Abu Zafar Obaidullah Khan

The 19th anniversary of the death of poet Abu Zafar Obaidullah Khan will be observed today.

Family, friends and admirers of the poet will recall his contribution to the Bangla literature through various programmes.

Poet Abu Zafar Obaidullah Smriti Pathagar (memorial library) will hold a prayer session at Baherchar of Babuganj in Barishal marking the anniversary of the poet’s death, said a press release.

Obaidullah Khan, a recipient of Ekushey Padak and Bangla Academy Award, was a prominent figure in the Language Movement and played a seminal role in the literary and cultural activities in Bangladesh.

Despite being a seasoned bureaucrat, Obaidullah Khan always preferred to be known as a poet, not as a mandarin.

Born in Barishal on February 8, 1934, Obaidullah Khan was the second son of former speaker of Pakistan national assembly Justice Abdul Jabbar Khan. After obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Dhaka University, he joined the university. He later stood second in the Pakistan superior service examinations and joined the civil service.

A brilliant student, Obaidullah Khan was a successful individual in his professional life. He successfully moved about the arena of national and international bureaucracy. He had served as rural development and agriculture secretary for a long time.

In the United Nations system, he was director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation for Asia and the Pacific. Besides, he served as agriculture minister and ambassador.

Obaidullah Khan was, however, known to people as a poet. He wrote Maago, Ora Bale (Mother, they tell us), which is recited at the Central Shaheed Minar on February 21 every year. He developed a distinctive poetic language of his own.

His collections of poems are Saat Narir Haar, Kakhano Rang Kakhano Sur, Kamaler Chokh, Ami Kingbadantir Katha Balchhi, Sahishnu, Pratiksha, Brishti Ebang Sahasi Purusher Pratikshay and Khanchar Bhetar Achin Pakhi. He will live on for his Ami Kingbadantir Katha Balchhi.

His books Yellow Sand Hills, Rural Development Problems and Prospects, Creative Development, and Food and Faith are said to have added a new dimension to development thoughts.

Obaidullah Khan was the chairman of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and a member on the governing board of the international research organisation Winrock International.

He was also the founding director of the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development. He was the founding president of Padabali, an organisation for poets, according to the release.

The poet died on March 19, 2001.

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