As a child, I was not an ardent fan of the "Rebel Poet". I was made to memorise “Bidrohi” before I started going to school; and, I can vouch that Nazrul and I began on a very wrong foot. I distinctly remember my Mamma reciting to me many of his serious, and of course, more distinguished poems e.g. “Shamyobaadi”, “Kandari Hunshiyar”, “Chol Chol Chol” to me when I was merely 6 or 7 years old from a fancy, dark chocolate-coloured book with gold letters on the cover. At that age, I was not mature enough for poems so intense and passionate as the ones in Shanchita, and thus, I dubbed Kazi Nazrul Islam as the “Angry Poet” instead of the Rebel Poet!
My next encounter with Shanchita occurred when I was in Grade 4. My parents decided to give me lessons in arts and recitation. The first poem we were taught to recite in the arts school was “Lichu-Chor”. Back in 1999, photocopy shops were not to be found in every road and alley; therefore, copying the poem in our notebooks was the easy way out. I remember my shock when I realised that my “Angry Poet” had written something as adorable as “Lichu-Chor”! I vividly remember returning home overly excited that evening, and narrating this feeling to my Mamma. Her major was in Bengali Literature, and looking back, I cannot even begin to fathom how hilarious my gushing over this “great revelation” must have been to her.
The next poem I was taught to recite was “Khuki o Kathberali”; and it remains the most special poem in our mother-daughter dynamics till date since Mamma's nickname is Khuku, and to her – I am quite like the mischievous, incorrigible Kathberali! After a gap of several years, Shanchita resurfaced from a dusty corner of our library because of my recitation lessons; and for the first time, I was awestruck seeing the universality and versatility of Nazrul.
I learnt reading by the time I was five years old, and reading anything and everything (from newspapers to complete Shakespeare to instructions found in packets of medicine) within my reach was a precocious habit of mine. Having something so stimulating as Shanchita was a dream come true, and it initiated my love-hate relationship with the “Angry Poet”. I remember going back to the cover of this magical book over and over only to check whether all these very different poems had been written by the same person or not!
In my school days, at least one Tagore and one Nazrul poem were essential part of all Bengali text books. While poems by Tagore seemed to be mostly descriptive, Nazrul's creations struck me as more thought-provoking, dynamic, and, on more than one occasion, quite heart-breaking. As a reader, I have always been on the softer and sensitive side, and “Manush” makes me dewy-eyed every time I read it.
Years passed, and my fondness for the “Angry Poet” grew. In all honesty, I will admit that he has not been my top favourite, but he certainly has been special. In our undergrad level, I had one course titled "Introduction to Bengali Literature". Naturally, Nazrul was a very big part of the syllabus; and under the tutelage of a good teacher, and reading from a more matured reader's perspective, I started seeing Nazrul in a whole new light. Shanchita has always been a great treasure box for me, and this time I started to find not only invaluable life lessons, but also multi-facets of Nazrul - his passions, free-spirit, and almost naively idealistic beliefs.
To sum up, Shanchita to me is nothing short of a box of assorted candies – you never know what is going to be the next one! Of all his creations, this book probably captures Nazrul's fanciful, whimsical, flighty persona most, changing and swinging moods and tones drastically with every poem. While “Aaj Srishty-shukher Ullashe” gives me goose bumps, and “Kuli-mojur” makes me sit down and contemplate, nothing has surpassed the joy and wonder of the nine years old bookworm that her "Angry Poet" wrote delightful things such as "Jhinge Phool" and “Khadu Dadu”.
T S Marin teaches English at Primeasia University and enjoys writing flash fiction.