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Humanity dominates Nazrul’s works

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Mizanur Rahman :
Kazi Nazrul Islam is generally known as a ‘Rebel Poet.’ The description is only partially true. The Rebel in Nazrul mellowed down into a poet of love, lyrics and music by 1930 when he lost his beloved son and turned to music with which he flooded Bengal.
He also turned to spiritual penance which possessed his soul till he passed into his spell of speechless, motionless lull by August 1942, in the 43rd year of his meteoric life. The spell continued till his death.
Nazrul’s literary career practically started in 1918...
The revolutionary spell of his career commenced with his well known poem ‘Bidrohi’ (Rebel) composed and published in 1921. During the years following. Nazrul wrote a number of heroics, and started his journalistic comet Dhumketu with a blazing tail that landed him into goal for a year including hunger-strike for forty days inside the iron bars. On release from jail he married in 1924 and settled down to a quieter life. Then came the turn mentioned at the outset.
Nazrul was a poet from top to toe. The universe called him away from the pre-Matriculation portal of the University. He can be rightly called a Revolutionary Philosopher by instinct or under the all-powerful impulse of espousing the cause of the oppressed, suppressed and depressed humanity irrespective of class, creed or colour.
This impulse and the overpowering patriotism for his land of birth, then under foreign domination, inspired and influenced all his thinking and action in life.
Philosophising was not in his brain. But Nazrul’s idealistic philosophy can be detected and derived from his heroics, lyrics, songs and ghazals and other writings. He was fed up with the old worn-out world of cant, hierocracy, oppression, exploitation and injustices all around. So he thundered for destruction for the creation of a better world. “Why dread destruction?” said he, “Destruction is prelude to creation anew.” Newer creation involves destruction to start with.
This is not new brand of philosophy. A philosopher poet like Iqbal said the same thing, as did many others before him the world over. In fact, destruction and creation are natural and continuous process.
The world of today is not the world of yesterday, nor will the world of to-morrow be the same as the world of today or yesterday. Change is the Law and kispensation of Nature. Tennysonian dictum comes to the mind: “Old order changeth yielding place to the new,” That’s very true indeed.
Apart from his patriotic thunders and lyrical rhapsodies, Nazrul’s trend of mind may be distinctly seen in his social poems like God, Woman, Kisan, Labour, Fisherman, etc.  He was for a world of equal rights and equal opportunities for all to the collapse and clearance of all vested interests under the camouflages of birth, creed, climes or rule. Here is the gist of what Nazrul says in his poem ‘Shamya’: “I sing the song of equality, where ringeth in every heart fresh happiness and in every face shineth fresh life. No ruler or the ruled are here, no rich and poor, no separate burial-ground for the white and the black. Here is a heaven where we all meet as brothers ....”
Call it utopia or call it what you please, but here’s the quintescence of Nazrul’s philosophy of life-humanism in excelsior. Love or human sympathy and equal opportunities for all these are the principles for which Nazrul wrote, spoke, sang and thundered.... here is one other aspect of Nazrul’s philosophy of life discernible from another poem of his summarised below: That’s his poem on ‘One Allah Zindabad’:
“Malice they preach, and in mud they play.
Let them please themselves, but let us say peace, equality and God.
They look for meanness pits and holes,
but let us look to the liberal sky and newer light and life.
They may desire enslavement but let us aim at martyrdom.
Death they dread, but death we pursue.
The vibrant youths that we are, let us play with death
and pity those who like weird beings splatter in mud for selfish gains.
They seek trouble but let us love and forgive.
Let the ghosts go to the graveyard but let us repair to the floral bowers.”
Well, let us not bother about who they are, but let us heed the advice given by the poet. In all conscience, good sound advice and very lofty maxims of life. Let us try to follow them as best as we can and better and brighten our lives. And, despite his faults and defects which are common to all humanity, I do feel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam lived life of love for all and malice towards none except the tyrants, the exploiters and the unjust as he saw them. Beneath his stormy life ran the stream of human sympathy strong and tremendous. That’s my view of Nazrul's life.
And if you scan the different shades end sections of his Poem ‘Bidrohi,’ you will notice rediments of radiant philosophy of a rebellious brand.
Poet Nazrul Islam wrote his most famous poem Bidrohi-the Rebel in the last week of December. 1921, at 3/4 C, Taltala Lane, Calcutta, in the course of a night. He was then 22 years 7 months old. The poem saw the light of print in the weekly Bijali dated the 6th January, 1922 (22nd Poush, 1328 B.S). It was later published in the monthly Muslim Bharat to which it was meant and sent for publication. The authorities of Bijali, who were intimate friends of the Poet, took a copy of the poem from the Poet for publication in reference to Muslim Bharat to which Nazrul was attached and committed. Bijali honoured the undertaking and helped circulating the poem soon after composition and to a larger audience. The Poet’s close friend and companion Mr Muzaffar Ahmad has explained that though the poem was published in the Kartik (1328 BS) issue of Muslim Bharat, this publication was, in fact, later than that in the Bijali which actually came out of the printing press earlier than Muslim Bharat. The explanation is correct and warranted by the circumstances narrated by Mr Ahmad in his ‘Kazi Nazrul Islam Smritikatha’:
“The publication of Bidrohi in the Bijali definitely led to its wider publicity. It is said that the Bijali had to be printed twice to the tune of 29000 copies that week because of Nazrul's Vidrohi which was reprinted in the monthly Prabasi and other periodicals too. I can well recollect the sensation it created in the Muslim Hall of the Dhaka University on perusal of the Poem in the Bijali. I then happened to be Secretary of the Muslim Hall Union. There was regular scrambling for the poem when the Bijali was placed on the Union Reading Room. It was read out repeatedly and several enthusiasts memoried the poem overnight. During my life-time, I have never seen greater sensation amongst readers over any other poem; so I wrote that the ‘Rebel’ made Nazrul the ‘Rebel Poet’ and created the greatest sensation in Bengali literature for its tone and tenor, its sonorous sweep, emotional outburst and rhymical grandeur.”
Now about the theme, or rather the controversy about it initiated by the late Mohitlal Majumder, a well known scholar and poet of the Bengali Literature, senior to, and regarded by Nazrul as his guiding ustad for sometime. It appears that sometime in December, 1920, Mr Majumdar read out to Nazrul his (Majumdar’s) Prose poem ‘Ami -’I’ published in the monthly Manashi of Pous, 1321 BS about seven years before the publication of Bidrohi. On this plea, Mr. Majumdar sought to make a grievance that Nazrul did not acknowledge his debt to him. On perusal of ‘Ami’ and ‘Bidrohi,’ it will be seen that the two poems may have some conceptional similarities but they differ fundamentally. Bidrohi is far superior to Ami, and the question of indebtedness and acknowledgment hardly arise. Mr Majumdar himself took the cue from KM Banerjee’s Obhoyer Kotha without acknowledgment. Mr Majumdar’s grievance was due to over-strung emotional pique, which led to certain bitterness later on. This bitterness, however, gave two long poems by the two poets. They are also of literary value.
Speaking generally, similarity of thoughts is nothing wrong or plagiaristic. The themes and ideas are nobody’s monopoly. Myriads of poets and thinkers have written on common themes like love, self, soul, immortality, etc. and myriads are still writing and will be writing on similar themes in the future.
Human minds are common contrivances-producing common or consimilar thoughts. Great minds think alike. Mr Mohit Lal Majumdar was unduly sensitive over the issue. His angry curse on Nazrul Islam was an instance of un-worthy lapse of the mind....
In this connection, I may add that a Muslim litterateur sought to cast similar aspersion on Nazrul in reference to his poem ‘Agrapathik’ patterned on Walt Whitman’s ‘Pioneers.’ In fact, ‘Agrapathik’ is translation of ‘Pioneers,’ as Nazrul said when ‘Agrapathik’ was first published in the Saogat in its footnote. I told the gentleman who showed me his indictment against Nazrul Islam that Nazrul was not to blame for his brilliant ‘Agrapathik’ acknowledgeably patterned on ‘Pioneers’ but far excelling it in tone and temper. I have read both the poems with meticulous care and can say without fear of contradiction that the translation excels the original in many respects. The ‘Pioneers’ encouraged westward move for gold and exploration while ‘Agrapathik’ was encouragement for exploration of humanistic and humanitarian ideals in which Whitman also believed. Both the pieces are fine poems attuned to local needs and temperament.
A most passionate poet of humanity as he was, Nazrul naturally and rightly sought to inspire and elevate all sections of humanity-a fact which is an additional feather to the crown of Nazrul’s glory. Those who sought to criticise him on this score were wrong as also those who have wasted their time and energy over the so-called un-Islamic ways of life of Nazrul. These critics are but obsessed maniacs unable to appreciate higher ideals of life and humanity. n
(From: Nazrul Islam by
Mizanur Rahman (late)

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