Nazrul, an icon in Bangla literature, a torchbearer during the anti-Raj movement, a poet of the world, should be reminisced with due honour, solemnity and interest by Bengalis everywhere. Unfortunately however, a poet of his stature has not been properly evaluated yet. Despite his key involvement in the nation building, Nazrul remains a sidelined icon.
Nationalists over the decades have drawn inspiration from Nazrul's essays, songs and poetry, leftists have tried to portray the poet as one of their comrades, and secularists have quoted Nazrul in support of their position. Group of Muslims have fervently labelled Nazrul as a poet of Islamic renaissance, while there are others who, with equal vehemence, condemned and disowned him as a Muslim.
While every nation strives to promote their cultural excellence beyond its boundaries, we, Bengalis, seem to be quite content with lip service most of the time. Our cultural efforts, few and far between, remain sluggish. Most of us discuss or write essays on Nazrul, particularly around his birth and death anniversaries but a few days after those occasions, his works are left collecting dust.
Nazrul should be analysed, explored and remembered more often; as a nation we could demonstrate our sincerity and gratitude more. His messages of secularism, patriotism and universal harmony should reach every nook and corner of the country.
Our youth are strongly attached to the so-called ultra modern practices that are in reality little more then blind imitation of the Western culture. It becomes more regrettable when some Bangladeshis prefer Hindi songs to Bangla ones.
More so than ever, Nazrul's works should be available in all levels of education in Bangladesh. Nazrul should be included in the academic precinct, from primary to the higher level, with utmost significance. Educational institutions -- both government and non-government -- should observe Nazrul anniversaries with conviction.
Students at English medium schools are oblivious to our National Poet. They voraciously read Shakespeare, Milton, Keats and so on, ignoring our literature and culture. Studying English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, French, Spanish, namely any literature should be encouraged but moving away from one's own heritage and literature is self-destructive.
Nazrul led a diverse life. He saw and lived with people from all walks of life -- affluent and deprived, weak and powerful, rustic and civilian. His experiences shaped his literature. He had a strong sense of equality of mankind, which enabled him to right verses like Gahi shammer gaan.
Nazrul was also very vocal about his feminist values. As a progressive personality of the time his stance was very liberal in the gender issue. He professed faith in the equality of women -- a view his contemporaries considered revolutionary. In his poem Naree (Women), Nazrul refers to what he sees as long-standing oppression of women, proclaiming their equality:
Whatever great or benevolent achievements
That exist in the world
Half of that was by woman
And other half by man
It is time to echo Nazrul's messages and ideals. Today the nation needs to unite, guided by in the light of Nazrul's immortal words: “Let people of all countries and all times come together. Let them hear the melody of harmony. Should a single person get hurt, all hearts should feel the pain. If one is insulted, let all heads bow down in shame…Time for the universal man to secure his place in the world…”