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BOOK REVIEW

Lessons through snippets of life

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury | Published: May 24, 2019 20:34:09 | Updated: August 09, 2019 21:24:27


Anthologies are usually a compilation of writings of an author or a number of authors based on a certain theme. Usually anthologies are more popular than novels as the stories do not require extensive engagement from readers. Where as in a suspense novel or epic, a reader finds it hard to keep the book down, in anthologies he or she is given the advantage to read one or two items in the book, think and then continue as and when he or she pleases. This is possibly the reason behind the growing demand for anthologies around the world. The busy schedules of most readers drive them to look for anthologies. Additionally, anthologies can be based on specific themes and genre.

 The book 'Five Minute Stories' by late Dr Khashruzzaman Choudhury is an anthology of short stories. At the outset, the book may seem like a collection of simple stories. A reader will understand the importance of these stories once he begins to read them.

The collection can be regarded as a brilliant group of learning tools for a reader who wants to understand Bangladesh, its culture, the country's Liberation War, the aspirations of different classes and much more. There are stories involving characters in Bangladeshi communities abroad and how they try to carry on with life while not being able to let go of the memories of the motherland.

The 24 stories in the book are undoubtedly based on incidents that had occurred in the life of the author himself. Dr Khashruzzaman Choudhury led an illustrious life. He was born in Sylhet, Bangladesh, but his passion for knowledge had taken him to Pakistan and the USA. He completed his BA (Honors) in Economics from Dhaka University, Bangladesh. Then pursued and achieved MA in Economics from Punjab University, Pakistan.

Before the liberation of Bangladesh, Choudhury was Sub-Divisional Officer of Kishoreganj. Immediately after the heinous massacre by the Pakistani Armed Forces in Dhaka on March 25, 1971, the young SDO of Kishoreganj declared at the sub-divisional stadium filled with people that he would join the Liberation War and urged all to take part in it. Risking his career and life, Choudhury provided support to the operations by freedom fighters in his sub-division. In April 1971, after receiving information that the Pakistani army was advancing towards Kishoreganj, Choudhury immediately paid three months' salaries to sub-divisional employees and left for India via Netrakona.

During 1971-1972, Choudhury was the Deputy Commissioner of Greater Mymensingh. Then he worked as Deputy Secretary first in Relief and Rehabilitation (1972-1974) and then in Education (1974-1977). He was the first secretary of the reconstituted Bangladesh National Commission for UNESCO.

After the liberation of Bangladesh, he completed Master's in Public Administration from Harvard University followed by Ph.D. in Economics from Syracuse University in the USA.

He became an educationist later in his life, having taught at Syracuse University and the Southern University.

Besides all this, Choudhury was also a regular author in both English and Bengali languages. He has written six books.

After his death on February 04, 2013, he was awarded Swadinata Padak posthumously in 2014 for his contribution during the Liberation War.

As a result, the settings for the different stories in this book leap over time and locations to eloquently depict the changes over time and circumstances and in the lives of the characters. In the first story 'Stranger', the reader will be whisked from Lahore in Pakistan to post-liberation Dhaka in Bangladesh, in the search of an attractive Pakistani lady.

In 'The Wedding Ring', the connection between failed love and related objects and memories are shown as a burden in the journey of life. The author tacitly urges the reader to not live in the past, cherish the memories and simply move on.

In stories like 'The State Minister', 'The Pious man', 'Civil servants and politics do not mix' and 'A political leader', the intricacies and power games between ministers and bureaucrats, corruption in certain government departments and the dual nature of some politicians are brilliantly depicted.

 In 'Ephemeral love', the author makes the reader ask the question if love is truly long-lasting for everyone.

Some of the stories are also windows on the experiences the author had in 1971 in Bangladesh.

Stories like 'Latika Rani', 'Halal meat', 'Shah Jamal's world', 'Anchor' etc. in the book reflect the life and tribulations of Bangladeshi expatriates in the USA.

Originally the stories were written in Bangla. Around 20 of the stories were translated by Ziauddin Ahmed Choudhury while remaining four were translated by the author himself. Some of the translated words may sound archaic. Irrespective of settings, heroes and heroines, villains and victims, the stories are essentially related to the human existence and are therefore very enjoyable. Overall, the stories are easy to understand and can be read easily by young and old readers.

tashfinster@gmail.com

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