Where in the pantheon of Bangla literature does Humayun Ahmed belong? Eight years after his demise, the answer might still be divisive, but Humayun fans could not care less.
The beloved writer still sells in thousands. From the Ekushey Book Fair to the Nilkhet book shops, Humayun's books are still at the fore. Suffice to say, he became the epitome of what a full time writer should be like in our era. Humayun is every aspiring writer's model of success.
But what is it that makes Humayun's writing so irresistible? Nuhash Humayun, filmmaker and the writer's son, believes that there is a Humayun Ahmed story for everyone.
Talking about his father's writing ritual, Nuhash said, "He would pace around the entire house. That was his process. He asked me once if I wanted to be like him when I grew up, I said no. It's too much walking around and looking sad."
Nuhash recalled how Humayun used to hold his hand and make him pace around the house with him. "It's a habit that never left me, I still can't 'think' without pacing around," Nuhash said, adding, "I spend at least an hour every day pacing around the house back and forth and it's a part of my process as well. Except I do it while listening to music."
"I asked him once: Why is pacing so crucial? He said he spends hours and hours, sometimes days just to get the dialogues right," Nuhash recalled.
Nuhash is aware of Humayun Ahmed's eccentric fanbase. When asked about what makes his books stand out from others' writings, Nuhash said, "Baba worked with so many different genres over his career, giving each a unique spin, but also finding the humanity and the heart in each story. A lot of local writers "borrow" elements from popular western genres. But he contextualised his writings with a local flair to create something completely original."
While Humayun is often generalized as a writer for the middle class or magical realism, Nuhash thinks the large collection and the diverse genre that really separates Humayun from others and makes his work timeless.
Our conversation begged the question: Which Humayun Ahmed books should be adapted for the big screen in the future?
"It's a tricky question for me to answer, given I'm a filmmaker myself," Nuhash said, rather candid about the idea of Humayun's fictions being made into films. "To be honest, local filmmakers don't often do justice to the source material. They either stick too closely to it or overly commercialise it - losing the thematic depth the original novels had. I'd rather have them stay as books than subpar adaptations."
Sirajul Kabir Chowdhury Kamol, the publisher of Anyaprokash - which published many of Humayun Ahmed's books - took a stroll down memory lane and recalled the writer who, to this day, dominates the sales chart at Ekushey Book Fair.
"Humayun sir was no ordinary writer, I always told him that he is a God-gifted miracle," Kamol said. In his own words, Humayun Ahmed fans would encircle him at the Ekushey Book Fair.
"They would come in hundreds and we had to escort Humayun sir out of the premises with police protection," Kamol recalled.
So how does Humayun Ahmed still sell more books than any living writer? "There are good contemporary writers, but Humayun sir was one of a kind. In the past few decades, his presence has not faded, and I believe it won't for years to come."
"Magic" is what Kamol refers to Humayun's books as. Maybe the magic in the pages of his books is what has kept him alive even after eight years of his demise. Humayun's literature is here to stay.