The Rebel Poet, he who wrote of love and sang of human endurance, passed into the ages today 38 years ago. There was the fiery in him, a spirit which testified to man's urge to rise above his limitations, to climb to a perch whence he could observe the world. Beauty, as a great revolutionary once said, lies at the top of the mountains. Kazi Nazrul Islam always reached for the peaks. And he truly scaled the peaks.
What, you ask, might have happened in our literature if Nazrul had not been felled by the illness that silenced the poetry in him in the 1940s? How much more of creativity could he have brought into our literary perspectives? These questions have no answers, for history does not deal with what might have been. And yet more of Nazrul could have been. He was familiar with the mystique of Tagore, with the fragrance that came of the poetry in Dwijendralal, Rajanikanta and Atulprasad. But he refused to be influenced by them. He branched out, to stamp his own presence on Bangla poetry.
Think of India as it was in the heady and yet darkening days of the 1940s. Rabindranath Tagore, poet and philosopher and incorrigible humanist, was dead. And Nazrul had succumbed to silence. In a word, the voice of poetry had been silenced, first by the laws of mortality, as in the passing of of Tagore; and then by the inexplicable workings of fortune, as in the illness visited upon Nazrul. At a time when the country --- we speak of India as it was, one and unpartitioned --- was in sore need of more poetry, Tagore and Nazrul went out of our lives. So much more could have happened.
In spite of it all, Nazrul remains that embodiment of the human will to explore the diversity of life, to give it newer shades of meaning. And who better than he to inform a politically conscious people that life could be lived on a higher plane? And that is when songs like durgomo giri kantar moru come our way. Patriotism was an integral part of the Nazrul psyche; and into that patriotism he injected the spirit of resistance through such songs of grandeur as ei shikol pora chhol moder ei shikol pora chhol. Nazrul lived and breathed poetry, from day to day.
Nazrul's genius was symbolic of the many-faceted Bengali soul. Nazrul understood his people, his fellow Bengalis. And so it was that in his poetry, love, likes waves, burst on the shores of human experience. And then the waves softened into ripples. You feel the ripples in the song, mor priya hobe esho rani / debo khonpa-e tarar phool. The beauty of the beloved is transformed into magic, in that song. In Laily tomar eshechhe phiriya or mora ar jonome hongsho mithun chhilam, passion takes on hues of pained desire.
The versatility in Nazrul speaks of the man inside the artiste. Scholarship informed his works. He was not one to genuflect before power. Kazi Nazrul Islam's is essentially the tale of a struggling soul. Life, or much of it anyway, was impoverished. He acted as imam in a mosque to meet his needs. And he worked in a bread shop to keep himself going. He was a soldier. Above it all, he was a poet. And poetry came naturally to him.