Saturday, 2 July, 2022

Essence of Poet Nazrul in Post-pandemic Era

Jainab Tabassum Banu Sonali

Essence of Poet Nazrul in Post-pandemic Era
Jainab Tabassum Banu Sonali

This year marks the 123rd birth anniversary of our national poet, the ‘rebel poet’ Kazi Nazrul Islam. The excitement and enthusiasm of celebrating his big day has been curtailed for the last couple of years due to the pandemic. This year, we are going through post-pandemic time while recovering some reparable and irreparable losses the pandemic has caused us. Still, it feels good that Nazrul’s essence will get back to us in a whole new spirit. Nazrul’s relevance in our country is eternal as he is rooted in our national identity and spirit. His both literary and non-literary essences are equally important in the post-pandemic era in order to get rid of all the crippling feelings of the pandemic.

In a capitalistic techno-driven era, an upsurge in inequality has become a problematic social (dis)order during and after the pandemic. In such circumstances, poet Nazrul, seemingly the first poet coming from the rural proletariat, becomes a must-read Bengali author to revitalize the essence of equal rights and emancipation. In fact, Nazrul declares long ago in his poem “Dhumketu”: “I come in every era/ I come again and again/ Now I have come for the great revolution”. Truly, Nazrul’s metaphysical and poetic emergence is now time’s demand.

Poet Nazrul is famous to the common readers mostly for two vital reasons: one, that he writes for the subaltern aiming at making their silenced voices heard and two, that he himself is a rebel poet who raises his voice against oppression and in favour of political and economic liberation. The poem, “Bidrohi”, that has brought him the title of a ‘rebel’ poet is charged with energy and thematic novelty in the literary arena. He practically experiments with the conventional poetic diction and undoubtedly breaks the convention. That’s why he’s called the ‘rebel poet’ of Bengal. However, his essence is more revolutionary than rebellious.

In many cases, Nazrul has been misread and misinterpreted by readers and critics for unnecessarily igniting false consciousness and lame spirit in the youngsters against the power structure. However, a partial and biased analysis is as harmful as a half-truth statement. Nazrul’s intention is to make the subaltern aware of the existence of their voices that have been suppressed by the oppressive system for a long time. In saying, “ami aponare chhara kori na kahareo kurnish” (I don’t give a damn to anyone, but me), Nazrul refers to the masters who want to sustain the mode of slave-production and destroy the autonomy of individuals.

If Nazrul were a rebel instead of being a true revolutionary, imagine what he would do during the pandemic? The pandemic has been a natural disaster which has certainly crippled our social, political, cultural and economic lives in so many ways. We passed a series of lockdowns, shutdowns and mandatory quarantines. Would poet Nazrul disobey the government’s declaration of maintaining social distance and staying at home for days, weeks and even months? Or would he just jump out in the street and fight against the invisible deadly virus and visible political system? It sounds funny, but can be a matter of debate. One may write a fiction imagining what would go on in Nazrul’s mind! Nazrul would be the protagonist of such a fictional production.

For now, the so-called new-normal post-pandemic time demands re-reading Nazrul's poems because his poems and politics profoundly intersect and create a new lens through which we can see the world in a whole new optimistic way. Although Nazrul’s poetic stance is politically clear, that it goes against the bourgeoisie, he basically sings the song of equality and brotherhood. To him, as he pens in “Manush”, “Nothing is higher than men, nothing so nobler”. He, like the Renaissance writer Thomas Moore, dreams of a utopian world where “liberty, equality and fraternity” would be enjoyed and embraced by every man regardless of class, religion and gender.

Nazrul claims that a man must be beside another man for the sake of sustaining the entire human race. He is against inequality and in favour of togetherness and brotherhood. When, during the time of inflation, solvent and rich people insanely stockpile daily necessities, the privileged class enjoys the cream and the low-income underprivileged class gets nothing. Nazrul is against this notion of making the downtrodden people suffer from hunger and poverty. Coming from a poverty-stricken family himself, Nazrul knows how the body and the soul ache when hunger hits the stomach. Taking his poem “Manush” as a sample, we must stop stockpiling food and other goods and let everyone buy what they need.

Since it is a capitalistic society, the supply of a product depends on its demand. When the product has more demand and less supply in the market, its price automatically rises. When many people buy and stock rice or oil or onion, the stock market runs out of the item and sells the remaining goods at a high price. Although there is a fixed and constitutionally passed food budget in the country, the situation often deteriorates. Even when the government fixes the price of a product at a certain rate, traders and retailers illegally increase it to make more profit and make people suffer.

When people cannot afford to buy regular and usual items for their family, they become inferior. They feel worthless. A parent works really hard to at least feed basic food to the children. When he fails to buy it due to sudden inflation, he somehow manages to provide the kids with equal sort of nutrition, but unconsciously suffers from a sense of failure. We can easily say that it is better to switch options. However, the psychological battle is real! To stop feeling inferior, many helpless and hapless parents then take the unfair routes to reach their goals. These sorts of illegal ways never take anyone to the desired destiny. The shortcuts take us to the cave of further problems.

In this case, Nazrul’s poetic lines are the savior which can save us from drawing in nonsensical thoughts and losing our senses. The poet suggests never to stoop no matter what happens. He writes in “Bidrohi”, “Keep your head held high”. Any odd circumstance will pass if we work hand in hand. If the privileged class think of the betterment of the underprivileged and act accordingly, we can soon get over any difficult situation. People must rise above their selfish interests and work to the best of their abilities to put things together again. So, let’s celebrate poet Nazrul’s birth anniversary with a view to containing his poetic essence in our spirit all over again. Happy birthday, poet. Keep coming back in every era, again and again, for great revolutions.


The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University