May 23, 2013 | 03:44 AM (BD Time)
23 May, 2013 Thursday
Poet Shamsur Rahman : Voice of the oppressed
Poet Shamsur Rahman dominated the cultural scenario of Bangladesh for nearly half a century. He was the most known and respected literary personality of the recent past and well acclaimed by the Bangla speaking population throughout the world. The Bangla speaking population of the world stand over 250 million and has a very rich cultural heritage dating back over a thousand years. With the division of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 into two states India and Pakistan, East Pakistan became the Eastern wing of Pakistan in the post colonial era consisting mainly of Bangalis soon to find that they were under the dominance of another pseudo-colonial power who were aiming at forcing the Bangalis of East Pakistan to abandon their age old liberal and secular culture and accept Urdu as their media of expression. Soon the Bangalis realised the ulterior motive of West Pakistan (later Pakistan) dominance and were set to reclaim their culture and language. This was in that evolving situation when poets like Shamsur Rahman and many other literary personalities came to the fore front of the cultural movements dedicated to the creation of a new era of Bangla literature. After the 1952 Language Movement, most unique in the history of any language in the world, the resistance to exploitation of the Bangalis became sharper ultimately culminating into Liberation War and Bangladesh, a new country was born with a total victory over the occupation army.
"Born on 29 August 1929, the great poet breathed his last on 17 August 2006 at the age of 76 years. Shamsur Rahman's first book of poetry, "Prothom Gaan Dwityo Mrittyur Agey" (Tr. First Song Before the Second Death) was published in 1960. He had to go through the political turbulence of 60's and 70's which also reflected in his poems clearly. He wrote his famous poem Asader Shirt (The Shirt of Asad), which was written with respect to the mass uprising of 1969 led by Maulana Bhasani. During the Bangladesh Liberation War he wrote a number of extra ordinary poems based on the war. These poems were so inspiring that they were recited at the camps of freedom fighters. Later these poems were published in Bondi Shibir Theke (Tr. From Confinement in Enemy Territory) in 1972. Later he continued writing poems in the independent Bangladesh and remained as the poet whose poems reflected the history of the nation. During the historical movement against General Ershad, the dictatorial ruler of Bangladesh, he published his book 'Buk Tar Bangladesher Hridoy' indicating the great sacrifice of Nur Hossain".
He not only wrote poems, he actually was very much with the people at home, in his writings and the crying mass of the people on the street demanding their rights and establishing democratic values. He was progressive in outlook, and however timid he might appear, he was surely uncompromising, conscious of the time and history and always led the literature representing the struggles of the people from the front. His creation helped him to become a symbol of literary acclaim reflecting the people's thoughts of Bangladesh and Bangalis. He was very liberal in attitude and always stood against religious extremism. No doubt, such a poet of force and creation could only be targeted and attacked by the extremisms. Fortunately the poet survived the attack.
Yet Shamsur Rahman is not much read at the international level although he was one of the most prolific writers of this time even in the world context who was leading the cultural scenario of a total people of 140 million Bangalis and acclaimed by all Bangla spoken people of the world. His writings were simple, communicable, devoid of abstraction, mostly writing in the form of free verse, creating his own unique way of expression.
There will be only a few amongst the personalities of the world literature who so much influenced a whole population. Yet he could not be recognised by the literature of the world and it remains to them, the admirers of this great poet to bring him to the light of world literature and put him on the throne he so much deserves even though posthumously. William Radice, an expert of Rabindra literature wrote in the Guardian on 15 September, 2006 that " Shamsur Rahman, the greatest Bengali poet of his generation, who has died aged 76, was a man of paradoxes. The author of more than 60 books of poems and many prose works, he gave in his writing an impression of effortless eloquence".
Had the poet been known to the world for his contribution in the literature and culture of a people and a nation, he might be deserving an award of world recognition for literature or peace.
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