Makbula Manzoor (Bengali: মকবুলা মনজুর), was born on 14th September 1938 in the city of Kalna, Bardhaman district, where her father was stationed as a Police Officer. Bardhaman was situated in the undivided India, now located in West Bengal.
Makbula spent most of her childhood years amongst the lush green fields, rivers and open skies of northern Bengal.
The nature of her father's police duties required the family to move throughout northern Bengal; across the Bogra, Pabna and Dinajpur districts. As a consequence of her father's various postings, Makbula attended many schools.
Makbula's early schooling took place across northern Bengal. She matriculated from Bindubasini Girls’ High School in Tangail. Later, she completed her higher secondary schooling at Rajshahi College.
Makbula completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Eden Girls College. She obtained her Master's degree in Bangla Literature at the University of Dhaka.
Language Movement to Liberation War
Makbula Manzoor always maintained a strong cultural bond and political consciousness. She was active leading up to, during and following the Liberation War. Her experiences are reflected in many of her works, most notably in her novel Kaler Mondira (Cymbal of Time) where she documents the torture inflicted on the women of Bangladesh by Pakistani forces.
In February 1952, as a student in Tangail district, Makbula organised a group of fellow students to join a rally in solidarity with students in Dhaka shot and killed by the police. Those students were protesting against the West Pakistani politicians’ decision to reject Bangla and make Urdu the state language. Makbula and her fellow students kicked open the hostel gate and joined the rally. This rebellious act resulted in an arrest warrant being issued for Makbula, and her suspension from the school.
Whilst a teacher in 1971, she was barred from hoisting the flag of Bangladesh which prompted her decision to leave the school.
A Life of Literature
Makbula recalls writing a poem at the tender age of eight which was published in Mukul Mahfil, the children's section of daily Azad.
Through to her teenage years she wrote poems and some short stories but was later encouraged to focus on her fiction by the eminent artist Quamrul Hasan.
Makbula was a voracious reader who read across many genres. Her writing style was influenced by some of her favourite authors, such as Buddhadev Boshu, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhay and Ashapurna Devi. Rabindranath Tagore was Makbula's idol; a guiding light throughout her literary and personal life.
Whilst a Bachelor of Arts student, Makbula published her first novel Akash Kanya (Daughter of the Sky) which was serialised in the weekly Begum. Her first book Aar Ek Jiban (Another Life) was completed prior to finishing her Master's degree.
Throughout her life, Makbula made an invaluable contribution to Bangla literature by publishing many novels, short stories and numerous articles on socio-political issues. She adapted many of her stories into television and radio dramas. Her Teenage fiction Danpite Chele (The Cheeky Boy) was made into a movie which won the National Film Award and Tashkent International Film Festival award in 1980.
In 1997, Makbula received the National Archives Best Book Award for her epic novel Kaler Mondira (Cymbal of Time). In 2005 she was presented with Bangla Academy Literary Award for her contribution to Bangla literature.
Makbula’s father, Mizanur Rahman, was a Sub-Inspector of Police while her mother, Mahmuda Khatun, managed the household. Among her sisters and brothers are historian Professor Mukhlesur Rahman, Professor of English literature Moslema Khatun, film director Ibne Mizan, and essayist, publisher and left-wing activist Aziz Meher. Makbula’s younger sister Mushfiqua Ahmed shares her passion for literature and is an editor of scholarly publications.
Makbula married Manzoor Hussain in 1961. They were together for fifty nine years till Manzoor's passing in January 2020.
She was a dedicated mother to her two daughters and two sons.
Makbula enjoyed the loving company of her elder daughter in Dhaka. Makbula would travel to see her other childern and her grandchildren overseas in Thailand, New Zealand and Australia.
She maintained a close bond with her extended family. Makbula went on many eventful trips around Bangladesh with her younger sister and her brother-in-law.
Following university, Makbula worked at a bank for two years before starting her teaching career at Holy Cross College.
She then took on the role of feature editor and contributor at the weekly Begum for twenty-five years. During this time she became sub-editor at the daily Azad, contributing a daily editorial. In 1968 she joined the University Women's Federation College. Her teaching period as a Professor of Bengali Literature spanned for over 30 years until retirement.
Makbula travelled and resided abroad with her husband living with her youngest son and his family in Thailand. Later, they shifted to New Zealand to be close to her eldest son and family.
Makbula enjoyed her travels to Australia, visiting both her youngest daughter and eldest son's families. She drew on her overseas experience in some of her novels and travelogues such as Deshe Deshe (From Shore to Shore), Desh Deshantor (From one Shore to Another) and Promoththo Prohor (The Reckless Hours).
Makbula enjoyed learning about other cultures, and taking in the natural environment. However, her heart always yearned to return to her native Bangladesh.
For the most part of her later life Makbula and her husband Manzoor Hussain resided in the suburb of Uttara in Dhaka. Makbula returned to lecturing at Southeast University in 2006 up until she began having complications with her health around 2009. She would regularly receive visitors including family, friends, collegues and neigbours.
She took immense pleasure in writing letters, many of which she wrote to her youngest daughter overseas. One of Makbula's last interviews was published in 2014 in The Report on-line magazine.
Following the passing of her husband in January 2020, Makbula's younger sister Mushfiqua Ahmed and her brother-in-law Professor Sharifuddin Ahmed took Makbula into their care. In the last few months of her life Makbula lived in the loving household of her younger sister and her brother-in-law at their residence in Uttara.
Makbula Manzoor passed away in the evening of 3rd July 2020 surrounded by her family in Dhaka.