I wrote this note when I was a student of M.A
Excerpt from an Interview of SMI:
I was going through some website for my research purpose.It usurped half of my brain and made that inactive. But I couldn't let myself aside from some interesting pieces whether they are important for me or not. One of that was Prof. Syed Manzoorul Islam's interview on his recent published book "The Merman's Prayer and other Stories". Two things interested me most. One of them is the background anecdote behind the name of the book. As it is published in The Daily Star, Friday, November 8,2013 named "The Deeper the roots, the taller the trees" by Rifat Munim. I copied a few excerpt as:
"In your stories we see a blending of harsh realities with magical events. Why so?Let me start by giving you an example. There was this time when I was on board a plane from Taipei to Bangkok. The flight failed to find an air corridor due to heavy traffic so it took a tour around the Bay and at one point, the captain, who was perhaps a British man, showed up and told us the waters below were famous for mermaids and if we looked down, may be we’d be able to spot one or two. To my utter surprise, everyone looked down, me included. So every passenger on board was hoping against hope that there might be real mermaids. Iplayed a prank saying, ‘O, there it is!’ and everybody exclaimed, ‘Where? Where?’I said you can’t see the mermaids anymore but maybe there are mermen. A lady from behind said, ‘Hey! What do you mean by mermen? How does one become a merman?’ I said, ‘You just jump into the water, then into the hands of a mermaid and you pray that you become a merman, and that’s it!’ She believed me,saying ‘Wow! Is that how the mermen began in history?’ I said yes, it began in a prayer.So, this is the possibility of your stories because people in real life want to believe in many things and they love those things so intimately that it doesn’t matter whether they really exist or not, because all these dreams andimagination become real in the inner recesses of their mind.
Is thathow you found your title story ‘The Merman’s Prayer and Other Stories’?Well, there’s more to it. I went to Cox’s Bazar. A hotel owner told me, with firm belief, that forty years ago this place was visited by mermaids! He said terrible things occurred if anyone made them cry. One of his friends became paralyzed because he wronged a mermaid. He insisted that if I went to the beach in Teknaf, I might still meet with one or two of them! After that he went to say his prayers, just like that! That shows you that people are willing to believe things. People’s dreams, beliefs, desires are not merely non-existent,may be they remain in a different world than this one we see. It won’t be an exaggeration to say we all live in two worlds, which are entirely different from each other.I believe people always have double lives. There’s no man who does not have dreams, desires, longings which have hardly anything to do with reality.There’s no man who does not want to be child again. And if we really shut these things out, then we deny ourselves the basic conditions of our existence. You have to be a child at times; you have to be a lover in your college life or atleast once in your life, otherwise the world of beauty shuts itself out.Tagore, one of my most favourite writers, understood this very well, the importance of this two-facedness. If you see his self-portraits you’ll notice the deliberate use of black, his faces are simply dark. Why does a sage like Tagore have to portray himself as dark? In my interpretation, it is his otherself he wanted to refer back to, and that other self gave validity to his sage-like self so that he could stand here taking a deep breath and say I exist for this world.".................................
The second thing came to my mind is very interesting or may be it is considered as mere assumption. SMI told about this short story collection that "These stories were written over the last twenty years. I started with a story in Bichitra in 1973, titled ‘Bishal Mrittu‘. It was a very surrealistic kind of story. A famous short story writer read it and said it didn’t make any sense. Then I went to Canada to do my PhD and decided to keep it on hold." Here I got a similarity of him with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short story Collection "Strange Pilgrims". In the "Prologue: Why Twelve, Why Stories, Why Pilgr4ims" of the book we can see quite a similar story that how Marquez couldn't publish the first draft of his stories.
However, it is plausible that we see the reflection of the Author of our text in syllabus with the teacher who teach that. But it may be Magical Realism (in my eyes) that the suddenly we find a distinctive similarities in a background history of the creation of literary piece.Hope I will find something more when I finish reading the book "The Merman's Prayer and other stories".