(Swadhinata, Ei Shobodota Kibhabe Amader Holo)
How Freedom Became Our Own Word
A poem is about to be written;
Millions of excited, rebellious, impatient listeners Waited for the happening
From dawn in the park's open field a sea of people has been wondering—
"When will the Poet show up?"
This Children's Park didn't exist that day
This garden beautified with flowers and trees didn't exist that day
This languid drab evening didn't exist that day
So how was that particular evening?
How were the Children's Park, benches, its trees, flowers and garden
In this park that is at the heart of Dhaka city that day?
I know dark hands strove to erase all memories of that day
Thus it is I can see in this adverse poet-less expanse today
A poet set up against a poet
A field set up against a field
An evening set up against an evening
A park set up against a park
A March set up against amarch….
"O child of the coming age", O poet of the future
Swaying on the Children's Park colorful swings
You'll come to know all one day
It's with you in mind I leave behind this tale of that greatest of evenings!
On that day this park looked completely different
It neither had this park nor this garden full of flowers—nothing of the kind!
Only, as a slice of an unbroken sky can be, the horizon was flooded that day
The vast grass-covered field wasthen lush green, so very lush green!
The lush green dear to our hearts and our beloved freedom had melded
With a vast grass-covered green field that day!
Wrapping foreheads and wrists in red-cotton cloth
To this field had come rushing workers from metal foundries
Ploughs and yokes on shouldershad come swarming bare-bodied farmers
With weapons snatched from policemen had come radiant youths!
With death in their fists and dreams in their eyes had come middle, lower middle-class people
Andsad-eyed clerks, women, old people, whores, vagrants as well
And children like you who had assembled to gather fallen leaves
A poem was to be recited—people waited eagerly for him—
"When will the poet show up?" "When will he be here?"
"After centuries, centuries of struggles,
With the resolute gait of a Rabindranath
The poet came next and stood on the people's stage
In the twinkling of an eye and in sparkling light water buoyed a vessel
As the heart began to sway a sea of people felt a tide coming their way
All doors had opened; who could suppress that thunderous voice?
Making the sun-lit people's stage tremble, the poet read out his immortal poem—
"The struggle this timeis for our freedom
The struggle this time is for independence!"
From then on "freedom" became our own word!
Now that It's August Cry Out in Sorrow
Now that it's August, cry out in sorrow Bengalis!
I know you weren't allowed to mourn for a long, long time
I know, hapless Bengalis, you weren't able to cry at all
For twenty-one long years, but you can do so now!
Cry your hearts out now for the time to mourn has come
Clear the debt of sorrow you've piled up for over two decades
In tears that can flow completely freely now!
With the tears of pent-up passion released from your hearts
Let Bengal's delta be flooded and swept away.
Most people have no idea how striking shared tears
Can look on them. Let everyone know that truth now.
Like crickets chirping soulfully across earth
Let your clamorous cries pervade and overwhelm it.
Cry out soulfully, making earth quiver with your cries!
Citizens of an ill-fated country's horn of happiness
Cry out now like a hungry baby deprived of milk
Cry out now like a lonely sister grieving for a lost brother
Cry out now like a dear daughter wailing for her dead father
Cry out now like poor people who've lost all in ruinous floods
Cry out now like a mother who has just birthed a still-born child
Cry out now like a wailing old man who has just buried his own son,
Returned home, and is flailing helplessly on his courtyard floor.
You couldn't mourn when you wanted to but cry out now
And let go of your pent up and till now impotent anger and pain!
After twenty-one years the sun called Mujib has burst through
Clouds and now blazes in Bengal's skies again. Not in celebration
But with funeral cries greet him now. Cry, Bengalis, cry!
Like the immaculate juice oozing out of an uprooted baat tree
Let tears ooze out of your eyes and flow down your face
Like the warm juice of a date palm tree that has been tapped
Let the tears pent up in your bosom trickle down to its earthly urn.
Twenty-one years have gone by and August has come again
August is the cruelest month
August is the month of mourning, soaked in sin, harsh, cruel
Free it from its sins with overflowing tears!
Fakrul Alam is UGC Professor, Department of English, University of Dhaka.