Vol. 5 Num 706 Thu. May 25, 2006  

The power of poetry
A Tribute to Nazrul

Nazrul took part in World War I, a pointer of his valour and deep attachment to humanity. Poets there are and poets there were. But how many were willing to risk their all at battlefields? If we turn over the pages of history, we may find very few.

In his adulthood, his poetic talent was in the prime. It is rather surprising that a sensitive poet like him should turn a solider, if temporarily, putting aside his pen. In World War I Nazrul stood by the oppressed. In our Liberation War, through which independent Bangladesh came into being, his songs inspired the freedom fighters. Nazrul's poetry was their guiding spirit. In villages and far-flung places, the words on everybody's lips were:

Chol chol chol
Urdho-gaganey bajey madol
Nimney utola dhoronitol
Arun-prater torun dol
Cholrey cholrey chol...

What immense strength was hidden in these lines? During the war nothing else was more inspiring, more energising or more invigorating than these lines to the freedom fighters who were basically everyday people with little military training, fighting against one of the most atrocious armies in the world equipped with the cutting edge weapons. As a source of inspiration such poems of Nazrul are unparalleled. The power of the poetry transformed mere human beings into undaunted, fearless and invincible warriors.

It might appear that Nazrul composed his eternal war songs with the thought of our independence. Poets realise truths, which are eternal. Nazrul perhaps realised those truths many years ahead of his times. Nazrul's poetry rebelled against all forms of tyranny; his songs spoke of the wronged and oppressed. He did not hesitate to use his words against any authority; no matter how powerful it was, including the British government.

Nazrul was imprisoned by the British Raj, he had seen the oppression of the zamindars, and the hypocrisy of so called religious figures misleading people in the name of faith. He felt deeply the inhuman treatment meted out to women in the male dominated society. He took a stance against all of these forces and waged his poetic battle. Nazrul was able to overturn the existing establishments by the stroke of his mighty pen, which shook the foundation of the state. In his fight against injustice and forces of oppression he was often alone and uncompromising. But he was not to be intimidated or cowed down. Testimony to his hard-hitting work is his poem Bidrohi:

Bidrohi rono-klanto
Ami sheidin hobo shanto
Jobey utpiriter-er krondonrol akashey batasey
dhonibey na

Nazrul nurtured the dream of a society free from exploitation, deprivation, prejudice and hypocrisy. It was to be based on the philosophy of equality. In such a society difference between man and woman will cease to exist. Such a society will ensure the fundamental needs of every human being, giving everybody the opportunity to manifest his or her talent. Such a society will alleviate all misery, ensuring peace and harmony and giving dignity to every human being.

The equality Nazrul visualised is not confined to any region or geographical area or even a particular country. His idea of equality is universal. Although Nazrul has often been referred to as a poet of the contemporary times, he had gone beyond his own times, occupying a place for himself, among the greatest poets of world literature. The equality, which Nazrul spoke of, is an integral part of the philosophy of the modern civilised world. It is an inseparable part of our democratic thinking.

Nazrul is our National Poet, the highest honour one can achieve. However, we still have a long way to go in making the poet's dream a reality. In the meantime, we should return to Nazrul's poetry time and again so that we can imbibe his powerful message and continue our nation building exercise, and thereby change our destiny.

The author is the former principal of Teachers' Training College, Mymensingh.