Rachel McDermott works as a Professor in Columbia University, USA. She studied Bangla in Santiniketan and started translating some of the songs and poems written on the Goddess, Kali. In this connection, she met with Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (his works) and started a new journey aiming to understand more of Nazrul and translate his works into English. Last year (2014) she came to spend some time in Kolkata and Bangladesh. Her quest was to know poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in greater details.
Her first question to me was “What is your perception of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who is he to the people of Bangladesh?” My instant answer was that “Kazi Nazrul Islam is the writer of the song O mon ramzaner oi rozar sheshe elo khushir Eid, this is the song known to every single person, man, woman, child, adult of this country. Even the 'Rebel' poem is not so widely known. Eid is incomplete without this song and this one song enjoys phenomenal popularity.” I added, “From my childhood I have been an ardent fan of Nazrul, and have played many roles. Out of all the roles that I have played, Nazrul Islam's Islamic songs have brought me closest to the audience.”
I explained to Rachel how during the month of every single Ramadan, the sehri and iftar are marked by the rendition of Islamic songs written mainly by poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. How vividly he has described the Islamic history in his songs. How poignantly he has expressed his wish to visit Mecca, Medina ,the seat of The Prophet (SWT)'s birth, hijrat and how beautifully he has illustrated the love of Ma Ameneh ,the mother of The Prophet ,Muhammad. Some of the songs contain pieces from the suras, the indepth knowledge of Arabic in reference to the events mentioned in the Holy Quran have been rewritten to form simple messages which then enter the hearts of the people. Those who do not understand the content of the Arabic suras can get to know Islam through the songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Ramadan is a month of sacrifice and self-discipline. It is a month of consolidation with the family. At other times, we get a partial segment of the population as viewers/ listeners of TV/Radio. During iftar and sehri the entire population waits expectantly for the azaan. The songs in praise of Allah (hamd) and those in praise of his beloved Prophet (SWT) are aired at those times and enter the head and hearts of the listener. One seller in the sari shop Kanishka asked me with eagerness, “Apa, I see you on TV at 3 am for sehri, do you go there at that time?” I feel humbled by people's simplicity.
In this connection, artist Khaled Hossain has played the pioneering role. Every year, ever since I can recall, he has led us to listen to poet's Islamic songs and brought us closer to the Islamic doctrines. It has been followed by artists MA Mannan, Shaheen Samad, Fatema Tuz Zohra, Yasmin Mushtari, Leena Taposhi, Salauddin Ahmed and Yakub Ali Khan, Rahat Ara Giti, Roshan Ara Shoma, Nousheen Laila. Thanks to all these artists who have kept the lamp burning. It is not an easy task to record songs during Ramadan, nor is it easy to sing by heart, memorizing the difficult Persian/Arabic words .
I stood next to the lift, waiting for it to reach the 8th floor, the apartment of my friend Kaniz Siddiki. Her domestic staff came running, she asked me to wait one second. She brought her mobile, “Apa, my son recorded your Islamic song for me.” I heard myself sing, 'Ore ke bole Arabe nodi nai.” My friend Dr Tasneem Fateh was with me, we both cried.
Through this essay, the nation pays tribute to all those who listened, all those who cried.