The news of the passing away of author Rashid Haidar greeted his readers, admirers, and even his contemporaries, with both surprise and sadness. The sense of surprise stemmed from the very news of his death. In the thick of scores of deaths of noted persons in the corona pandemic, his long silence grouped him among those in self-exile. Many were led to believe that they may have seen the name of this octogenarian author among those afflicted by Covid-19. They were surprised by the news of his death on October 13 telecast on TV channels.
To speak pithily, that was a surprise filled with a sense of loss and repentance. It was accompanied by an inexpressible sadness, too. That the novelist was alive, though down with old age ailments for long, carried enough elements to fill one with pathos. However, the truth is Rashid Haidar, Rashid Bhai to the younger generations, is no more. He has left this temporal world keeping us engrossed in many of his fond memories. As he had been absent from the Bangladesh literary world for more than two decades, the new-generation younger readers grew up into maturity without reading the work of this gifted prose writer. During his life-time, Rashid Haidar witnessed the publication of 70 of his books. The genres of these books range from fictions, plays, juvenile books, biographies, translations and compilation. The author, however, made his debut in Bangladesh literature with short stories. He has seven collections of short stories to his credit. Rashid Haidar's maiden publication 'Nankur Bodhi', a collection of short stories, came out in 1967. The books that followed included a few remarkable fictions in Dhaka literary horizon.
A prolific creative person having flairs for engaging in many branches of the arts and literature, he once discovered himself deeply involved in a drama group. It was NagorikNatyoSamproday, a group extolling the message of the neo theatre movement in Bangladesh. While he was a dedicated member of the group, Haidar demonstrated his genius for both writing plays and acting. He wrote a satire and performed in Nagorik's play 'BakiItihash'. Irrespective of their popular status and seniority, the theatre personalities in Dhaka in the 1970s and 80s didn't fail to appreciate the dramatic talent of Rashid Haidar. At this place, one feels compelled to mention the name of late Zia Haidar, a major theatre movement figure and playwright. He was the elder brother of Rashid Haidar.
Multi-faceted genius as he was, Rashid Haider had a stint with film journalism in the 1960s. This part of his career had helped him get acquainted with a rich branch of the Bangladesh audio-visual media. However, at the end of the day, Rashid Haidar discovered literature as his ultimate forte. Apart from creative writings, he has enriched the literary scene of Bangladesh with the widely acclaimed book-series SmritiEkattor (Memories of the 1971 Liberation War). Written by persons from different strata of society, the war reminiscences were edited by Rashid Haidar.
Unlike many Dhaka writers including those with mediocre-level creativity, Rashid Haidar has all through maintained a humble posture. He was well aware of his strength as an author. As recognition to his genius, he was honoured with the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1984. He received the EkusheyPadak in 2014. Yet he kept maintaining his ineffable nature. It was misinterpreted by many as his weakness. In a society where people become celebrities through vulgar self-promotion, persons like Rashid Haidar have to remain content with the love showered by the contemporary admirers. It's time which will pronounce the final judgement.