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Suhrawardy, Shahid


Suhrawardy, Shahid (1890-1965) educationist, writer, art-critic and diplomat, was born on 24 October 1890 in the famous Suhrawardy family of Kolkata. Their original home was in Midnapore, and their family had moved later to the Park Circus area at Kolkata. His father Sir Zahid Suhrawardy was a Justice of the Calcutta High Court and his younger brother huseyn shaheed suhrawardy was an eminent politician and Prime Minister of Bengal and Pakistan. Shayesta Ekramullah, his sister, was a celebrated intellectual and diplomat.

Shahid Suhrawardy obtained the BA (Hons) degree in English from Calcutta University in 1910. In 1914, he graduated again from Oxford University. He earned name and fame for studying abroad and for his literary works. While overseas, he acquired deep knowledge about the ancient and modern art. Shahid Suhrawardy became acquainted with the leading international art-specialists while he was working as a member of the Producers' Committee at Moscow Art Theatre (1926-29) and editor of Fine Art Section of the League of Nations in Paris. He was also associated with editing of a quarterly journal on Byzantian art published from Prague. When he returned home Usmania University of Hydrabad commissioned him to write an introductory book on Islamic art of different countries of the world. Later, he came to Visva-Bharati at rabindranath tagore's invitation and researched on Iranian art in santiniketan as the Nizam Professor.

Shahid Suhrawardy earned fame as the Professor of Vageshvari Comparative Art at Calcutta University during 1932-43. A compilation of his famous lectures named Prefaces was published by the university. Other works by him include The Art of Jamini Ray, Musalman Culture, A Handbook of Musalman Art, Musalman Art in Spain etc. The first of these books a pioneering work of art-criticism written in a lucid style. He is also known to have written a book on cookery.

Shahid Suhrawardy was a member of the Bengal Public Service Commission during 1943-46. He migrated to Karachi at the end of 1948. He was active as a member of the Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan till 1952. He served as a guest lecturer of Islamic Art at Columbia University, New York in 1953. At that time a new mansion for UNESCO was built in Paris and a selection committee was formed with international art-specialists to decorate it in a befitting manner with artwork. Shahid Suhrawardy was a member of this committee.

Shahid Suhrawardy also worked as a diplomat. He was an ambassador of Pakistan to Spain, Morocco, Tunisia and the Vatican from 1954 onwards. He was very close to Jawaharlal Nehru and sudhindranath dutta. He was proficient in a number of eastern and western languages.

Shahid Suhrawardy was the Founder President of Pakistan PEN, a sister organisation of the International Writers' Guild. His anthology titled Essays in Verse of his work was published in 1962 from Dhaka. It included the poems he had written during his stay at Oxford and works that he had published in different English and American literary journals. His poems embody the spirit of the different avant-garde poetic movements of Europe. The book itself is divided into three parts: New Poems, Early Poems and An Oldman's Songs, which reflect elegant and tender thoughts. Shahid Suhrawardy was unmarried and died on 3 March 1965 in Karachi. [Syed Ali Ahsan]