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On Nazrul's aesthetics

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27th-Aug-2017       
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Mohammad Nurul Huda :
Kazi Nazrul Islam's making from a folk-based leto  poet to one of the most significant and versatile creative personalities of all times, expressing himself in various literary genres and other expressive media including music and film, despite the fact that he hardly cared for systematic and formal academic education, remains a most interesting field of aesthetic investigation to his readers and researchers alike. In his attempt to combine loud proclamation of man's rebellious self with the introvert mystic within him, he outlined an aesthetics of his kind with Beauty, metaphorized as sworno-jyoti or golden glow, remaining central to its core. Beauty is multi-shaded and multi-coloured synonym of various realities, both positive and negative, as he explained in his Amar Sundar (My Beauty). It is, indeed, a unique idea of beauty growing out of the equation between the hunger of heart and hunger of body that creates a significant aesthetic cognition in his works. This article briefly presents the making of the poetlore in Nazrul stressing on the fact that as an outspoken feminist, a humanist, an advocate of unification of diverse religious faiths, he also propagated the globalization of man, the individual.
He never promulgated any aesthetic declaration like many of his contemporaries, mostly university wits, who heralded a tactical literary revolt against great Bangali poet Rabindranath Tagore who was reigning supreme in the-then literary firmament of Bengal. However, his confessional prose named Amar Sundar surprisingly reveals his inscape -- the aesthetic stream of the poet. Here he narrates what he wrote, why he wrote parallel to the inner and outer occurrences influencing his life. So almost all his writings, prose or poetry, can be explained intertexually parallel to this brief confession, which is why this confession may suitably be described as the aesthetic autobiography of Nazrul himself. Let us now have an English rendering of the text Amar Sundar :
Amar Sundor (My Beauty) at first came as short stories, then as poetry. Thereafter it came in the guise of tunes, rhythms and ideas. At times it also came as novels, plays and writings (prose). His Shokti-sundor (power-beauty) got expression in Dhumketu (Comet), Langol (Plough), then in Gonobani (People's Message); and it came with terrible glow, being the message of revolution and revolt. I don't remember now what I wrote in Huq Sahib's daily Novojoog (New Age) after corning back from warfield as a soldier, but within fifteen days the security deposit of that news paper was forfeited.
As I wrote songs and set tunes to them, I began to get huge money, honour-respect, congratulations, flowers, wreaths and love from the children of Bangla (Bengal). I was then aged twentyfive to twentysix only. The reason of getting this honour is my being thrown behind the bars, first among the poets and writers, where I continued a hunger strike for forty days inside jail protesting against tortures afflicted on political prisoners. For this my crime 1 had to be chained (link-fetters, bar-fetters, cross-fetters etc) and tortured in various ways. This time Rabindranath dedicated me his play Bosonto (Spring). Being blessed by him this way, I forgot all pains and sufferings of hungersrike inside jail. Why he extended so much kindness and delight to an ignoble young poetry-writer like me, he knows best. I never asked him (about this), and he too never revealed it. Today it strikes my mind for the first time that, the blessings of beauty came to me from his right hand to remove my pains and sufferings behind the bars. But then I did not think this way.
I could not till then think that this writing is not mine, it is of my beauty, of my Absolute One related to my soul.
In the jail my beauty made me wear hard wreaths of chains around my hands and feet; soon after my getting out of jail the whole of Bangladesh welcomed my ontorotom sundor (innermost beauty) with flower fetters, sandalwood of love, eagerness for being my relatives. For long eight years I travelled  the whole of Bangla, almost all its districts, subdivisions, big and small villages singing for country's freedom, at times making public oratories. This is how I first loved my mother country called Bangladesh. I got to know that my country is my mother. Her calm-green affection, her deep filial love, her limitless quiet sky with its condensed, at times turquoise-blue, made my body and soul delighted with its rhythmic flow. This time I first saw the unprecedented expression of the beauty of my heart as Prokash-sundor (expression-beauty), as my motherland.
That day I toured the whole of Bangladesh at the call of the greatest leaders of undivided India; I interacted with the young people as friends, taking them as relatives of my soul. They too embraced me as their friend and brother - but I never became greedy of being a leader, the greed that does not take me over as of today. It seemed to me off and on that I was able to love mankind. I never knew what is the meaning of difference between race and religion, the meaning which I don't read till today. So no Hindu hurled hatred at me any day. Even the brahmins invited me to their home and ate and made me eat as well giving a seat beside them. This is first I saw my joubon-Sundor (youth-beauty), my prem-sundor (love-beauty).
Then my beauty came as Shok-Sundor (grief-beauty). My son came as intimiate sneho-sundor (affection-beauty). He was as beautiful as wax in the outside, as sweet as honey in attachment, his heart full of juice and smell. He captured me like my soul. He accompanied me where I went. He played with me in obhiman (with vanity and self-conceit). Any tune that I taught him, he could learn it hearing only two times. He was then aged three years eight months. One night he said, 'Daddy, someone, a boy, is calling me playing on a flute in the moon.' Suddenly my mind and body shivered in unknown agony, pangs of separation, waves of pains. My chest inundated with my tears. That night his temperature rose high. Suffering from a killer disease called smallpox the child coming from the world of delight returned there again smilingly.
The light of my beautiful world seemed to have extinguished in a moment. My joy, poetry, smile, song seemed to have fled somewhere not being able to stand my suffering. This is my shok-sundor (grief beauty).
This time the question woke up first in my mind - who is that cruel who creating this shishu-sundor (child-beauty) snatches it again? In this grief woke up a sense of being extremely hurt against the Creator, the extreme obhiman (conceit) that transformed into silent revolt and revolution engulfing my whole being. All around I heard the sounds, 'Kill and Destroy and Demolish.' But where shall I get the strength? Where, in which way to see that proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty), that songhar-sundor (killer-beauty)? I sat and thought for the answer. A  friend came from nowhere and said, 'Go on meditating, you will get to see.' I said, 'What is meditation? He said, 'Only to call Him and think of Him.' This is first when my dhyan-sundor (meditation-beauty) appeared. At times I felt good, at times bad. At times 1 was given various allurements, illusions etc. They said, 'We are the destructive power of your proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty), walk with us, you will see the Creator -then you will be able to kill by our might.' The humble, easy flowing delightful mobility, sweet craziness of youthfulness, song, poem and happy elegance that I possessed, all seemed to have been exhausted walking along with them.
I started to call my proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty) with all my heart, 'Show me the path, your path.' Someone, as if in dream, came and said, 'Read the holy Koran; if you read what is written there you will see proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty) - and even above me the fullness in you'. I saluted him and said, 'Are you the one who has been expressed in my imagination, in my consciousness in the form of my poetry, my writings to herald a revolt, the message of revolution?' He replied to me, 'Yes, I am your purbochetona, pre-consciousness.' He uttered the English word 'Pre-consciousness' lest I should fail to realize its meaning. I said, 'I will meet you again.' He said, 'Know that I am always within you, I am your friend.' He left me out. The happy dream shattered, but in all my cells in all my veins that ambrosia-shivering of dream's delight encompassed me like the flower offerings of my beloved.
Silently I started reading Vedanto and Koran. The sky above my earth seemed to have been split at some thunderclap and by the strike of electricity-writing. I seemed to climb higher and higher. From a distance I could see an incomparable glow as beautiful as gold. This my sworno-jyoti  (gold-glow) 1 saw now for the first time.
All of a sudden some cruel terrible power seemed have appeared trying to drag me downward. He went on saying, 'Where will you go, O lunatic, before repaying your homeland's debt, the debt of your mother?' I said, 'Be aware! Within me lives proloy-sundor (desruction-beauty).' That fierce, terrible, opposing beauty started me dragging down with a violent force. He said, 'That proloy-sundor (desruction-beauty) is not nonsense-mad like you, you will not be able to go anywhere without fully repaying the debt of your that earth, that India, that Bangla, that mankind, that relative of your soul.' I said, 'Are you the cursed power named Satan written in the Koran?' He said smilingly, 'Yes, I am glad to know that you have recognized me. Have you not read in the Koran that you would not be able to reach your Creator, to see him, to cross my hurdles without paying my debts?' I started realizing that my proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty) is no more cooperating with me. The man of earth came down to earth again. The maya (illusion) of this earth took me to his bosom in deep embrace like my mother, kissing me, bursting into tears. As I attempted to tear this bodage rising in revolt, that terrible force took me away from the lap of earth and started beating me fiercely. It left my life-partner, my better-half half-paralyzed on the bed. It decreased my money, started me wheeping chaining with the rope of horrible debts and dues.
My earth came down and embraced me allaying my burning. Then carne a friend whom I had not seen before. He gave (me) an unprecedented consciousness through his friend, who is my rebellious friend as well. I again loved for the first time my mother dhoritree-sundor (earth-beauty) and embraced her. All my burnings seemed to have been allayed in a gradual manner. My blindness ended. I spread my look towards the limbs and organs of my earth-mother, my Bangla, my India - all of them afflicted by poverty, want and demon's tortures. Her face and eyes are bereft of joy, her body strengthless, her limbs and organs severely wounded by the oppression of monsters. I shouted at the top of my voice, 'I don't want Brohmao nor Allah, nor Bhogowan. If somebody exists under any of such name he will see me in person. I have enormous work to do, I have my debt ( to repay) of my endless limitless earth-mother. I have no peace, I have no freedom till I will not be able to make my mother a full-beauty a joy-beauty freeing her from the fetters of demon's oppression.
My proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty) burst into a laughter. I said, 'this is your acting only. He said, 'this is for the first time that I trully laughed before you, and not acted merely.' I gazed and saw the flowers of earth dropping down happily giving a look at me. I took them to my bosom from the soil and said, 'Why did you drop down?' The flowers said, 'Ask my mother-creeper, ask my beauty-juice-honey-fragrance. That you are the beautiful man of this earth, in you resides my beauty, which saw and dropped down in the ecstasy of seeing it.' I kissed the flower, fondled her pressing against my lips chest forehead. The flower said, 'I have got my beauty, taking these my beauty-juice-honey-fragrance with you I would exist eternally within you.' This is how I first saw the pushpito sundor (flowered beauty). This way the beam of moon, the sunrays of morning and evening, the deep-green forestry, the wave-swaying fountains, the rivers, the coastless deep-blue sea, the ten-direction-travelling wind caressed me and wrapped me up. They conversed with me like a friend like a beloved in sweet language. They addressed me, 'Amar Sundor' or 'My Beauty.'
Suddenly the upper sky saw a Boishakhi storm (nor'-wester), coiling up dark deep blueblack clouds. Repeated thunderbolts in quick succession, fire coloured lightning-snakes in their restless extension seemed to have swelled up with unprecedented waves of my inner and outer being. Suddenly in my voice appeared in the form of a song and a tune, 'There comes the all-terrible Boishakhi storm (nor-' wester) wrapping the clouds'. I shouted in an easefully wet voice, 'Who are you - who? A sweet, easy voice replied, 'Your friend, proloy-sundor, the desruction-beauty.'
I then said, 'you left me out, why have you come back again?' He embraced my soul and said, Killing the Creator you tried to kill your mother and kill yourself. So I have gone back out of my obhiman (vanity) snatching away the double-edged sword from you. You have come back to your senses, you would today see your Creator within yourself - your srishti-sundor (creation-beauty) would reveal its identity in the creation, on earth, in the sky, in wind, in fruits full of juice, in fragrant flowers, in calm soil, in cold water, in delight-giving breezes. In a bid to get your unseen absolute beloved, absolute friend you went on climbing upwards, towards the limitless with forceful tidal waves, with unquenchable thirsts, dreams, desires, fancies and unobsructible passions - today I have come to you as your friend as an embodiment of that absolute fullness, absolute peace, the message of that absolute happiness. On this earth will happen your incomparable union with Him in the full. Before that I shall have to make this beautyless earth beautiful; I shall have to remove all inequalities and differences. You have to prove on this earth that man is the best of all He has created. Thereafter you would have bilas (consummation) with your beauty and your absolute bihar (pleasure-trip)
Listening to that I shouted 'Hurrah' in uncontrollable joy, Then O my friend, give me your double-edged sword, give me your bishansinga (horn or bugle) of revolution, give me your demon-giant-killer weapons trishul (trident) trumpets. Give the complex jota (matted hair) of whirlwind, give me the valour of the Royal Bengal tigers of my Sunderban. Give the burning fireflame on my forehead, give the soothing smile of a child in my jotajut (mass of matted hair), Give me the third eye, give the strength in that third eye to kill demons and monsters. Give in my mouth the poison of this earth, make me bish-sundor (poison-beauty) Nilkontho (a blue necked bird that can digest poison). Give me the necklace of lightning around my neck. Give in my feet the rhythm of uneven dance-steps from the feet of Notoraj (the best dancer, specially Shiva).
The friend said smilingly, 'You will get everything, there is nothing ungettable for you. Things will be delayed for a few days. Have you ever seen the damage you have done to yourself by revolting out of obhiman (self-conceit) ? You have left your whole body strengthless suffering from endless wounds treading the path of woods and thorns and mud. Let all these incompleteness be removed, then your proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty) would reappear in all your body. You would hug your beauty like a creeper, his unheard message would bloom in your writings like flowers. I said,  Tothastu' that's right.' Proloy-sundor (destruction-beauty) said, 'Sadhu! 'Sadhu! 'Sadhu! (Thanks in applause).
Even a hasty scanning of the above text reveals at least sixteen different types of 'Sundor' or 'Beauty' that the poet identified while passing the tumultuous days of his life. All these are seemingly opposite and contradictory, but complementary in the final analysis based on a kind of Habermasian legitimization. He has identified 'Sundor' as varying forces as under: 1. might or power or strength (shokti), 2, most intimate relative (ontorotom). 3. expression (prokash) as homeland, 4. youth (jouban), 5. love (prem), 6. grief (shok), 7. filial affection (sneho). 8. Infant (shishu), 9. desrtuction (proloy), 10. Killing (songhar), 11. meditation (dhyan), 12. earth (dhoritree), 13. flowered (pushpito), 14. creation (srishti), 15.poison (bish), 16 golden glow(sworno-jyoti) ete.
In a brief span of conscious, creative life of nearly 43 years (1899-1942), Nazrul had to pass through hard realities of life including extreme poverty, losing parents at an early age, fighting against exploiters that included colonial masters and their native allies, being deceived by the first wife and her relatives, his married wife belonging to another religion lying half-paralyzed and bedridden till she breathed her last and a number of similar clashing situations. But despite all these contradictory conditions governing his life, he was enormously welcomed by the people at large, especially the young community of the country. So he became one of the most popular poetical and political personalities of undivided India under colonial rule. Every occurrence in his personal life as well as socio-political life in the country turned into an aesthetic experience to him, which is why he started expressing himself eloquently in his writing and sneaking and singing. He suffered a lot, but no suffering was ugly or beautyless to him. Hence, beauty with its very intrinsic nature, does not remain connotative in a singular way with identical significance everywhere or with its neutrality in no-mans-land. His personal life, the socio-political life, the life of a creative artist -- all mingled together to render his living into an interdisciplinary discourse. So Beauty came to him rather as an ever-evolving Concept or Cognition or Being Under Erasure, - whatever it may be, -- with the evolution of his changing life-pattern frequently shaping into an altered ego. It is also a cognition to his life-cycle dominating the metamorphosis of aesthetic consummation within his being. So Beauty, though appears at the outset of his literary career as various literary genres such as short story or novel or poetry or play, shapes into a transitory persona from happiness to grief, might to debility, poison to honey, destruction to creation, childhood to youth, bud to flower, darkness to golden glow and so on and so forth. In fact, Nazrul could elongate this series of metaphors for beauty but he stopped since one has to stop somewhere. But three more things remain central to it-the moment prior to beginning, the beginning and the end. In describing various shades and meanings of Beauty Nazrul has merely dealt with the momentary human life he lived between the beginning and the end of a cosmic equation with a vital force called human being.
Interestingly enough, beauty is neither a beginning nor an end in itself. It is inseparably intrinsic to a living being symbolized as a human being, not the mankind as a whole, but man as an individual. So Nazrul argues that the flower is beautiful since its beauty is perceived by the other, not the self. It is recognized by another individual perception. The flower (self) discovers its beauty in the recognition of the poet (the other), who is also recoginized as beautiful by the flower. So recognition is a both way traffic - the self and the other, both reversing their roles every now and then. This alternative perception - between poet and flower - for that reason between any two different beings is significant from the perspective of communicable existence. The arguments is simple and unambiguous: if you do not exist, beauty does not exist anywhere in the world. So beauty has to be perceivable and communicable, but for which it seldom embodies a form.
Seen from this angle beauty an aesthetic key-word In Nazrul's perception seems to depend on three conditions: 1. the kind of making the self has 2. the kind of perception it possesses and 3. the kind of communication the self and the other can establish. Beauty with all its opposites can be identified as beauty from such combinations of opposites as well. Hence beauty has its varying role and suitability in different conditions. Beauty in an afluent individual differs than the beauty in a have-not. Argued this way, beauty is not hypothetical, rather it is a reality of existence catering to its rotative and evolving nature.
And finally, to Nazrul, beauty is a killer of self, for that reason the other as well, if it is fully perceived and communicated between the two. Nazrul's flower drops down discovering its beauty and an individual diffuses into eternity (God, above, Creator etc) as soon as it percieves beauty in his extreme meditative mood as an undying gold flame above this earth -- an embodiment of the Creator who has created every individual being, not excepting His own Self, too. This is how one is tempted to call Nazrul's beauty as both beginning and end in the aesthetic journey of an individual pilgrim. This perception is essentially oriental and post-colonial, more particularly South Asian in its territorial context.
(Nazrul's Aesthetics and Other Aspects)

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