The case of Rabindranath and Nazrul
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
In the context of Bangladesh, infested with all sort of division, intolerance, and conflicts, there is a new need for awareness about and endeavors to highlight bridge-building - that is the work of, in Bangla, what we may call shetu-bondhon. We need to find and emphasize:
not differences but common grounds not conflict but even simple excuse for cooperation not discord but harmony not bias, prejudice, or partisanship but mutual respect not negative but positive attitude not despair and compromise but hope and determination not dogmatism or fanaticism but open-mindedness and devotion not indifference but care and empathy not violence but reason and rule of law not coercion but freedom of choice
The key is whether people want to, with a purpose or without, sow the seed of:
hatred or harmony prejudice or fairness divisiveness or unity partisanship or inclusiveness ugliness or beauty insensitivity or care conflict or cooperation
People from most diverse and distinctive backgrounds can contribute toward such bridge-building. The examples are all around us from all over the world. Here is an example of contributions of two persons in the context of Bangladesh that were conducive to such bridge-buidling: Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore.
Whether everyone likes it or not, it is a fact that the national anthem of Bangladesh is written by Rabindranath and he is the towering figure of Bangla language. Also, whether everyone likes it or not, Kazi Nazrul Islam is the national poet of Bangladesh, probably as a better representative of the heritage, culture, and faith of Bangladesh. They had things that were common. Both were born in Bengal and grew up with and served Bangla language and literature. Both were active in their creative work during albeit the same period. Both had love and reverence for everything that represents "beauty" and hatred and condemnation for everything that represents "ugliness".
Despite these common aspects, they were so different and, through their difference they build bridges between themselves and through their works sowed the seed of harmony and bond. To Rabi, Nazrul was "Dhumketu" and he offered Nazrul, among many of his literary devotees, good deal of affection. Nazrul, according to his own words, used to revere Rabi, without getting detracted from his own perceived mission and vision or compromising what he stood for. In the context of Bangladesh, those who ignore, let alone disrespect, Rabindranath because of his Indian or Hindu background, while love or revere Nazrul ought to know how Nazrul had a bad habit against Rabindra-haters. (Don't know about it? Read this document.) Such fragmented attitude would never build or contribute toward harmony, mutual respect, and cooperation - WITHOUT SACRIFICING ANYONE'S IDEOLOGY/RELIGION/HERITAGE. And, those who ignore Nazrul because of, among other things, his Islamic orientation, and would be content with Rabindranath alone, I am afraid, such people won't have been patronized by Rabindranath himself and won't be able to make any contribution to bridge-building in the context of Bangladesh.
Here are some of the ways, Rabi and Nazrul broadly represent, in varying degree, bridge-building to me, in the context of our society.
Rabindranath Tagore Shetu-bondhon between Kazi Nazrul Islam Someone akin to W. Bengal (India) and Someone akin to Bangladesh Bramho and Muslim Old and Young Restrained and Rebellious Not-so-poor and Poor Bearded and Unbearded Institutionally better-educated and Little educated Rabi and Shoni* Rabi and Dhumketu**
How many more ways you can think of? ... We need to rediscover the legacy of such bridge-building and begin to practice a little. What examples you can think of and write about either in the context of Bangladesh or elsewhere. After all, regardless of from where the examples are drawn, these are "human" concerns!
Let's shake hand, make some more people , and build some bridges.
*According to some Encyclopedia, he went to study law in England. [http://kids.infoplease.com/ce5/CE050598.html]
**Nazrul contrasted Rabi with the needed new generation of "Shoni" [Nazrul Rochonaboli, Vol. 1, p. 557]
***Rabindranath dedicated a poem to Nazrul titled "Dhumketu"
Index of my writings
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Genocide 1971 Page?
Hadith Humor Page?