Kazi Nazrul Islam: A biographical sketch

ragas and narrative ballads. Apart from these Nazrul occasionally took part in recitation and commentary of the Holy Ouran. From 1939, when he first joined Calcutta Radio up to his illness in 1942, an extraordinary development of his music took place through countless radio programmes. Nazrul had a bitter experience when someone else set his songs to music, and insisted that his songs be broadcast only with his own tunes. This was observed up to his illness in 1942. At the beginning of 1941 Sher-e-Bangla Fazlul Huq commenced re-publication of the daily newspaper Nabayug (“New Age”). Nazrul was its Chief Editor returning to the world of journalism at the final stage of his active life. Interestingly enough he had started his journalistic career at the Nabayug. It was while he was staying in the College Street office of the “Bengal Muslim Literary Society” that he began his literary journalistic career. His farewell speech at the silver jubilee anniversary of the Society at which he presided is probably the most significant and important speech he ever made. Entitled “If the flute plays no more” the speech is like a swansong in which he bids farewell to a sorrowful world. Four months later, on 8 August 1941, Rabindranath Tagore died. Nazrul spontaneously composed two poems in Tagore’s memory, of which one was broadcast and recorded on gramophone. Within a year Nazrul himself fell seriously ill and gradually lost his power of speech. Thereafter from July 1942 to August 1976, the poet spent 34 years in silence. Despite treatment Nazrul’s palsy and speech deficiency gradually increased. Two months of homoeopathic treatment at Madhupur, no results. Later, ayurvedic treatment yielded some initial results, but soon mental dysfunction set in and as a consequence he was admitted to a Mental Hospital in October 1942. There he stayed for four months without improvement. For the next 10 years his existence becoming gradually forgotten, though in 1945 he was awarded the “Jagattarini Gold medal” by Calcutta University. Then in 1952 he was transferred to the Ranchi Mental Hospital from where he was sent to London for treatment at the initiative of the “Nazrul Treatment Society”. Several eminent physicians in London including Sir William Sargent, were all of the opinion that his initial treatment had been inadequate and incomplete. Thereafter Nazrul was taken to Vienna where his condition was diagnosed as incurable. He and his family returned to India in December 1953. The rest of his life was spent in that condition. Earlier his wife had become ill in 1939 and though paralysed from the waist down, she spent the next 23 years of her life caring for her husband until her death at the age of 54 on 30 June 1962. At her wish she was buried at her husband’s birthplace, Churulia. Nazrul’s sons, Aniruddha died in 1974 at the age of 43, and Shabyashachi in 1979 at the age of 50. Nazrul had come to Dhaka in December 1940 to attend the first anniversary of the Dhaka radio station. In 1971 the Government in exile of Bangladesh continued to pay the pension due to him by the Government of East Pakistan. After the liberation of Bangladesh, at the request of the Bangladesh Government the government of India agreed to allow Nazrul to be taken to reside in Bangladesh with his family. He arrived on 24 May 1972 as guest of the Government of Bangladesh and was accorded due honours. The President and Prime Minister paid their homage to him. In 1974 the Dhaka University awarded him the degree of Doctor of Literature. In 1976 the Government awarded him the “Ekushey Padak”. On 22 July 1975 Nazrul was transferred to the Post Graduate Hospital for continuous medical supervision. He spent the remaining one year, one month and eight days of his life there. Towards the end of August 1976 his condition deteriorated, his temperature shot up to over 105 degrees, and on 29 August 1976 he breathed his last at 10:10 a.m. As soon as Nazrul’s death was broadcast over Radio and T.V. the news spread like wild fire and plunged the Bengali nation in profound gloom. Life came to a standstill in Dhaka as thousands of men and women lined up to have a last glimpse of the rebel poet’s mortal remains in the Teacher-Students’ Centre of the University of Dhaka. At 5 p.m. Kazi Nazrul Islam was buried with full state honour beside the Dhaka University mosque. Now almost two decades after his death, Kazi Nazrul Islam lives on in the hearts of millions of Bangladeshis as their national poet. Emerging from the overall backwardness of the Muslims of Bengal in the 1920s Nazrul injected the community with a much-needed sense of self-confidence. Almost single handedly, Nazrul brought about a renaissance amongst Bengali Muslims, and led them into modernity. The genius of Nazrul achieved the impossible and the Bengali nation remains eternally indebted to him. Bangladesh honoured itself by honouring Kazi Nazrul Islam with the citizenship of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.