The Rebel : Kazi Nazrul Islam
Professor Anwarul Karim PhD :
Kazi Nazrul Islam was a Poet from his childhood. Among his contemporaries, his friend Shailozananda Majumdar could find out the talent in him when he was a student in school. He used to write poems when he was a Habildar in the British army at Karachi . His poems caught the attention of the people after he returned from the army and these were published in different literary journals in Calcutta including 'Saogat' of Nasiruddin. During the time he worked as a Habildar, he came in contact with Marxism, Leninism, and Communism. He commended it as the 'organ' that could save the suffering humanity from the hands of the Bourgeois and the Capitalists. He found the British and the Bourgeois as top tyrants who brought the whole of India under their direct colonial and oppressive rule and put the people in chains. Moreover, they made distinction between man and man in regard to wealth and power. The poor became poorer under their rule. Death and destruction went side by side following unprecedented famines. Nazrul fought for suffering humanity and worked against the British imperialism. It was held : "The sun never sets in the British empire." The throne of their empire was, as it were 'Arosh' occupied by the Beelzebub or Mephistopheles, who represented Iblis. He wanted to crush their throne-the seat of these Satans. Some Muslims misunderstood Nazrul and thought that he directed his attack towards 'Allah'or God. And for that he was named as kafir or infidel. It was a blatant lie and in no way connected with blasphemy.
If we study closely, Kazi Nazrul Islam's 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• or 'The Rebel' we would notice that 'Rebel' stands for the Truth in general. The earth is full of injustice and falsehood and a Satanic rule has been playing supreme against the Truth and the Justice. The tyrant, the oppressor of mankind is taken as Satan. The Rebel represents God as His Vice-regent as His super creation and intends to destroy the Satanic power and thereby bring in the rule of God and create peace and harmony in the world. He fulfils the design of God in which Satan is the rival of mankind. The Poet in this poem clearly states that the world is now in possession of Satan and as a result all sorts of injustice, torture, exploitation, crime and gross inequality have been destroying the purpose of creation. The Rebel dedicates himself to establish the rule of God so that the humanity is finally saved.
Ã•weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• was a poem that stands as a big protest against all injustice to the people of India, nay, the world. The Poet did not attack either Muslim or Hindu or any other religion. Rather he used religious words as symbols to communicate his feelings against the British on the one hand and blood-sucking people on the other. On carefully examining the poem as a student of literature, it appears to me that the 'Rebel' in the poem already waged war against the British and the Burgeois under whose care and rule the humanity could never be safe. The Rebel was a super hero or a superman who was bent on crushing the British and their agents, the Capitalists, who symbolized the evil or the Satanic power in order to set afire the rule of the Truth-the power of Man vested upon him by Allah or God as the supreme creation in the universe. All the angels, except Iblis, bowed down before Adam, who represented humanity, by the order of God.
The British Raj in India were taken as the Satanic god, taken as the Khuda-the lord of the Satans who ruled the world as the imperialist. The 'Rebel' represents Man projecting the human being, the Adam of the whole creation. The Rebel as the protagonist was bound to fulfill the design of God and therefore he dedicated himself to a ceaseless fight till the Satanic power is crushed or ended finally and the universe is free from all such dangers.
To my mind, the Rebel represents the Superman. He is second to none on earth. He poses himself as an warrior and Rebel against all falsehood, crimes and odds of life. He declares that he would rest only when the earth would be free from the tyrants and their oppressive rule that made the humanity groan as they suffered and had shed tears for that. He thus proposes, he will only cease and discontinue fighting when there will be no more crying of the unfortunate and tears will not ooze out from their eyes.
The structure of the poem is based on a scheme that highlights the supremacy of Man over the evils. And Kazi Nazrul Islam successfully has been able to put this scheme diligently in full action using powerful and effective words of Hindu and Muslim religious myths for projecting his power of communication to all and sundry in the poem 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ•. In fact, the poem, he composed, has no parallel and no other poets in Bengali literature could use such kind of unusual idiomatic words depicting metaphorical, epigrammatic and oxymoron style of writing. Nazrul was the first to fashion or reshape the Bengali poetry which was so long 'Rabindrik' or having the influence of Rabindranath. Here too, Nazrul is a Rebel to free Bengali poetry to breathe heartily. And for all these, 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• as a poem, has no points of similarity with any other poem in Bengali or in English. Whitman's 'Songs of Life' presents different premises and in no way comparable to 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• of Kazi Nazrul Islam and thus it stands as a unique creation in the literary history of the world. No other poets in the world could have been able to produce such kind of amazing and thought provoking fantastic poem as 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• and no other poets in any language have been able to produce the like of it. Here lies the greatness of Kazi Nazrul Islam as a World Poet.
Mean while Nazrul became very popular in countries belonging to Soviet Russia, China, Japan, and Germany. B. Botvinnik of Leningrad was the first among the Soviet translators to introduce him to the readers in the Soviet Union in 1958. In the following year, an anthology of Bangla poems was published in Russian translations which included twelve more poems of our Great Poet. But the greatest credit goes to Poet Mikhail Kurgantsev whose 'Selected Works of Kazi Nazrul Islam' appeared in 1962 and was an immediate success. In 1963, Anwar Alim Zhanov published 'Selected Poems of Nazrul' with 33 poems and the biography of the poet . All these include 'The Rebel' also.
Kazi Nazrul Islam has a great appeal on the mind of the people of Russia and his popurlaity as a Poet of the proletariats, has been gaining ground in the Russian literature. A good number of Russian scholars like Kurgantsev published his comprehensive volume on the poet after the poet's death in 1976.The popularity of Nazrul's poetry in the Soviet Union is thus gradually growing. This statement can be justified by the fact that over the past several years 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• has been translated into a number of Soviet languages-Kazakh, Uzbek, Ajarbyzan, Georgian, Turkman, Tazik, and so on. Towards the end of the seventies Soviet musicians Yevsiev and Losov set tune to some of his poems. In 1981, musician Yevgenni won an award for setting tune to Nazrul's poem titled "Sonkolpo' (Ambition). In fact our Poet has conquered Russian minds and lives in the heart of those who fought against the distinction among race, color and creed.
To me Kazi Nazrul Islam's 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• is unique and it has no like of it until now. We may talk of Whitman. His 'Song of Myself' may apparently have points of similarities as far as approach and use of words are concerned, but it differs widely thematically. The premise and concept note of the poem is also different. It may have its aesthetic and political significance but the Rebel in Nazrul has a Holy mission to keep the earth clean from the Satanic influence. The Rebel enjoys a super power and is destined to free the world from all oppression, tyranny and evil actions which make the Earth not worth living.
The Rebel in Kazi Nazrul Islam stood firm to crush the bourgeois and to establish the rights of the common people who are considered proletariat according to the Marxist philosophy. He was greatly influenced by Marxism and Leninism when he joined the World War I. He wanted a Socialistic society where people would enjoy the right to live as human being. He was against all kind of oppression, exploitation and corruption.
Nazrul brought about a revolutionary change in Bengali poetry. His use of poetic diction, similes and metaphors are unparalleled and these are unconventional and used for the first time in the history of Bengali literature. His approach was also different from Rabindranath Tagore and other contemporary poets of his time. And for this also, he is known as a 'Rebel.' Bengali poetry and music took a different form and shape in him and his writings are still acclaimed for universal and eternal message.
In fact, Kazi Nazrul Islam revolted politically, socially, economically and literarily. He unsettled the conventional style of writing. Not only in the third world countries but also in the West as well he is second to none so far his poetry and poetical mission and vision are concerned. His popularity has been gaining ground in different parts of the globe although his literary creativity did not last long because of his sickness. It looks to be a victory of our Great Poet who has written his volumes within the time-length of two decades only!
Kazi Nazrul Islam spent most of his time in prison for his poetry and literary works. The British government was intolerant. He was considered as the most severe threat to the British. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Desbandhu Chittaranjan Das and all the freedom fighters of India and Bangladesh admired him for inspiring them to the cause of the country.
Bangabandhu not only admired him, he found in him what he actually dreamt. His songs and poetry inspired him to glorify human being as a man and not as a narrow communal being. He made Kazi Nazrul Islam the National Poet of Bangladesh because his poetry was humanistic and secular and above all barriers of caste, creed, race and colour. Bangladesh today stands on the ideology that the Poet had preached in his poems. Nazrul upheld Baul and Sufi idealism of Lalon Shah, Hason Raja, Chandidas and Kabir. To him God is loveable. He is the Supreme Guide of humanity irrespective of caste, creed and color. He is 'Rebel' here too as he was an iconoclast against Godless society.
'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ•-'The Rebel' had already caught the attention of the world during the time when it was published in the British India and Nazrul made his readers awe-stricken and spellbound. What a Poem ! The British Raj was taken aback. It hit them hard. The young poets like Achintya Kumar Sengupta, Premendra Mitra, Buddhadeb Bose and Shudin Dutta of 'Kallol Jug'considered him a 'Poet of Poets' who could come out from the domain of Rabindranath Tagore. They received him as their mentor.
Further, Kazi Nazrul Islam today should be read as the Greatest of the non-colonial Poets. 'The Rebel'-The world has never seen the like of him.
Translation of Nazrul's 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• (Bidrohi) into English
As regards translation of 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• into English, there appears a galaxy of veteran scholars who left no stone unturned to make these poems look perfect and as heroically suggestive as of Kazi Nazrul Islam in Bangla. The following are few noted among those include : Abdul Hakim, Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Syed Sajjad Hussain, Professor Rafiqul Islam, Fakhrul Alam, Mohammad Nurul Huda, Sazed Kamal, Dr. Jasim Uddin and M. Mizanur Rahman.
I went through their translations. There is no doubt that each of these translators made effective efforts to present Nazrul in a way the Poet intended to project his thoughts as implanted in his poem 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ•. I enjoyed their translated works of 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ•/ The Rebel. Great as they are and so are the translations.
Yet, it would be a tale to tell as the whole truth that there might appear few things which could beautify the glory the poem has in Bangla, had one been able to focus perfectly 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• (Bidrohi) of Nazrul as the voice of people of all time and of all ages and the use of symbols which have meanings significant underneath the poem for a proper translation of those words conveying the message of the poet to others in the world. No matter if the Great Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam gets the Nobel Prize or not, the world already made him the ' Poet of the World' as he reached them through translation of his works in English.
Of late, Anis Fatema, a young Bengali poet, writer, translator and columnist made a very bold attempt to translate Kazi Nazrul Islam's 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• as she could understand the Poet from her own point of view. I knew her through her writings, published in the literary page of The New Nation and the Daily Star. She looked quite young, sharp and talented.
Following is the translation from the poem 'weâ€¡`ÂªvnxÃ• Ã”The Rebel' quoted in brief :
Declare O hero,
Declare my head is the highest.
Witnessing my head bows down the Himalayas.
Declare O hero,
Surpassing the inordinate sky of the universe,
Leaving behind the sun, moon, planets and the stars,
Crossing the earth, the heaven and the space above,
Piercing the Throne of the Lord,
I, the Spirit, the wonder of God, am raised!
The Lord Rudro sparks on my forehead, marking the victory.
Declare O hero,
Declare my head is ever the highest.
I am the valorous axe of Porshuram ,
Demolishing the caste 'Khotriyo', I will create a world, peacefully calm !
I am the yoke on Boloram's shoulder,
I will uproot the world of dependency in the great joy of new creation.
I am the great Rebel tired of war
That day will catalyze calmness in my restless desire,
The day, the cries of suppressed won't get echoed around,
The oppressor's cruel sword won't stigmatize the battle ground.
The Rebel tired of war
That day will catalyze calmness in my restless desire.
I am the ever Rebel hero,
Rising alone, leaving behind the universe, my head the highest !
(Translation: Anis Fatema)
(The writer is a distinguished Educationist and Columnist. He was formerly a Visiting Scholar, Divinity School, Harvard University (1985) and Founder Director, Lalon Academy, Kushtia. E-mail : dranwar @gmail.com)