Categories
Nazrul Translations

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Patriotic Poems

Translated by Professor Fakrul Alam

Courtesy: Creative Commons
ARISE, ARISE, O PATRIOT!

Arise, arise O patriot
India wants you — O endearing hero
Above funeral pyres and prison-shackle free, O hero arise
Shelter us, O one worth commemorating eternally! 
Saintly one, arise in a haven of pollen dust
Let your booming message ring across the heavens
And let your mantra of self-sacrifice reverberate
India cries out in boundless grief
Arise from your everlasting sleeplessness
Stirring beyond death, bring ambrosia to our souls 


HELMSMAN ATTENTION!

Travelers, take care, in thick darkness you must traverse
Rugged mountains, dreary deserts, and turbulent oceans.

The boat rocks, the waves swell, the sail are torn apart,
The sailor veers off course, who’ll take over, who has the guts?
Who has the gumption and can dare — the future summons!
Through this storm, you must steer, and row your craft home!

The night is dark, sentinels of the motherland, be on guard!
The pent-up desires of countless years hurl you forward!

Stirred by pain the neglected heart must now play its part. 
Bring all along, make them your own, give everyone his start! 

Hapless nations drown, ignorant of the art of survival,
Helmsman — redeem this day your pledge to free the motherland!
Who dares call out, “Are you Hindus or Muslims?” 
Helmsman — claim the drowning as the same mother’s offspring!

There is panic in the pass, travelers take fright, the sky quakes
The ones in the rear are full of fear and wary of what lies ahead.
Helmsman — halfway down the path can you forsake them?
Let them squabble, you must carry on, and bear your burden! 

Helmsman! Ahead of you lies the battlefield of Palashey*,
Where Clive’s sword crimsoned with the blood of Bangalis.
Nearby in the Ganges India’s sun set, seemingly forever.
Surely that sun will rise soaked in blood once again.

Those who sang songs of life’s victory even on the scaffold
Have come unnoticed to see us sacrifice ourselves in turn.
This day our nation must pass the test of redemption
Now is the time—the boat rocks, the sea swells, helmsman attention!


*Battle of Plassey, 1757
'Helmsman Attention!' was first Published in Daily Star, 2006

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs.

.

Fakrul Alam is an academic, translator and writer from Bangladesh. He has translated works of Jibonananda Das and Rabindranath Tagore into English and is the recipient of Bangla Academy Literary Award (2012) for translation and SAARC Literary Award (2012).

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Manush: Nazrul’s Lines for Humankind

Translated by Professor Fakrul Alam

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. ‘Manush‘ or ‘Mankind’ was published in Nazrul’s collection called Sanchita.

MANKIND

Of equality I sing.
There isn’t anything greater or nobler than a human being.
Wipe all distinctions based on country, period and situation. 
Let all religions and countries be one.
In all nations, ages, and homes let God be your companion.

Arising from a dream, a zealous priest opens the temple door and exclaims:
“Devotee, open doors, 
The God of Hunger stands outside; time now to pray to Him.”
Surely, he thinks, God’s Grace will transform him into a King!
Wearing tattered clothes, emaciated, and voice enfeebled by hunger,
A wayfarer pleads: “Open the door, I’ve been hungry the whole week.”
Instantly, the door is shut, the hungry one is turned away.
In the darkness of night his hungry eyes glare all the way.
The beggar mutters, “Lord, the temple seems to be his, and not yours!”

Yesterday the mosque was full of sweets and meat and bread,
This day the sight of the leftovers makes the Mullah glad!
Just then a hungry man comes in, sores on his skin,
He says, “Sir, for the seventh day I’m starving!
Enraged, the Mullah exclaims, “So what, if you are hungry?
Go and lie down where carcasses of cattle are cast away!
By the way, do you pray?” The wayfarer confesses, “No Sir!”
The Mullah swears, “Swine, time then for you to scram!”
Picking up all leftovers, the mullah the mosque gate slams!

The hungry one turns back, muttering, “I can claim,
Eighty years I survived without ever invoking your name
How come, from me, Lord, you never withdrew your bounty?
Should I conclude mosques and temples are not for me?
That Mullahs and Brahmins have shut their doors to the poor?
Where are you, Chengiz, Mahmud of Ghazni, and Kalapahar?
Storm all doors of these so-called houses of prayer!

Who bolts the House of God? Who locks its portals?
All doors force open, smash ’em with hammers and crowbars.
Alas House of Prayer
Aloft on your minarets charlatans flaunt themselves, 
Disdaining mankind!
Who could these people be, loathing man,
But kissing ostentatiously the Vedas, the Bible, and the Quran?
Snatch from their lips all the holy books.
Don’t forget their originators perished in the hands of such crooks!
Hypocrites always prosper thus! Listen all you fools,
Men brought books into being; books didn’t create men!
Adam, David, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed,
Krishna, Buddha, Nanak, and Kabir are our ancestors.
Their blood course through us, we are their successors,
We are their kin; our bodies are like theirs.
It is possible that one day we will achieve their statures!
Don’t laugh, friends. My self stretches to infinity,
None -- not even I -- knows what greatness lies within me.
Perhaps within me is Kalki, in you Mehdi or Jesus,
Who knows where one begins and ends; who can limit us?
Why loathe the man so, brother, why kick him at will?
It could be that even in him God keeps vigil!
Or even if he is nobody, no one exalted or great,
See him as a man besmeared and completely shattered.
And yet no house of worship or sacred book on earth
Can measure up to that small body’s worth!
It could be that in his humble hut one day will be born
Someone who in his unique way the world will adorn!
The message the world awaits, the superman not yet glimpsed,
Perhaps will appear in this very hut someday soon!

Is he untouchable? Does he put you off? But he isn’t reprehensible!
He could be Harishchandra or Lord Shiva!
An untouchable today could be Emperor of all Yogis tomorrow.
Tomorrow, you will eulogise him, will praise him to the skies
Who is that you call a rustic, who is it that you despise?
It could be Lord Krishna in a cowherd’s guise!
And what if the one you hated as a peasant so
Was King Janaka or Lord Balaram incognito?
Prophets were once shepherds, once they tilled fields,
But they brought us news of eternity—which will forever be.
Male or female, you kept refusing all beggars every day  
Could it be that Bholanath and Girjaya were thus sent away? 
Lest feeding a beggar makes you feast less,
Your porter punished the beggar at your door,
What if you thus drove a deity away?
What punishment will lie for you then who can say?
What if the goddess thus insulted never forgives you?
If your heart wasn’t so greedy, so obsessed with only what you need,
Friend, you would see that in serving you the gods became impoverished!
Beast that you are, will you abuse the God within your heart
To swallow the nectar distilled from human misery and hurt? 
Will that drink make you happy? Will that satiate your lust?
Only your evil angel knows what food will please you most.
One your evil angel knows how you can self-destruct best!
Through ages, beast, know that what thrusts you to death is lust! 

Fakrul Alam is an academic, translator and writer from Bangladesh. He has translated works of Jibanananda Das and Rabindranath Tagore into English and is the recipient of Bangla Academy Literary Award (2012) for translation and SAARC Literary Award (2012).

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Rebel or ‘Bidrohi’

A translation of Nazrul’s Bidrohi (written in 1921, published in 1922) or ‘Rebel ‘ by Professor Fakrul Alam

Kazi Nazrul Islam in 1921. Courtesy: Creative Commons`

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs.

                           The Rebel 

			Proclaim O hero
		Proclaim My head will be held high!
		My head will tower o’er the snow-capped Himalayas
		Proclaim O hero
	Proclaim piercing the infinite spaces of the sky
	Going beyond the sun, moon, planets, and stars
		Plunging through earth and the heavens
			Bursting through God’s very seat
		I’ve come—the wonder of the universe!
	On my forehead blazes God’s fiery mark—the regal sign of victory! 
			Proclaim O hero—
		My head will be held forever high!
	I’m forever indomitable, imperious, and remorseless,
	My dance is cataclysmic, I’m tempestuous, and I’m the destroyer,
	I’m terrifying; the curse of the earth
 				I’m irrepressible
		I smash everything to smithereens.
		I’m undisciplined, I’m wayward,
	I crush all bonds, trample on all bans, rules, and restrictions,
				I obey no laws,
     I sink heavily laden ships, I’m a torpedo, a deadly floating mine.
  I’m the destructive Dhurjati, the disheveled sudden storm of Baishakh.
	I’m the rebel, the rebellious son of the Creator of the Universe.
		
                        Proclaim O hero—
		Forever my head will be held high.  

 		 	I’m a cyclone, a whirlwind,
		I pommel all that lie in my path,
		I am a dance-driven swing,
	I dance to my own beat, I’m a free spirit, high on life.
I’m the musical modes Hambeer and Chayanot, the festive swing of raga Hindol,
		I’m all hustle and bustle, 
		On the road I’m all twist and turn,
		I sway back and forth,
		I’m an ever oscillating, lightning fast swing.
		I do whatever I please
		My enemies I embrace, with Death I grapple.
			I’m insane, I’m a hurricane.
		I’m the plague, the terror of the earth.
		I squash all tyrants, I rage restlessly.
				Proclaim O hero
			My head will be forever held high.
		I’m forever frenzied and intoxicated,
 I’m irrepressible, my soul’s beaker bubbles over with the liquor of life.
I’m the sacrificial fire, am Yamadagni, the keeper of the sacrificial fire   
		I’m the sacrifice, the priest, the flame too!
I’m Creation and Destruction, I’m human habitation, and the cremation ground.
		I’m the Conclusion, the end of night! 
I’m the son of Indra, the king of gods, moon in hand, the sun on my forehead,
On one hand I hold love’s slender flute, on the other the trumpet of war.
I’m Shiva, my throat blue, I drink poison churned by creation’s ocean of pain,
I’m Byomkesh, I hold the freely flowing Ganges in my ethereal locks.
				Proclaim O hero
			Forever will my head be held high.

		I’m a solitary Bedouin, I’m the capricious Chenghiz
		I defer only to myself and bow to none.	
		I’m a thunderclap, the OM resounding from Ishan’s horn
			I’m the blast of Israfil’s trumpet,
  I’m Shiva’s bow-shaped drum, the trident, and gong of the god of death.
	I’m Chakra’s ring, a strident conch, I am the primal scream!
	I’m a whirling dervish, a devotee of the sage Vishyamitra,
		I’m a raging fire, I’ll consume earth in my flames!

I’m carefree and full of glee-- the enemy of creation, the principle of destruction.
	I’m the demon eclipsing the sun and ushering in the day of doom.
  I’m sometimes placid--sometimes torrid, sometimes unbelievably wanton,
	I’m a hot-blooded youth, I’ll even humble God’s pride!
 I’m the exuberance of a gust of wind, I’m the mighty roar of the ocean.
		I’m resplendent, I am radiant,
I’m a rippling-bubbling brook—the splash of the wave—the sway of the swing! 

I’m the unbraided flowing hair of a maiden, her glowing ravishing eyes.
I’m the sixteen-year old’s love-stricken heart, wayward with passion, I’m bliss! 
	 I’m distracted, indifferent to the world,
I’m the grief-choked heart of the widow, I’m the despair of the depressed.
I’m the piled up pain of the wanderer, the forlornness of the homeless,
`	I’m the agony of the insulted, the tormented heart of the jilted!
I am the anguish of the heart-stricken, I feel the pain of unrequited passion,
I’m the tingling sensation of the maiden’s first caress, the thrill of a stolen kiss!
I’m the startled look of the secret lover, the glance forever stolen,
I’m the fluttering heart of the restless girl, the jingling of her bangles.
		I’m forever the child, forever the adolescent,
	I’m the cloth covering the budding youth of the village belle.
I’m the north wind, the breeze from Malabar, the wanton southern stream of air. 
I’m a minstrel’s soulful tunes, the songs played on his flute and lyre.
	I’m the parched throat of mid-day, the flaming, glowing sun.
I’m a softly flowing desert stream, I’m a shaded green sylvan scene!
	I rush forth in a frenzy, I’m frantic, I’m insane! 
I’ve discovered myself all of a sudden, I’ve burst through all bonds.

I’m the rise and the fall, I’m consciousness issuing out of the unconscious,
I’m the banner of victory at the rampart of the world, the flag of man’s triumph.
		I’m a storm reverberating through heaven and earth.
Lively like the horse Borwak, swift like Indra’s winged steed Uchaisrava,
			Spirited and neighing my way through!
I’m a volcano flaming in earth’s bosom, the mythical sea-horse spouting fire.
I’m a fire coursing through the netherworld, uproarious, tumultuous.
	I’m lightning, speeding past, skipping and leaping forth in joy.
	I’m an earthquake striking suddenly spreading panic everywhere.        
			Grabbing the hood of Vasuki, the snake-god,
	Grappling with the fiery wings of Gabriel, messenger of heaven,
			I’m the God-child, vivacious,
	I’m impudent, I bite into the borders of my earth-mother’s dress.

			I’m Orpheus’s flute,  
			Lulling the restless ocean to sleep,
With the caress of soothing sleep I bring calm to a fevered world,	
				My flute’s melodies enthral
				I’m the flute in Lord Krishna’s hands.
	When angry, I rouse myself and dart across the boundless sky.
Cowering, the fires of the seven hells flicker with fear and fade from my sight.
	I carry the message of rebellion all across earth and the sky.

			I’m the monsoon deluge of Shravan,
Sometimes making earth fertile, sometimes causing massive destruction--
	I snatch from God Vishnu’s bosom his two paramours.
	I’m injustice, an evil star, malevolent Saturn 
	I’m the blistering comet, the venom-filled fangs of a king cobra!
I’m the blood-thirsty goddess Kali, I’m the marauding warlord Ranada,
I sit in the midst of hellfire and smile with the innocence of a flower!

	I’m made of clay, I’m formed of the Supreme Being,
	I’m ageless, immortal, and imperishable, I’m indomitable!
	I’m what humans, demons, and even gods dread,
	I’m invincible in this world,
I’m Lord of the gods of the Universe, the Ultimate Truth of Being!
	I dance, frisk and gambol through heaven, hell and earth!
		I’m insane, I’m insane!!
I’ve discovered myself all of a sudden, this day I’ve burst through all bonds!



		I’m Parashuram’s hard-striking axe,
I’ll rid the world of warmongers and bring peace and harmony to the universe.
		I’m the plough on Balaram’s shoulders,
I’ll uproot earth to its foundations, delight in the joy of reconstruction. 
			A mighty rebel, weary of war,
                                   I’ll stop creating a stir, 
Only when the cries of the wretched of the earth will stop renting the skies,
Only when the oppressor’s bloody sword will cease smearing battlefields,
			A rebel, weary of war,
			Only then I won’t stir.

I’m the rebel sage Bhrigu, on God’s very bosom, I’ll stamp my footmarks,
I’ll slay the Creator, I’ll tear apart his indifferent whimsical callous chest.
I’m the determined rebel, on God’s very bosom I’ll stamp my footmarks,
			I’ll tear apart the Creator’s whimsical chest.

			I’m the ever-rebellious hero--
	Soaring over the world, all alone, head forever held high! 

Recitation of Bidrohi by Nazrul’s son, Kazi Sabyasaachi.

Fakrul Alam is an academic, translator and writer from Bangladesh. He has translated works of  Jibananda Das and Rabindranath Tagore into English and is the recipient of Bangla Academy Literary Award (2012) for translation and SAARC Literary Award (2012).

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

The Quest for Home

Professor Fakrul Alam translates Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Kon Kule Aaj Bhirlo Tori, a song which explores homecoming from a spiritual perspective

Kazi Nazrul Islam. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs.

In Which Shore


In which shore has my boat moored today?
What golden village lies ahead? 
Why does my boat, on a downstream-drift, 
Yearn to move upstream again?

Making Sorrow my helmsman
I had set adrift my broken boat.
Who are you, nymph of my dreams,
Beckoning me on with your eyes?

Snuffing out my room’s lamp
You called me out that stormy night.
Who could you be, my tune’s companion,
Waiting at the gateway of my song?

Oh golden girl of a golden land
Will you be my boat’s pilot?
Row my broken boat onwards
To the Promised Land! 

(This poem was first published in Daily Star)

Nazrul’s songs are sung by artistes of renown across the subcontinent. Here we celebrate his lyrics, with a rendition by a well-known Indian singer, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay (1929-1992).

Fakrul Alam is an academic, translator and writer from Bangladesh. He has translated works of Jibonananda Das and Rabindranath Tagore into English and is the recipient of Bangla Academy Literary Award (2012) for translation and SAARC Literary Award (2012).

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

The Equaliser

A Translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem “Samyabadi” by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu

Samyabadi recited in Bengali by Kazi Sabyasachi, Nazrul’s son
I sing the song of equality --
Where all obstacles have become one,
To unite Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians.
I sing the song of equality!
Who are you? -  A Parsee? A Jain? A Jew? A Santhal, a Bhil, a Garo?
Confucius? Charbakh Chela? State, state again and again.
My friend, regardless of what you want to be,
Whichever scriptures or books you carry on your stomach, back, shoulders, brain --
Read as much of Quran-Purana-Veda-Vedanta-Bible-
Tripitaka-Zendabesta-Granthasaheb as you can.
But why would you carry these burdens that only hurt?
Why bargain at stores when fresh flowers bloom in your path?
You have all the books, the knowledge of all ages,
You will find all the holy texts if only, my friend, you open your life!
All religions and eons reside inside you,
Your heart is the abode of all the Gods.
Why search for the divine in dead scriptures and skeletons?
He smiles within the immortal nectar that lies concealed in  your heart.

My friend, I am not lying,
This is the place where all royal crowns bow down.
This is the heart where can be found Nilachal, Kashi, Mathura, Vrindavan,
Buddha-Gaya, Jerusalem, Madina, Kaaba-Bhaban,
Here are the mosques, the temples, the churches,
Here Jesus and Joshua were introduced to the truth.
On this battlefield, the youth who played the flute chanted the great Geeta,
Shepherds and prophets met God on this field as friends.
Here is the heart that made the Sakyamuni meditate,
Discarding his kingdom for the cry of suffering humanity.
In the mountainous cave, the beloved son of Arabs heard his calling
To recite the verses of equality in the Quran.
I haven’t heard a lie, my friend,
No temple or Kabah is bigger than this heart.

Shahriyer Hossain Shetu is a student in the Department of English & Humanities, ULAB.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Purify My Life

A translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Shuddho Koro Amar Jibon by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) Known  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”, Nazrul was born on 25th May in united Bengal, long before the Partition. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. He was a Muslim, married a Hindu and wrote songs mingling Hindu and Muslim lores. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. He was charged with sedition by the British for his fiery writing and jailed repeatedly.

Purify My Life

Purify my life, like dawn let me rise

anew each morn.

Let me be the sunrise,

redefine my life; make me thrive

I’ve been like a depressed widow, a hurtful drop

from Bakul.

Place your hand of blessing on my head

so I grow like a verdant tree when the summer rain

pours on my bosom.

Purify my life like sunrise,

so I become the waking sky.

Turn me into every child’s book of first letters,

and the song of early birds.

Purify my life, so that I

become an island;

Or, childhood, or a new stream of rain;

I’ve drowned in pain and loneliness

And stood like a debdaru.

Purify my life like a fresh blooming flower

so I wake up like a morning’s sleepy eye.

.

*Bakul and Debdaru are both trees that grow in Bengal. Bakul bears flowers that are fragrant and white.

Shahriyer Hossain Shetu is a student in the Department of English & Humanities, ULAB. First Published in Daily Star, Bangladesh.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Temples and Mosques

Kazi Nazrul Islam first published Mondir O Mosjid (Temples and Mosques) in Gonovani (People’s Voice) in August 1926, and then as part of his essay collection, Rudromongol(1927) This essay has been translated by Sohana Manzoor.

“Kill those foreigners!” “Bash the non-believers!”—the riot between the Hindus and Muslims had begun anew. At first, it was mere bickering, then it grew into hitting one another, and in the end, it turned into breaking each other’s skulls. In defending the prestige of their respective deities, the Hindus and the Muslims screamed and yelled in a drunken stupor, but as they fell on to the ground after being wounded, I noticed that neither called upon Kali nor Allah; they cried for their mothers. They were lying side by side and were crying like two orphaned children bereft of their mothers.

I also noticed that their screams failed to deter the mosques; the effigies in the temples did not care about their sufferings. Only the blood of the fools continued to stain the stones of the holy buildings. Who would dare to erase the stain of stigma from the temples and mosques, my hero? The future awaits the hero’s arrival.

The Great Spirit approaches, the infinite being who will destroy the meeting place of these drunken religious fanatics. He will demolish the temples and the mosques and bring together all human beings under a single dome of the sky.

I am aware that the self-proclaimed “private secretaries” of the creator will chase me away by throwing their hats and caps, and blowing their shikhas, and yet they are the ones that will fall. They are the fanatics. They have not drunk the light of truth, but the alcohol of the shastra.

Those who hit Muhammad and barricaded his path, those that killed Jesus, have risen again and are in the act of hitting humanity—hurting people like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Where are all those prophets who died while saving human beings? They came to save humanity, and today it is their perverted disciples who are causing so much offence to humanity.

The God of humanity is imprisoned today in the secured unit of the temple, in the reformatory of the mosque, in the jail of the church. The mullah, the purut, and the priest are guarding him. On the throne of the Creator sits the devil.

At one place, I saw a total of fifty-nine Hindus beating up a lean, emaciated Muslim. At another, the same number of Muslims thrashed a weak specimen of Hindu. Their way of killing a fellow human being could easily be compared to barbarians killing wild boars. I scrutinised the faces of these murderers and realised that their faces were more ferocious than the devil’s, uglier than the boar. They were filled with jealousy and hatred and hence reeked of hell.

The leaders of both parties are the same and his name is Satan. At times, he joins the Muslims wearing a beard and a cap, and on other occasions, he sports a shikha and works with the Hindus. This same fellow also leads the British soldiers shooting both Hindus and Muslims. His long tail dips into the sea and his face is red like that of the wild monkey beyond the ocean.

I noted that Allah did not arrive to save his mosque and Kali did not appear to save her temple. The top of the temple was destroyed as was the minaret of the mosque. Neither of the two deities cared enough to strike the Muslims with thunderbolt, or to hit the Hindus with stones of Ababil.

Amidst all this turmoil, a few boys appeared and took the clean shaved corpse of Khairu Miah and carried him to the burning ghat uttering “Hari bol at the top of their voices. A few other boys took the body of the bearded Sadananda Babu chanting “La ilaha illallah”, to the Muslim graveyard. The mistaken identities were assumed on the basis of these men having or not having beards.

Were the temple and the mosque growing cracks? Were they laughing at each other?

The battle continued. I saw a thin, wasted beggar-woman begging in the streets with a new-born child at her breast. It was wailing in a thin voice as if protesting against its birth in the world. The woman said, “I can’t even give him milk and he has just arrived. I have no milk in my breast.” I heard the voice of the world’s mother in hers. A man at my side sneered, “And you had to have a male child at this hour too? You don’t have a pound of flesh on your own body even!”

The woman just looked at him without batting her lashes once. Her eyes were burning like stars as if she was saying, “We have to sell our bodies because of hunger. And we sell it to people like you.”

Yes, this man could very well be the father of this child. If it’s not him, it could very well be his friend or brother. Aren’t the stars from the sky hurling the same question to you?

Three days later, I saw the same beggar woman on the street. She had no child with her, and her eyes were vacant. The other day, when she had the child with her, I saw the love of the universe in her eyes and her voice was earnest. But today, the mother in her had died and she was begging for the sake of begging.

She recognised me. I had given her the six paisas I had for tram fare. Her dry eyes suddenly welled up. I asked, “Where’s your son?”

She pointed to the sky and said, “Will you come with me, Sir?”

I followed her to a dustbin by the Krishnachura trees. I shuddered when she dug out a small bundle of rags from beneath the rubbish. She hugged and kissed it saying, “My darling, my sweet.”

This was her child—her darling and her sweet. She sat there quietly for some time and then threw the body in the dustbin. She said, “I bought a tin of outdated barley with the money you gave me the other day. I fed that barley diluted in cold water to my son. I took some myself with the hope of growing some milk in my breast. But no, it did not happen. My darling could not have a drop of milk in these three days. Then the barley was finished too, and he left me just today. It’s good that he left. I hope in his next life he is born to some well-to-do people. At least, he’ll have some milk.”

The beggar woman went off to beg and I took her child and walked toward the graveyard.

On my way, I saw the Hindus and the Muslims fighting with stones and bricks. I stood and watched them with the child’s corpse in my arms. But these zealously religious people had no time to look at a dead child; they were too busy hurling bricks and stones against each other and causing havoc. They had no time to look at the mother of the universe passing them by with ten lakhs of her emaciated children. They were the worshippers of bricks and boulders.

Weren’t those houses of worshipping created for the welfare of humanity? Since when have human beings become sacrificial animals for those houses? If that’s the reason behind the existence of those buildings, demolish them. Let all humanity gather together under the starlit night sky. Human beings built the temple and the mosque with their own hands. Now just because two bricks have fallen from the structure, should innocent victims be punished?

I wonder, when the row of emaciated, hungry men and women walk by the temple and mosque, why aren’t those structures affected?  Why isn’t there an earthquake and why doesn’t the Eternal Power tear down these buildings? Why doesn’t He pursue those caps and shikhas and wipe them out from the face of the earth?

Oh, where are you, the youth of our times? You are the only ones that can overcome such adversities. O my fearless brothers playing with fire, the ten lakh hapless people stand at your door. They seek your help.

You are not part of the team of vultures; you are the roaring fire, and you belong to no race, no creed. You belong with light, with songs, with integrity. Come out and chase those vultures away.

.

Glossary

Shikhas – Crest of hair

Shastras— Hindu scriptures

Mullah – Muslim priest

Purut – Hindu priest

Ababil – Mythical birds from Islamic lore that attacked by pelting stones. Just as Thunderbolt was the weapon of the Hindu deity Indra, these birds attacked invading African armies and protected the Kaaba or the holy Islamic rock in Mecca.

Hari bol, La ilaha illallah – Chants used by Hindusand Muslims while doing death rituals invoking Krishna with Hari Bol and Allah with La ilaha illallah

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was born on 25th May. He was a Muslim, married a Hindu and wrote songs mingling Hindu and Muslim lores. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. He was charged with sedition by the British for his fiery writing and jailed repeatedly.

Sohana Manzoor is Associate Professor at the Department of English & Humanities at ULAB. She is also the Editor of The Daily Star Literature and Reviews Pages.

.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL.