Kazi Nazrul Islam’s career as a soldier was not a long one. He served in the army for less than three years. However, the years Nazrul spent in the British-Indian Army during World War 1 enriched the poet by shaping his thoughts and creativity.
The experiences Nazrul gained while serving in the army influenced him greatly. He transformed into a politically conscious poet and began to protest at anomalies through his works. Besides, during his stay abroad he gained knowledge on foreign cultures and languages, which enriched him greatly.
Nazrul actively took part in the World War 1 as an ordinary soldier at the British frontier. He joined the British Indian Army towards the end of 1917 in the Middle East frontier (Mesopotamian campaign) during World War 1 and was stationed in Karachi. He was even promoted to a Lance Naik. He returned from war in 1920. He resigned from the army in 1922 and started a career as a journalist in Calcutta.
‘In 1917, Nazrul was a student of class 10 and he was about to take part in the Matriculation Examination, but he preferred to join the army to fight in the war instead. I don’t know what would have happened if Nazrul had stayed at home and took part the examination. However, I am sure that his decision to join the army during the war greatly enriched the poet by shaping his thoughts and creativity,’ said eminent Nazrul researcher professor Rafiqul Islam.
‘When serving in the army Nazrul became aware of what was going on around the world,’ Islam added.
‘Nazrul’s literary talent was ignited when he was in Karachi where he wrote his first published poem Mukti in the Karachi Cantonment. And his first collection of poems titled ‘Agniveena’ was published in 1922- only two years after he returned from Karachi,’ informed noted poet Habibullah Sirajee, who also added that Agniveena contains 12 poems most of which including Bidrohi, Kheya Parer Toroni, Prolayullash convey messages of freedom, equality and gallantry. Nazrul truly became a cosmopolitan poet during his time in the army as he met with soldiers from across the world in Karachi. He returned from the war as a man aware of what was going on across the globe.
‘He even wrote poems on contemporary leaders and their struggles against western occupiers. Nazul wrote the poem Kamal Pasha on Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Anwar on an Ottoman revolutionist Enver Pasha, and others,’ said Sirajee.
Nazrul’s thirst for knowledge was insatiable. He learnt Persian language from a Panjabi Muslim scholar in Karachi. Nazrul often used foreign words in his poems.
‘Nazrul enriched the Bangla literature by introducing Persian words Bulbul (a bird), Lala (tulip), Nargis (a flower) and Nawroz (New Year’s Day) in his poems,’ said Shamsuzzaman Khan, director general of Bangla Academy.
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