Nazrul In Sylhet | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 25, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 25, 2008

109th anniversary of our National Poet

Nazrul In Sylhet

(Top)Kazi Nazrul Islam (3rd from right, front row) at the office of Jugabani in Sylhet. The photo was taken in 1926. (Bottom) Poem composed by National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (in his own handwriting) during his stay at Sadir Bhaban, Ambarkhana, Sylhet, on 2 Kartick 1335 BS (1928 AD). Photo Courtesy: Muhammad Nasirul Haque

In 1926, the "rebel poet" visited Sylhet for the first time. In his memoirs, Dewan Mohammad Azraf narrates how the idea of bringing Kazi Nazrul Islam to Sylhet developed. While studying at the Sylhet Murari Chand College (commonly known as MC College), Azraf came up with the idea and one of his classmates named Aziruddin inspired him in this regard. One fine morning, Nazrul was spotted on a train at Kulaura station. Starting from Gauhati via Lamding, he was on his way to Chandpur as part of his trip to Calcutta. Despite repeated requests from many, he could not make a stopover, as it was urgent for him to reach Calcutta on time.
Later, the then student leader Amiya Kumar Nandi and Azraf were given the responsibility to persuade the poet to come to Sylhet and join a students' convention. The venue was Raja Girish Chandra High School and Editor of The Bengali Shyam Sundar Chakravarty and Nazrul were invited. But, the organisers returned disappointed from the station, as Nazrul did not turn up. Another attempt to bring him to Sylhet, made for a programme organsied by the Assam based Muslim Students' Association, met with a similar fate.
The weekly Jugabani in early April, 1926 published a story claiming the poet was coming to Sylhet to attend a programme organised by the Congress. And so he did. Harendra Kumar Chowdhury arranged the programme and the poet resided at the house of Raibahadur Ramanimohan Das at Nayasarak area. Suffering from a bout of fever, followed by chicken pox just within a day or two, he remained confined in the house. Nazrul was therefore unable to attend any programme that time.
The poet had to stay in Sylhet for about a month due to his illness. Khan Bahadur Dewan Eklimur Raza (son of legendary bard Hason Raza), in his article Nazrul in Sylhet, writes, "The poet insisted that before any one else contracted the disease, he should be sent back to Calcutta. Accordingly, everyone complied."
Invitations were sent again to Nazrul, along with A.K. Fazlul Haque and Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah to attend a programme by the Assam Provincial Muslim Students' Association in Sylhet, in September, 1928. Nazrul was at Krishnanagar then; Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah was in Calcutta and Fazlul Haque was practicing at the Calcutta High Court. Saiful Alam Khan contacted the poet. Khan was the secretary of Sylhet Association in Calcutta. Khan writes, "We went to invite the poet who used to stay at Bibekananda Road. He accepted the invitation graciously."
Khan Bahadur Muhammad Bakht Majumdar was made chair of the reception committee and the weekly Jugabani Editor Maqbul Hossain Chowdhury was the secretary. Abdul Muhit Chowdhury was sent to Kulaura Station, 30 miles away from Sylhet to welcome the guests.
Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah's son, Muhammad Shafiullah, who was accompanying the entourage, narrates, “We were on our way to Sylhet via Chandpur. We were having launch on a steamer. My father had just returned from Paris. He was habituated to using fork and spoon. It was a little difficult for me. Nazrul observed my predicament and said, 'Eat with the spoons which Allah has given you." Fazlul Haque chimed in, 'Is there anything easier to eat with than hands?'
"We all boarded a train at Chandpur. As the train reached Sylhet in time, we noticed that the station was over crowded with the admirers of all ages.
"Nazrul stayed at Maqbul Hossain Chowdhury's home at Dargah Mahalla and Fazlul Haque stayed at the bungalow. In the afternoon the guests joined a programme at the Raja GC High School. As the poet was about to start singing, a maulvi asked, 'Is music jayez?' Fazlul Haque took the opportunity and said, 'It depends on the singer and on his intention. If he does it to charm people, it wouldn't be jayez, if it is done to inspire them for a great cause, it would be alright.'
"Nazrul then said in his nonchalant manner, 'A cuckoo sings at it's will in the spring. When a crow chases it, the cuckoo leaves the place but doesn't quit singing. I will sing. If you chase me away, I will leave. This seemed to pacify the heckler. Then Nazrul sang -- Bajlo kirey bhorer shanai, Chal chal chal and Durgam giri kantar maru."
During his second visit, the poet stayed almost a month in Sylhet. Almost every day he used to attend formal and informal programmes and gatherings. All the teachers of MC College and their wives joined him at dinner at the residence of Vice Principal of the college, Khan Bahadur Abdullah Abu Sayeed. A number of musical soirees were arranged during that trip; the poet sang at some.
During the first trip Nazrul had made commitments to visit the house of Hason Raja. But in 1928, Eklimur Raja was on a trip to Madras. Young poets like Abdur Razzaque and Abdul Gaffar Dutta Chowdhury met Nazrul who admired their writing.

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