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Folk Scientist Poet Dr Ashraf Siddiqui

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M Mizanur Rahman :
[Birth: March 1, 1927]
Folk-Songs, folk-tales, Folk-ballads, folk-proverbs and folklores are perennial works of our rural poets in rural Bengal from time immemorial. Naturally the people of Bengal are apt to compose poems, humours goaded into nursery rhymes of riddle and songs and punthis (folk-tales) from the very early unknown ages which were later discovered and collected by the educated researchers of home and abroad from our unlettered village-folks, village singers and poets by different means. Nowadays we are fortunate to have them in book-forms.
Dr Ashraf Siddiqui is a versatile genius. He is a well-known poet and research scholar on folk-literature. After his general education in school and college he went to Santiniketon at Bolepur (West Bengal) for further studies in Biswabharati University. Here he met the most aged Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore and got his blessings and great inspiration towards prosecution of studies ahead.
Uttarayan
Santiniketan, Bengal
Kolyaniyo
Sahalom (nick name of Ashraf Siddiqui)
For the New Year have my blessings.
With good wishes
Rabindranath Tagore
30.4.40
Ashraf Siddiqui started studying Honor's course in Bengali with special English here. But he could not prosecute studies due to the partition of Bengal and as such he came back and read in Tangail Korotia College in accordance with Calcutta University Syllabus. Here in the examination he stood first in special Bengali Honor's course with the highest marks. While he was studying MA in the Dhaka University, his anthology of poems 'Taleb Master' was published and soon it was widely acclaimed by the readers' intelligentsia. After completion of MA he joined Kumudini College as a lecturer for sometimes. On 15th July in 1950 he was appointed as a lecturer in the government Rajshahi College. However he came in contact with Dr Muhammad Shahidullah and joined Dhaka University in 1953 on deputation as a Researcher. Especially he was then attracted to research on Folklore. He started doing research works in East and West Bengal on collecting information about 19th Century Muslim Litterateurs under the supervision of Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah. While Ashraf Siddiqui was working in the Dhaka University he got a Fulbright Grant from the United States Foundation on Orientation Course at Kansas in 1958.
In the same year he got the opportunity to read MA on Folklore in the Indiana University. He scored the highest marks in the MA examination therein and came back home to collect folk-literature in 1960. On the same subject he worked in the Bangla Unnayan Board Folklore Culture department and in 1963 he left for the Indiana University for his research works on folklore. His research dissertation was 'Bengali Folk-lore and Studies during the British period'. He obtained PhD degree there and came back home. Thereafter he worked at Dhaka College, Daulatpur B.L. College and Mymensingh Anandamohan College as the head of the department of Bengali for sometimes.
He afterwards became the Assistant Chief of the Government Gazette. In 1968, 23rd September, he was appointed as the Director of the Bangla Unnayan Board. During this period a lot of development took place with a huge collection of folk-literature and folk materials in Bangla Unnayan Board and as a result higher standard of Bengali books on folklore and works of the ancient litterateurs were published for the students of the folklore department. In spite of various unfavorable circumstances Ashraf Siddiqui tried his best to marketing Munier Optima Type Writer in Bengali language (the first of its kind) in 1971. In his firm initiative Bangla Unnayan Board was renamed as Bangla Academy on 17th December 1971. In 1976 he became the Director General of Bangla Academy in addition to the post of the Chief Gazetteer. In this period decisions for collection of Bengali folk-literature, establishment of the Museum and general election in Bangla Academy were adopted.
In 1982, Dr Siddique became the Principal of the Chittagong University College. Again within the same month he was transferred to Jagannath University College as its Principal. From 1982 to 1985 he worked hard for the various development works of this University College and at last he got his retirement from the government service and engaged himself in literary works.
Dr. Ashraf Siddiqui was born in a respectable family at Nagbari village of the Tangail district on 1st March, 1927. His father late Dr. Abdus Sattar was the member and Chairman, Local Union Board, Rin Salisi (Debt-Compromise) Board and Jute Board respectably. His mother late Samirannessa was a born-poet. Dr Siddiqui was the third one among two brothers and three sisters. His published books are Taleb Master (1950), 2nd. Edition (1963), Bish Konya (1955), Satbhai Champa (1955,1963), Uttar Akasher Tara (1958), Tirish Bosonter phool (All collected poems in two volumes 1975), Kuchboron Konya (1976), Briksho dao Chhaya dao (1984), Jhor Tufane (1985, first volume, third edition 1989, 2nd Vol 1989, Darao Pothikbor(1990).
Personally I had many occasions to accompany him in some historic places around Kushtia district by the grace of the local administration and found him inquisitive about folk-literature of those places he travelled and he took note of them. However he is a born-poet and he will not forget the person he accompanied sojourn who must remain alive if one of the lines of his poem.
So one who met him once could hardly forget him as I find in him such rare instant for he could easily make friend anybody anywhere at any time. I wonder of his splendid quality of character that never encounters enemy among fellow travelers. That is why I recalled him as the traveler-poet in an article describing his life and literary works in the Daily Ittefaq, Dhaka on his 7lst birth anniversary. Many wayward people have crowded in his poem as well as novel explicitly. It has been possible on his part to depict characters of those common folk in his works with simple Bengali colloquial. He had also the knack of narrating them flawlessly while delivering before his audience. I always found him welcoming others with sincere adoration as if all of them are well-known to him earlier. He became popular overnight. His art of stage performance appears to be perfect. The theme is well advanced and as such none is dissatisfied. And here is his success. He got a deep sense of perception that I find in his poem 'Mujibnagare ekdin' (One day in Mujibnagar)
With the blessings of the administrator Idris Miah
our carriage moved very fast,
We are moving towards Mujibnagar from Kushtia
(Local name is Baidyanathtola,
Someone Kedarnath is supposed to have been legendary)
Accompanying poet Mizan, Akhtaruzzaman, Bithi
and Diju, Liju, and Ilias Hossain, and Dr. Tripti Brahma from India
who are included in this festivity.
The carriage is driven fast turning the pages of history;
Yes, at last we reached that historic mango groves ... "
(Jhor Tufane, 2nd Volume, translated by M Mizanur Rahman)
At that time those writers and poets were in tour accompanying him are now included in the above noted poem. Being one of the officials of Kushtia administration I could arrange such tour and Magistrate Ilyas Hossain was the Protocol Officer sent by AD.C (admin) Idris Mia.
How can one forget the poet who deliberately includes his/her name in his poem? Thus it appears he filmed those living people of his entourage in the above noted poem! Dr Siddiqui acknowledged the debt he owed wherever it might be.
 In one of his poems that depicts a panoramic picture of his village by the side of a stream Bongshai river adorned with snow-white Kash flowers emerging Bhatialy tune-
"Uthal patal Bongshai nodir tire
ei geramer namti to Ruppur
Kashphooleri mukut mathay die
tulto a gram bhatialir soor !
ei geramer ekti je sei meye
champa phooler moton chhilo rup.
Keya patay nouko gore gore
vasiye diye dekhto je nischup ...
t-On the bank of topsy-turvy wavy Bongshai
a girl of this village Ruppur by name,
wearing a crown of Kash flowers
raised the Bhatiali tune in this village!
She is a girl of this village
that adores beauty of Champa flower.
She made the boat of Keya leaf
floating on that river and observed silently.
(Translation: M. Mizanur Rahman)

However a simile of Tagore's 'Keya patay nouka gore bhasiye debo jole' comes abruptly here. It happens that Siddiqui is apt to catch here Tagore at Santiniketon in his mental horizon. But the picturesque of Bongshai and the village girl appears to be unique no doubt.
On another occasion we made a break journey at Amla Sadarpur of Kushtia that he put in his poem, 'Amla Sadarpure ekdin.'
Kushtia Amla Sadarpure
kete gelo ekta dhiledhala din
Amla College theke pouchhlam
Paeri Sundorir matite
Nei sei rajparasad, achhe kebol
kichhu bhanga eit, kichhu smriti… (Jhor Tufan, 2nd Vol.)
He strandred a few minutes here at Amla College and talked with the Principal all about students, and its way to education etc.
We enjoyed the tour accompanying Dr Ashraf Siddiqui-a famous litteraturer of national and international recognition. As a poet and folk scientist he has served the nation profusely. That's all about him is nothing but praiseworthy. He is living with us with his glorious image that can never be faded. We wish him live long with his smiling face. n

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