Restless Wanderer | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 29, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:13 AM, May 29, 2021

A translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s “Duronto Pothik”

Restless Wanderer

He walked on an inaccessible path filled with thorns. Looking back he saw that a million of unblinking eyes were watching him. Boundless optimism reflected from those eyes and filled the traveler's heart with an intoxicating pride. He asked with a gratified smile,"So tell me, what is the source of the unbound encouragement of your look?"

The thousands of  bright onlookers replied, "O fearless wanderer! We got our strength from you, your journey!"  Only one voice among the thousand said with brimming compassion, "The young wanderer is likely to lose his life on this inaccessible path!" A million voices roared  in response: "Quiet, you coward! This is the true and eternal journey that the human soul must take!"

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The wanderer immersed  himself in the  blessings of the onlookers. The hidden truth inside him resonated like the melody of the veena, as if someone struck its cord with a finger and said, "move forward!"

The greenwood bestowed its youth upon him and said,"Here I put the sacred  mark of the coronation of youth on you; you will be forever young and immortal!"

The faraway sky bowed down and kissed his forehead. The horizon where the earth and sky meet  guided  him towards  unrestrained freedom. The leaves on the branches of  trees waved and welcomed him. A fiery tune of awakening of  souls came from the entrance of the land of freedom, and he ran like a deer following the tune to reach emancipation.

"Oh! Where is your principal gate? Please open up, show me the way, give me light!"

The  incantation of the wellbeing of the universe surrounded him and said,

"It's not yet time! You must travel further!"

The wanderer was startled and he said,

"It is you that I want!" the unfamiliar companion replied, "If you want me, you have to cross that door standing on that elevated piece of land."

The restless wanderer sped up and said, "Yes, that is my target!"

The blue sky peeped through the woods and was astonished to see the wanderer, and the voice of  millions of youths resonated with him, "That is our target too. Move, let's move forward. We follow your footsteps."

"You may face death on this path," said the wanderer with the pride of being the torch bearer.

The fiery voices of the youth rang out, "We don't care! This is not the end; this is the beginning!"

The elderly people with broken thoraces walking at the rear were shaking all over in fear of death. Someone riding over their shoulders mimicked them saying, "Here  is death!"  A bonfire was lit in order to camouflage their sights. Another was leading these old men towards the bonfire as he tried to refrain from laughing. He pointed his finger, "See! There is your fire to extinguish selfhood and get immersed with  divinity. Why would you lose your lives  trying to travel on the bumpy path? It is for the restless wanderers, not elderly people. And those youthful ones will perish soon." The elderly people lifted their hands upward and answered, "Yes! Of course!"

Some voices warned them, "you idiots! It's just as well! They will burn you in fire bit by bit."

The herdsman  laughed saying, "Don't listen to them! They have a long way to go, the road is dangerous and full of many impediments, pain and sorrow. Your goal lies ahead, right there!"

The restless wanderer followed the tune of flute that came from the liberated land. Now he was faced with the tumultuous tortures of the path. He saw that some footprints were still visible. The path also presented him with some skulls  as if telling him, "See! This is what happens to those who tread this path!"

The young traveler said, "Ah! But these are the people who have summoned me! I would welcome this death. My death wouldn't be my end; rather I would be alive among the young people who are following me along this journey.

Terror inquired, "Who are you?"

The wanderer smiled and answered, "I am eternal emancipation, see these skulls? They are not dead but they are alive in me and the many of us. I have come with a new light, new life and this new youth is immortal."

Terror shook with rage and roared, "Don't you know who I am?  I am bondage. Whatever you say, my mission is to kill you. I will bind all those who want freedom. You have to die."

The restless wanderer stood his ground and declared, "You can bind me, you can beat me but you can't stop me. I'm deathless. I'll reincarnate."

Terror barred  his way and said, "For as long as I'm able I will kill you every time you come. I dare you to kill me or be ready to be killed by me."

The ever-young travelers with luminous bodies  who had reached the land of freedom stood at the veranda  and welcomed  him to join them . The wanderer asked, "Is it worth giving up this life?"      

The free souls from the free windows replied in  a moist voice, "Yes, it is! People have welcomed this death through ages. You will lead thousands of lives to freedom and there lies   your success. Your death will make us ever awake, immortal."

The young traveler then bared  his chest and uttered," Strike me with your sword then!"

All the young travelers picked up the lifeless body of the restless wanderer on their shoulders and cried, "Please return to us !" Somewhere from the distant  horizon  came voices in concord:                    

Lands abuzzed with the resonance of the trumpets.

Heroes are welcomed to take seats.


Jackie Kabir is a writer and translator.  

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