Mohammad Nurul Huda :
Not later than the second decade of the twentieth century, a young Bengali poet, just returning from the first world war with an unequalled martial spirit ..." /> Logo
25th-May-2018

Universalization of the Rebel

By

Mohammad Nurul Huda :
Not later than the second decade of the twentieth century, a young Bengali poet, just returning from the first world war with an unequalled martial spirit wrote, by a. single night's efforts, an open-ended poetic text called Vidrohi, that earned him an enduring title: 'The Rebel'. The word Vidrohi exactly means the same in Bengali. The young poet named Kazi Nazrul Islam was then living in the same room at Calcutta with his friend Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed, the founder of the Communist Party of India. The poet passed the night sleepless in a bid to create a word-picture of the extraordinary text of a rebellious self that was shaping within his creative being. One can easily guess how immensely spontaneous, inspired and emotion-charged he was, to create in one night's efforts a piece of art that is destined to stand the test of time. Though composed at a single go, the text of this poem later underwent a rigorous metamorphosis not by-passing the traditional process of finalizing the draft of a poem. Most of its lines were pencil-sketches, written and rewritten with extensive additions and alterations indicative of the fact that apart from being extremely spontaneous, Nazrul worked hard in editing his earliest version. So his spontaneity was in no way bereft of his intellectual exercises. As soon as the poem came into print, the whole of Bengal seemed to have been electrified beyond extremity. In no time he was decorated with the martial title 'the Rebel' that has been revalidating its connotation as of now. Apart from being highly applauded, he was also bitterly criticized and a number of parodies of his Vidrohi were written, which however, could not refrain him from his stand as an artist and a dissenter. Hurt he was, and he registered his protests and indignations, both in prose and poetry transmitting a simple message in a self-explanatory metaphor, classifying his role as a Poet of time present and not a prophet of future.
But interestingly enough, only eight years after Nazrul was largely applauded as 'The National Poet of Bengal. No, it was not for a particular article or a poem that Nazrul was so decorated; rather, considering his non-communal interactive life-style, creativity and literary contributions, the whole of the learned bodies of the then Bengal declared him, a young man of merely thirty years, the voice of a nation in its totality. One cannot be oblivious of the fact that Nazrul was not so greeted out of emotion on the spur of a moment. The reception that was accorded to the young poet on behalf of the entire nation included the leading personalities from various fields of the society such as arts, literature, culture, science and politics. The leading representatives from all disciplines evaluated him in measured words and with a careful attention.
Recommending a poet as a national poet of a country does not essentially mean that all other practising poets of his time are insignificant, yet it is a fact that none could equal Nazrul in the total significance to become the national poet of a community called Bengali. The reason largely lies in the fact that Bengali is a composite nation and Nazrul represents in his approach all its components and diversities. It is also interesting to note that the bulk of works of that thirty year old young poet produced at that time was not a huge one, though most of his writings proved effective in reaching the doors of all concerned including the rulers and the ruled. The agents of British empire were the most attentive readers of any published works of Nazrul and these were translated into English in no time with a view to making its message accessible to the appropriate authority of the British rulers. Who did give him this title and why? Whatever might be the answer, one cannot deny the fact that the principal reason behind the same was mainly political and not literary. A firm believer in the interaction of social and political flows of any literary activity, Nazrul said, 'Literature is an expression of the personality of a human being. The exponents of classical solidarity and aesthetie excellence are apt to consider a piece of art as a separate entity detached from its creator. They are mostly in favour of impersonalisation of literature. Nazrul was all the time standing in opposition with this argument and created his literature that carried the marks of the life he lived. He represented himself both as a man and an individual, not soaring high on the wings of fancy. That is why his life and his arts are not two parallel systems, rather these are the duel expressions of the same orbit complementary to each other.
Nazrul did not contradict himself as regards his commitment to life and arts. It is largely because of a number of unopposed beings working within him in the guest of an artist and an individual that inspired him to feel that the community of people he belonged to must emerge as an independent nation. This is the basic message of Nazrul in all his extraordinary writings in prose and poetry over the second and third decades of the twentieth century, not excluding the text of Vidrohi. No other poet of his time, before him or after, defined the identity of Bengali as a martial nation who must wrest their freedom.
Nazrul even went one step further calling upon every Bengali to become a fighter and an warrior. Nazrul could think of no substitute other than armed struggles to attain the independence of Bengal. The greater community of the then Bengal accepted his message, but could not take measures in a planned way to materialise his idea. The rebellious self of his nation that Nazrul sang indeed woke up, but it did not appear as a living force pervading the nation as a whole. Bengali was declared as a nation, although the identity and boundary of this nation could not be unambiguously demarcated. It is also not untrue that the debate of defining the identity and boundary was not beyond dispute. But for this defination of the people, a community cannot be recognised as a full-grown nation.
The major two communities, Muslims and Hindus, faught for their communal supremacy, that sealed their fate as a unified nation beyond controversy. On the vast stretch of the Indian sub-continent many others spoke of Bengali, but none could give them their bonafide identity. It was not decided till then whether geographical boundary could be a determining factor for qualifying the nationhood of a group of people within a given territory. But now it is almost a decided fact. Both the communities were rather compelled to realize this truth after the partition of India. The post partition communities of Bengal have come to realize that this essence as a nation does not be in their geography, rather in their culture, which is mostly manifested through their linguistic inheritance. Bangali nationalism is indeed a language-based cultural nationalism. The post-liberation Bangladesh wining its independence as a sovereign nation is an evidence of this truth.
This explains the reason why Nazrul's identity as the national poet should be reunderstood in the renewed circumstances in today's Bangladesh and the new nation emerging within its territory. Nazrul is no more a theoretical national poet of Bangali as a nation, rather he is the acknowledged national poet of a sovereign nation-state called Bangladesh established after a sanguinary war of liberation on the basis of Bengali Nationalism. This is a truth accepted on national and state levels in Bangladesh. So Nazrul's connotation as a national poet remains to be reinterpreted now in the newer perspective since the Bengalis are now blessed with a sovereign political identity. The citizens of Bangladesh are now identified as Bangladeshis.
But with the advent of twenty-first century, (the poet himself of almost same age with the outgoing century), Nazrul is legitimately claiming a much wider identity. A born rebel and a poet, he was all his life a self-taught and self-trained person. His person lore is growingly becoming a centre of attraction by researchers from various parts of the world. The reason largely lies in the fact that his approach towards the liberation of mankind has transcended the boundary of time, place and the previleges enjoyed by a particular community. Side by side, Nazrul is being increasingly translated into world languages, including English, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Arabian, Urdu, Hindi and most of the regional languages of the subcontinent. In one of the centennial seminars organised in Nazrul Institute (the national organization for research on the poet, set up in Dhaka) the veteran Indian novelist Ms Mahashweta Devi expressed her high optimism about the ever-increasing study of Nazrul's essence on a global perspective, since Nazrul had much earlier pointed out the solution of the crisis of civilization humankind has been confronting as of now. That solution is nothing short of human freedom at individual and collective level. Mankind can not prosper universally without allowing every individual his legitimate rights and liberty. Similar is true of Professor Henry Glassie, a most leading folklorist and literary critic from the USA. In one of his centenary lectures delivered in Nazrul Institute, Dhaka on the same date (15/05/2000) he rated the poem 'The Rebel' as a most significant one written in the twentieth century. To him, Nazrul is one of the most leading humanists of the century, and his relevance to the whole of mankind depends on three aspects in the main: freedom, justice and love. These aspects are interwoven as an extension of a unified belief based on the argument that every freeman is prone to rear love for himself and others around him. And a person with love inside his being can do no injustice to himself and others. So these are the three interwoven concepts required for a person as an individual and a member of collective entity. This is how Nazrul's rebellious self is inspired with righteousness and love for all. His revolt is an instrument for realizing this truth. Under this global perspective, Nazrul's identity remains to be reexamined and reevaluated. He is now a universal poet belonging to any part of the world. However, what will be the most appropriate way to recognise him, remains to be determined by the generations who would emerge and dominate the new century. We may humbly submit that mankind in the twenty-first century would refix Nazrul's role in their quest for a world-state based on multiculturalism that takes into account the need of national identity of each unique group of people in any part of the world, a concept that Nazrul tried to uphold in his very single poem 'The Rebel', a unique combination of the opposites, revalidating the much uttered slogan of creative diversity.
2
The appreciation and interpretation of the The Rebel by the foreign critics and literary personalities, among whom most recent inclusions are Professor Winston E. Langley from the USA and Dr Kyoka Niwa from Japan, are mostly based on English versions of the original Bangla text cal1ed Vidrohi having 139 uneven versified lines. Many of the translated texts are excellent interpretations of the original, but none of them are exact reproduction of the poetry and the message given in the Bangla version by Nazrul himself. We believe that almost an exact literal translation of all the 139 lines of the poem carrying the message as well as the central symbols, metaphors, images and other poetic suggestions are necessary for a deeper understanding of the poem. However, we know it well that the music and the aesthetic excellence of the origininal can never be reproduced in any other language, since the highest kind of poetic creations, Vidrohi being of the same aesthetic height, can hardly be equally echoed in a second or target language. So a humble literal echo of all the lines of the poems by the present author is given below. I am indebted to all the earlier translators and interpreters of the poem in preparing the following text in English.

The Rebel
Hail     hero, the valiant
Hail     elevated is my head,
Seeing this my head the Himalayan peaks are bent and knelt.
Hail ripping apart the great sky of the great universe
surpassing the moon, the sun, the planets and the stars
piercing through the earth, the heavens, the cosmos, rending through Khuda's, throne the Ars,

I've risen -- I, the eternal wonder of the mother universe.
The furious Bhogown shines on my forehead
as though a royal madallion of a victory grand.

Hail,     hero, the valiant
ever elevated is my head.

I'm ever indomitable, disobedient, cruel,
I'm Notoraj, the dance-king of the doomsday upheaval
I'm the cyclone, I'm the destruction,
I'm the terrible horror, the curse of the earth,
I'm irresistible, I grind everything to pieces.

I'm lawless and licentious,
I trample all the bonds, all the rules and disciplines!
No law I do ever obey,
I cause the loaded ships sink,
I'm the torpedo I'm the fearful floating mine.
I'm Dhurjoti the untimely Summer storm with dishevelled hair.
I'm the rebel, the rebel son of the mother universe.
Hail hero, the valiant,
Hail ever elevated is my head.

I'm the hurricane, I'm the whirl-wind
I crush whatever I find on my path.
I'm the dance-crazy rythm,
I dance to my own beats,--
 
I'm the free rejoicing of life.
I'm hambeer, I'm Chayanot, I'm hindol  
I move restless, I caper and dance,
Suddenly frenzied on my way,
I swing, leap and make three somersaults.
I'm indeed swift-moving hindol.
I do anytime anything what this my heart desires,
I embrace the enemy and wrestle with death.
I'm intoxicated, I am the tempest!
I'm the pestilence, I'm the dread of this earth;
I'm the ruler's terror, the terminator, I'm warm and ever restless.
Hail,     hero, the valiant,
Ever elevated is my head.

I'm ever untamable, uncontrollable,
I'm irrepressible, my cup of soul is alway's full of elixir.
I'm the hom-fire, the sacrificial Jamadagni,
I'm the ritual, I'm the priest, I'm the fire.
I'm the creation, I'm the destruction,
I'm the habitation, I'm the cremation ground,
I'm the end, the termination of night,

I'm the Indrani son, the moon in my hand, the sun on my forehead,
My one hand holds the curved bamboo flute, the other the war-bugle.
I'm Krishna's throat, I drink poison from the ocean of pain,
I'm Byomkesh, I hold the free-flowing steam of the Ganges.
Hail hero, the valiant,
Ever elevated is my head.
 
I'm Beduin, I'm Chenghis
I salute none but myself.
I'm thunder, I'm the Om of Ishan's horn,
I'm the mighty roar of Israfil's bugle.
I'm Pinak-pani's hour-glass drum, trident, the sceptre of the Lord of justice,
I'm the Chakro and the great Shonkho, I'm the mighty primordial cry.
I'm the angry disciple of Durbasha-Vishwamitro,
I'm the fury of wild fire, I'll burn this universe to ashes.
I'm open-hearted laughter-ecstasy,-- I'm violent terror, creation's enemy,
I'm twelve-suns' eclipse on the Day of Doom.
I'm quiet at times, at times crazy and autocrat,
I m the youth of dawning blood, I crush the vainglory of the creator!
I'm the fury of windstorm, I'm the tumultuous roar of the ocean,
I'm radiant, I'm effulgent,
I'm swelling water-rippling, Swinging dance of waves rolling!

I'm the braid of an unbridled maiden, the fire in her sharpened eyes,
I'm the unrestrained love of the heart-lotus of a girl of Sixteen, I'm in bliss.
I'm the pining heart of the indifferent,
I'm the weeping sighs of a widow's heart, profound regret of the repentant.
I'm the pain of all ever-deprived, ever-homeless path-dwellers, wayfarers,
I'm the anguish of the insulted, his poisonous burns,
recovery of the jilted lover.
I'm the longing of an ever agrieved dejected heart, its endless pain,
The throbbing tenderness of a stolen kiss, I'm the first touch of a virgin.
I'm the timid glance of the veiled beloved, her deceptive looks all the times,
 
I'm the love of a never-quiet girl, the ringing music of her bangles."
I'm the eternal-child, the eternal-adolescent,
I'm the bodice the modesty-vest of a village girl afraid of her own youth.
I'm the northern wind, the southern breeze, the careless wind from the east,
I'm the solemn song of an wandering ministrel, the music of his flute.
I'm the unsatiable mid-day thirst, I'm the fierce-shining sun,
I'm the soft flowing desert fountain, I'm the shadowy image of greenery.
I run and rush in blissful ecstasy, I'm insane, I'm insane!
I've known myself all on a sudden, all my barriers are broken open!
I'm the rise, I'm the fall, I'm the conscious in the unconscious soul,
I'm the victory flag at the gate of universe, the banner of human triumph.
I rush like a hurricane clapping my hands,
holding the earth and the heaven on my palm.
Taji borrak and uchchaishraba are my chariots, neighing with valour.
I'm the volcanic irruption in the bosom of the earth, the constant fire vomitted
by the sea-horse, the divine conflagration annihilating the universe,
I'm the frenzied sea of fire under the earth, with violent sound and fury
I fly on the wings of lightning snapping the fingers, jumping carefree,
I terrify the world suddenly causing earthquakes all around
I clasp the hood of Basuki, the snake-king,
I cuddle the fiery wings of the heavenly angel Gabriel,
I'm the divine child, I'm restless, brisk
I tear with my teeth the scarf of the mother universe.

I'm the flute of Orpheus
The great ocean heaving and slumberous,
The slumber that kisses the whole universe making it quiet,
 
My flute's tune entering inside.
I'm the flute in Shayam's hands.
When I rush into anger traversing the vast sky,
The flames of the seven hells inclusive of habia tremble and die!
I'm the rebel messenger across the earth and the sky!

I'm shravon's flood-inundation,
Sometimes I make this earth illustrious, sometimes utterly disastrous-
I'll snatch away the two maidens from Vishnu's bosom!
I'm injustice, I'm meteor, I'm saturn,
I'm the poisonous cobra, comet's burn!
I'm the headless Chondi, I'm the ruinous warlord Ronoda,
I'm the smile of a flower sitting amidst the fire of Jahannam.

I'm made of clay, I'm made of eternal soul,
I'm unaging, undying, undecaying, I'm eternal.
I'm the dread of men monsters gods, the ever- unconquerable of the universe,
I'm the creator of world's creator, the truth of the supreme being,
I traverse tremendously the earth, the heaven and the underworld!
I'm insane, I'm insane!
I've indeed known myself, all my barriers broken, open.

I m the merciless axe of Porshuram,
I'll make the world free of fighters,
I'll bring peace, tranquil and generous.
I'm the plough on Boloram's shoulder,
I'll uproot  this dependent world effortlessly in the noble joy of new creation.
 
Weary of wars, I, the Great Rebel,
Shall rest in peace only on that day
When the piteous groans of the oppressed
shall not reverberate in the sky and the air,
When the tyrants' swords and daggers shall not
rattle in the fierce warfields,-
Weary of wars, I, the Rebel
Shall rest in peace only on that day.

I'm the Rebel Bhrigu, stamping foot-prints on Bhogowan's chest,
I slay the creator, tearing apart the chest of whimsical god,
the bringer of griefs and sorrows.
I'm the Rebel Bhrigu stamping footprints on Bhoghowan's chest
I'll tear apart the chest of the whimsical god.
I'm the Eternal Rebel, the Hero am I --
I've risen alone surpassing the world, my head ever elevated and high.

My first deviation from most of the existing translated texts lies in the very first three lines where the head of the hero or the valiant (I/Self) has been described as 'unnoto', which has often been translated as 'high', that does not exactly echo the significance of the Bangla word implying the connotation of development through human efforts. The clause 'unnoto momo shir' may be rendered into English as under:
1. high is my head.
2. erect is my head.
3. developed is my head.
4. lofty is my head.
5. lofted is my head.
6. elevated is my head.

To me, the sixth alternative seems to be most befitting since it includes human efforts in glorifying the lofty hights of 'I', the individual man who is figuratively equated with the global man as well as the endless cosmos. In 139 lines of the original poem there are   nearly eight hundred words, of which 'I' is directly repeated for 127 times. The process reminds one of the whirling dance of the god Shiva, almost an archetypal character symbolizing the phases of creation in Indian mythology.
The process destroys everything without lost mercy in the joy of creating a new order. It is also to be noted that despite the interweaving of all the dominating world myths such as Semetic, Greek, Chinese and Indian ones, the references to Indian gods and goddesses are oft-recurrent. In the present translated text almost all the mythological figures and references have been kept unaltered. It is interesting to note that the foreign readers would be able to grasp meaning of each line and the poem as a whole without readily looking in to the literal meaning of these words and references. However, for a deeper understanding of those references, one must consult mythological dictionaries, not the general ones containing word meanings. For instant reference a list of almost all the mythological words and references are given with brief meanings:
Khuda (Creator according to Islam), Ars (the seat of the Creator), Bhogowan (Creator according to Indian Vedic belief), Notoraj (Shiva, the Indian god who makes wild dance to destroy with a view to creating anew), Dhurjoti (another expression of Shiva), Hambeer, Chayanot, Hindol (names of Indian musical notes), jomodogni (an outstanding saint having deep knowledge in all the four Vedas), Israfil (the angel who would blow the final whistle to destroy the world as per Islamic belief), Krishno (the full incarnation of Vishnu), Indrani (Sochidevi, Indra's wife), Bhomkesh (another expression of Shiva), Chenghis (the great Mongol conqueror 1162-1227 Ad), Om (the holy sound uttered by Hindus at the start and end of any holy work. Also the earliest sound.) Ishan (another expression of Shiva), Pinakpani (another expression of Shiva), Chokro (circular weapon in the hands of Hindu god Vishnu), Songkho (conch-cell in Vishnu's hands), Durbasha (hot tempered Hindu saint who cursed his wife to be burnt to ashes), Vishwamitro (a saint who was a born warrior, but became pious brahmin by dint of his worship), Taji Borrak (mighty celestial horse that took Prophet Mohammad Sm to Allah), Uchchaishrava (A white sea horse, the vehicle of Indra), Basuki (the snake-king holding the earth on her head), Shyam (anothet expression of Krishna), Shravon (the fourth month of Bengali calendar), Vishnu (another name of Narayan and Krishna), Chondi (the ferocious godess who severed her own head), Ronoda (the war god), Jahannam (a hell), Porshuram (the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. Son of Jomodogni and Renuka.), Boloram (an eternal incarnation, one of the tenth, of Vishu).
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