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24 February, 2017 00:00 00 AM

In Conversation with Shamsuzzaman Khan

By Bipul K Debnath
In Conversation with Shamsuzzaman Khan
Shamsuzzaman Khan

Shamsuzzaman Khan, 76, is a folklorist, researcher, writer, teacher, and at present, director general of Bangla Academy. Khan, from Manikganj, has penned about 80 books and edited more than 100. Under his leadership, Bangla Academy is doing its best to promote the Bangla language. This week, in an interview with The Weekend Independent, he talks about the activities and future plans of the Academy.

What are the achievements of Bangla Academy in terms of promoting Bangla?

The grammar of colloquial (cholti) Bangla was not available until now. Once, Rabindranath (Tagore) tried to bring it out from Bongio Shaitya Prishad. But because of the conservatives around him, he could not do it. Now, it is good news that we have done that work. So we can say that after the initial attempt 113 years ago, we have published the grammar of colloquial Bangla. This is a great achievement of the Bangla Academy in terms of promoting Bangla. After publishing it, The Times of India did a news story saying: “Cholti Bangla finally gets a grammar of its own. And it was done not by the West Bengal Bangla Academy, but by the Bangla Academy of Bangladesh”. Besides that, we have published many dictionaries like Adhunik Bangla Avidhan (Modern Bangla Dictionary), Baboharik Bangla Avidhan (Practical Bangla Dictionary), and Modhojuger Bangla Avidhan (Middle Ages Bangla Dictionary). Bangla Academy is playing a vital role to promote these dictionaries. 

Tell us about the new publications of Bangla Academy.

The new publications are the Modern Bangla Dictionary, books on our Liberation War, Sharok Grontho (commemorative books), and books on research. We have translated ‘Bishad Shindhu’ (Ocean of Sorrow) by Mir Mosharraf Hossain and ‘Ugly Asian’ by Syed Waliullah. We have also started to translate poems by contemporary poets. We have published commemorative books on recently deceased poets Shahid Quadri and Syed Shamsul Haque, and a book to mark the 100th birth anniversary of writer Shawkat Osman. In the past one-and-half years, we have published at least 100 books. I think this is the biggest success of Bangla Academy.
Is there any plan for developing an official online Bangla dictionary or apps for learning Bangla?

We do have a plan. Mohammad Kaikobad and Zakaria Shapan are working on it as consultants. As a result of their hard work, the digitalisation of Bangla Academy is going on. We have a Bangla Academy TV. We have launched our website. The online dictionary and apps are coming soon.

Do you have any project for finding Bangla equivalent of new words, like mobile phone or SMS; or new medical terms, like AIDS?

We have started to publish many books regarding this topic. Kaikobad wrote a book regarding this. We hope to publish it within February. 

Do you have any committee or law regarding use of Bangla in official documents?

We have an executive committee and they have given us proper instruction regarding use of Bangla. For this, we have published a short book named ‘Bangla Bananer Neeyom’ (Rules of Bangla Spelling). We have also translated many official documents into Bangla. We have also translated ‘Bigyan Avidhan’ (Science Dictionary) where translated science words are available.

Do you have any project for translating Bangla literary works into English and other languages?

Yes, we are progressing well with translating Bangla literature into English. We have already published about 40 translated books till now. We have also translated a book on February 21 with articles by many notable writers.

You have been engaged in the field of folklore for many years. How did you get interested in the subject?

That is right, I have been working with folklore for long. But there is a problem for our folklorists. When we practise folklore, we have to look at what others, for example, American or Finnish folklorists are doing, so we can keep up. Newcomers always fail to realise its global appeal. That is why our folklore practice has not reached a high level. But there is hope, we have established a folklore ‘summary school’ and classes are held each year from April 13 to 19. Trainers join here from other countries, like the US and India. We hope through this institution, our folklore will get a touch of modernisation.

Please tell us about the folklore tradition in our country.

Our folklore tradition is well enriched. If we do not explain the tradition in respect to modern ways, it will lag behind.  Realising the importance, we have already started modernising our folklore. 

How many books and research work have you published?

I have published 80 books so far. And the number of my edited books are more than 100. Five new books will be published this year on essays, children’s literature, and other topics.

Tell us about your popular books, like ‘Folklore of Bangladesh’ and ‘Bangla Shon O Tar Oitihjya.’ 

I edited the book ‘Folklore of Bangladesh’ long ago. I worked in details about Bangla year and dates in ‘Bangla Son O Tar Oitihjya’. I published another book named ‘Folklore: New Challenges’ in 2015. Another book, ‘The history, tradition and culture of Bangladesh’ was published from Holland where an article of mine has been included. 

Is there any plan to translate books on Bengali folklore into other languages?

Yes. We are trying for that. For this, we have communication with French, Japanese and American scholars.

Please tell us about the awards you have received. Which one is the most meaningful to you?

I have received many awards. I received the second highest national award, Ekushey Padak, in 2009 and the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 2001. Kolkata (India) has a magazine named ‘Chokh’ that gives awards to notable personalities both from Bangladesh and West Bengal. I got their award. I also received Rabindra award from Kabi Nazrul’s Churulia (in West Bengal).

You were a teacher. Which profession do you prefer, teaching or researching?
I taught at Haraganga College (in Munshiganj) for only four months where I got some meritorious students like Purobi Basu, Al Mansur (Belal) and others. Then I taught at Jagannath College for five years. I have memorable experience of working with Azit Kumar Guho, Hassan Ajizur Rahman, Akhteruzzaman Elias and Abdul Kadir. Later on, I was a professor at Mymensingh Agricultural University. I also taught folklore at the National University from 1999 to 2000. So, I have a vast experience in the fields of research, teaching and writing. After completing my intermediate (HSC) from Jagannath College, I attended Dhaka University, where I completed my BA and MA in Bangla. 

Photos: Courtesy


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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