whether the place can get any more packed in the midst of the exhausted workers of this book stall trying to meet the customer's demands, and the equally exhausted fans trying to push their way through the crowd. But Anyaprokash is the only stall where the latest version of Himu (Himur ache jaal) is available, a character that has won the hearts of readers all over the country.

Himu is a strange man. Always barefooted, he loves to stroll around the streets of Dhaka, especially at night. He does not have a formal occupation but on enquiry he says that he is a beggar. Not that he considers begging a disrespectful profession. According to Himu, Fa-hien, the renowned Chinese traveler also survived on begging and there is no reason why it should be considered a dishonourable livelihood.

Himu's father killed his wife when Himu was very young. He wanted Himu to become a Mahapurush (great man). Had Himu's mother been alive, his vision of teaching his son to be a Mahapurush would not have been possible.

Not that Himu hates his father for the murder. But Himu by his own admission has yet to fulfill the dreams of his father and become a Mahapurush.

Himu has plenty of acquaintances in Dhaka, and most of them are very colourful people, the sort of people ordinary men and women like us are unlikely ever to encounter. Some of his acquaintances think that Himu has magical and psychic powers, and respect him like a Pir. Others think that he is simply insane, but even among them there are people who love him. Himu has also earned respect among many in the police and the underworld, and lately Rab, not because he is involved in any illegal activities but because Himu is often unfortunate to land in Police stations in the middle of the night.

Not that he minds being in prison. Cops who have arrested Himu in the past have got into trouble, probably owing to Himu's psychic powers. Rab once made the same mistake of picking him up from the streets, against the advice of the more experienced police who have had unfortunate encounters with Himu in the past. In the end, Rab probably regretted their decision.

However, there are some people who genuinely hate Himu, one of them being Rupa's dad, who often keeps a gun nearby just in case Himu shows up and also Badal's dad who also happens to be Himu's uncle ( Khalushahib).

Badal, a brilliant student who has graduated from an elite university abroad is the son of this unfortunate gentleman and looks on Himu as his mentor. Understandably Khalushahib is worried. His strict instructions in his house are that Himu's name should not even be mentioned in the house, and anyone daring to break the rule shall be given to the dogs, literally. But that does not deter Himu from visiting this house, in spite of the long insults he often has to endure. Maybe he should consider refraining from visiting that house. After all Khalushahib is getting old and one day he might just have a heart attack. But whether Khalushahib really has dogs in his house is unconfirmed.

Rupa is one of Himu's closest female friends who has a love and hate relationship with him. Normally Himu has to endure a torrent of abuses from this lovely lady but he puts up with a smiling face. It also seems that in spite of Rupa's not so polite behaivour, she does have a soft corner for Himu and is probably in love with him. But that is unlikely to affect Himu's affections. After all, Himu is trying to be a Mahapurush and that means love is forbidden in his life.

Another Humayun Ahmed bestseller is called Rupa. Whether this is the same Rupa who abuses Himu and loves him at the same time is still unclear. But judging from all her characteristics, she just might be the one.

Also according to Showkat Mithun, Programme coordinator of Onnesha Publishers and a Photographer who specialises in grasshoppers, Rupa is going to be a series. So everybody's favourite Himu might just pop up in another story alongside Rupa.

“All the books of Humayun Ahmed are selling very well, even the old ones,” says Mithun, “there are other books which have also sold very well from this stall.” He lists She by Anisur Rahman, Ontorotoma by Shumonto Aslam, Jochnay Purechilo by Md. Mehedi Hassan. “Books written by Andalib Rashdi, especially Protimontri are among the top bestsellers. Other books written by this author are Protimontri, Krishnakoli, Shuchona Shushmita and Tara Novera.”

“Toto Company is also selling well, when you consider children's books,” says Mithun. “It is going to be a 14 part adventure series and the author is Polash Mahbub.”

In Sheba Publisher's stall, the crowd is disappointed – most of the books are sold out. These books, written by Bengali writers are based on plots of books composed by foreign writers. Nevertheless, they have a substantial following by Bangla readers as well.

Mujibur Rahman Khoka, publisher of Biddyaprokash is also enjoying good sales. “From the first days, our sales are doing quite well,” he says. Khoka says that they are having good sales of Mostafa Kamal's books. “He has introduced a new dimension into Bengali literature. His books concentrate on the psychology of human minds backed by scientific facts. In the last five years, his stories have earned some fame among readers as this concept has hitherto been absent in Bengali literature.”

He also says he hopes that there will be three upcoming writers judging by sales and the quality of their writings – Asmar Osman, Rumana Baishakhi and Dhrubo Ash.

While young and upcoming writers are enjoying the sale of their books, there is little doubt that it is going to be Humayun Ahmed who tops the list of writers once again. Other old timers like Zafar Iqbal and Emdadul Haque Milon are also enjoying considerable sale of their books.

Ghost stories have also sold very well among children. However, whether ghosts still reside in overcrowded Dhaka where humans do not have enough space to live might be another issue to ponder about.

As February, the month of language movement, draws to a close, the month long Ekushey boi mela has also ended. According to the visitors of the fair, this was a well organised one, better than the last time. But many, especially the younger generation complained that they had a hard time changing 500 and 1000 Taka notes, and if possible, the next time, the space for the fair should be expanded.

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