Monday, June 24, 2019 | ePaper

Nazrul: The universal literary Rebel

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Afroza Bilkis :
urely being a man of literature is challenging, but even more difficult is to become a literary leader. A leader never asks people to join him, but wherever he goes people follow him. Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poetry and songs was like the food for the oppressed souls, and their shining dream of peace and liberation. He is the literary Rebel and our National Poet. Nazrul’s life and his works are a lesson for next generations. He was able to influence millions of hearts at his time by his poetry, songs and   whole literature. Despite a very difficult poverty shaken childhood, despite all hardships of life he had to undergo, his spirit did not give up on his duties for his motherland. He showed how one can become a social reformer through writing. He sang against all odds of the social and class bias for the noble goal of human brotherhood and solidarity, for all the people, not just in Bangladesh and the Bangla speaking people of the subcontinent, but throughout the world. He is adored for his courageous, igniting literature.
In 2017, Azfar Hussain wrote in Dhaka Tribune, “I cannot help recalling two conversations surrounding Nazrul’s work in places outside Bangladesh. In January this year, I met a group of black communists in Havana, Cuba. I shared with them Nazrul’s poems that are both explosively political and intimately lyrical. Their immediate response registered their solidarity: “Nazrul is our poet-a Cuban poet as well.” I also had the chance to discuss Nazrul with the great Kenyan writer-activist Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Pullman, Washington, back in 2005. Ngugi wondered if I was talking about a ‘Kenyan poet.’
The time Nazrul started his career as a litterateur was in fact dominated by romantic literature. He was therefore highly criticised and condemned for not going with the flow. Although he wrote numbers of romantic songs and these songs are well played and used still now, some other writers and poets did not like Nazrul’s rebellious poetry and songs. For them, Nazrul was trying in vain and they thought Nazrul’s endeavour would have no impact on the society. Nazrul was not shattered by the views of these contemporary writers. Rather, the impact of his works on the society and young generation that time was manifest. Even Shajanikanto Das, who was always making fun of Nazrul's poetry, could not deny the power of his influence in the end. About Nazrul’s Bidrohi, he once wrote that the essence of this poem is not clear to him. After he first met Nazrul, he said, “Such a man can only be loved, he cannot be criticised.” Humanity, freedom, love and revolution-Nazrul can be known and characterised through these virtues- the virtues of a true hero.
Nazrul believed that humanity and solidarity are next to God. In his poem Eeshwor, he wrote-

Sroshta re khojo - aponare tumi aponi firicho khuje.
Ichcha-ondho! Ankhi kholo, dekho dorpone nij kaya,
Dekhibe , tomari shob oboyobe poreche tnahar chhaya.

(You look for the Creator - you look for yourself, in fact.
Intently-blind! Open your eyes, see yourself in the mirror,
You’ll see, His shadow all over yourself.)
Nazrul’s poetry and patriotic songs have a unique characteristic of powerful, suggestive and persuasive words. His creations, Agnibina, Bisher Banshi and Samyobadi are the best examples. Courage ran in his veins. Poverty, high criticisms, imprisonment-nothing could stop him. His character is a model to be followed.  
Nazrul was bold in all his expressions and statements. While naming his book Bisher Banshi, he decided not to use Agnibina 2 instead for he rightly presumed the legal and political impact of the word Agnibina. Nonetheless, in the acknowledgement part of Bisher Banshi he wrote it outright that the Bansh, (bamboo meaning might or power) is stronger than the Banshi (flute meaning free practice of culture and literature), and if they collide, the Banshi will perish.
Nazrul’s contribution to the struggle for Independence against British colonial rule was tremendous. He wrote Rajbondir Jobanbondi only at the age of 24 that trembled down the British tyrannical theory. Despite being in prison during that time, his sharp, deep and clear words made his writing rich in literature. He considered himself a poet with great social and human responsibility. He believed that a poet, a writer is liable to the people for writing what is just, true and proper. He was imprisoned by the British government for raising his voice against their domination and repression. He never compromised with torture and cruelty.
Our Freedom Fighters in the Great War of Liberation were greatly inspired by the unique revolutionary poems and songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam. Still today, every time I read Nazrul's poems, I get amazed by the choice of his words. Nothing is comparable with his valor -
Ami jhonjha ami ghurni,
Ami poth-shommukhe jaha pai jai churni.                                 (Bidrohi)
(I am the storm I am the torpedo,
I crush whatever comes in my way.)  
Except Rabindranath Tagore, no other writer or poet could inspire the entire Bangali society and culture to that extent.
Kazi Nazrul Islam's patriotic songs and poetry have an everlasting effect on any human mind. Chol chol chol, Shikol pora chhol moder ei, - Eeki oporup rupey maa tomai herinu pollijononi are few of his most loved patriotic songs. When I was very young and in my primary school, I used to learn dancing and participate in different cultural programs on different national days like Independence Day, Victory Day and Martyrs’ Day. Each of those occasions always ended with a performance on Nazrul’s patriotic songs. From those songs and other works of Nazrul, I developed interest in cultural and literary works. What I love most about Nazrul’s works is that solidarity of all the religious communities was immensely significant and central to his works. Nazrul’s leading works portrait that quite evidently.    
I wonder what the poet would do if he had life of literary creativity, I am sure that his fearless voice and powerful writing would continue to target the deterioration of social values that we see today.
He would definitely write and sing against crimes against women and children. He would inspire us to work together for a better society. It is also true that our National Poet, the great universal Rebel Kazi Nazrul Islam, has left a literature that will contribute to uplift human values nationally and internationally for the future generations.

(Writer is Assistant Professor of Law, Northern University Bangladesh)

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