Siblings, Kazi Anirban and Anindita Kazi, hold that their grandfather Kazi Nazrul Islam did not get due respect, neither in Bangladesh nor in India.
That the poet’s personal belongings have not been preserved properly though the poet, with his family, was brought from India to Bangladesh with the status of national poet just after its independence in 1972 is a matter to be regretted, they think.
During their recent visit to Dhaka, Anirban and Anindita, who settled in the Indian city of Kolkata after the death of Nazrul in 1976, shared with New Age their opinions on various subjects relating to their endeavours to promote Nazrul globally and dispel misinterpretations of Nazrul’s life and works and also their pain at the negligence with which the rebel poet and others are held.
‘Nazrul never got due respect from the successive rulers in India and Bangladesh as the conservative societies of both of the countries interpreted the poet from sectarian point of view,’ observed Anindita Kazi, a singer and researcher.
‘Since his emergence as a poet in the 1920s, most of the people in both of the countries futilely debated whether Nazrul glorified Islam or Hinduism,’ said a dejected Anindita, who is also vice-president of Kolkata-based Nazrul Tirtha.
In fact, Anindita continued, the poet glorified beauty of both of the religions and took strong stance against religious bigotry that increased his relevance in the contemporary time when sectarianism emerged as an evil force across the globe.
Her elder brother Kazi Anirban, a professional graphic designer and also a Nazrul researcher, broke in, ‘I’ve got a news clipping of 1966 about a speculation that Nazrul would be given one lakh rupees as prize money of Gyanpith Award by the Indian government for his poetry collection Agneevina. But, ultimately he was not given the award amid protests that such a prestigious award should not be given to a Muslim.’
Tarashankar Bandyodhyay ultimate received the award, he informed.
A section of people in Bangladesh, he regretted, admired Nazrul for his Islamic songs and this group always tried to hide the fact that Nazrul also wrote many shyama sangeet in his 22 years of creative life and used to visit temples with family members.
‘I don’t understand the tendency behind their efforts to hide facts,’ said Anirban.
Anindita supplemented her brother, saying, ‘They should know that Nazrul had married a Hindu woman and his two sons Kazi Shabyashachi and Kazi Aniruddha [Anirban’s father] also married Hindu women. So, division between Muslim and Hindu is immaterial in our family tradition,’
Scholars who would study Nazrul’s works would readily appreciate his non-sectarian stance, Kazi Anirban said.
He informed that Nobel laureate economist Aamatya Sen recently wrote an article on Nazrul’s relevance in contemporary time when the society was sharply divided by religion.
Even the New York-based Columbia University professor of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures Rachel Fell McDermott evaluated Nazrul as an exceptional personality for highlighting both Hinduism and Islam in his creations and for taking strong stance against religious bigotry, he elaborated.
Comparing Nazrul study in Bangladesh and India, Anirban remorsefully said that the present West Bengal government was promoting Nazrul even at the district levels when the Bangladesh government displayed a kind of apathy towards promoting Nazrul.
Anindita, however, added that the West Bengal government had taken special programmes to teach young generation about Nazrul’s non-sectarian ideal through cultural shows.
Anirban continued explaining how he was shocked seeing Bangladesh National Museum keep all the belongings of Nazrul at its storeroom and how he mourned that Nazrul Institute was planning to demolish Kabibhaban in Dhanmondi, where the national poet spent his last days.
‘How can they plan so? I don’t know if it will be possible for any other country of the world to demolish its first minister’s [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] gift to the national poet. Is it the example of love for the national poet,’ Anirban asked.
‘We can’t help feeling shocked when we see poor display of Nazrul’s belongings at the house which they claim to be a museum. In fact, it has nothing exclusive to display,’ Anirban said.
Anindita broke in, ‘He [Anirban] has a huge collection of Nazrul’s personal belongings. The Indian government published several spectacular albums from his collections.’
‘Nazrul is very popular in Bangladesh and many programmes are held here in Dhaka. But not many quality publications and researches are done here,’ she said.
A frustrated Anirban said he offered both cultural affairs minister and Nazrul Institute authorities several times that he wanted to hand over his collections of Nazrul’s manuscripts of hundreds of songs, notebooks containing staff notations of the songs done by the poet, Nazrul’s personal letters, copies of his first published books and various others important materials.
‘But, neither the minister nor Nazrul Institute has responded so far,’ said Anirban, adding that he wished to hand over the materials to Bangladesh in the hope that the country would take special care of them.
‘I inherited many of the belongings of the poet and collected others on my own,’ he said. ‘For handing over the materials, I demanded token money as I spent for collecting and preserving them,’ he continued.
Anirban has more bitter experiences to share. ‘I voluntarily designed Nazrul’s translation of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and requested Nazrul Institute to publish it. But the institute authorities told me that it had not the budget to publish the book. Later, Lions Club Dhaka published the book.’
Despite these, Both Kazi Anirban and Anindita Kazi say that they are inspired by Nazrul’s lifelong struggles.
‘Despite the problems, we were trying to spread Nazrul’s non-sectarian ideal among the younger generation,’ Anindita said in a note of determination.
She will be presenting her research-based works named Aninditar Dadathakurer Galpo, which is a narrative based on several stories of Nazrul’s life and also features relevant songs and poems.
‘While doing the research I found that Nazrul practised his beliefs in his personal life. He married a Hindu woman named Asha Lata Sengupta, whom he affectionately called Promila Devi. He never forced my granny to follow the doctrines of Islam’, she observed.
‘Another important aspect of the work is to portray the warm relation between Nazrul and Rabindranath. I included this part as people unnecessarily try to draw comparisons between them,’ she elaborated.
Arirban and Anindita said they were giving volunteer services for promoting Nazrul.
They, however, requested the Bangladesh government to allocate them a house so that they could stay here.
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