NEW AGEMarch 7-13, 2008
Reflections on the absent poet
by Sivagnanm Jeyasankar
by Sivagnanm Jeyasankar
My reflections start with a part of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem which is used by the author Anisur Rahman as the concluding piece in the essay titled ‘The Shelidah Years of Tagore’. ‘Who ever wishes to May sit in meditation With eyes closed To know if the world be true or false. I, meanwhile, Shall sit with hungry eyes, To see the world While the light lasts.’ This book titled The Absent Poet & Other Essays quite simply reveals glimpses of socio-cultural life in Bangladesh. Though the author mentions the absent poet in the title of the book, the collection of essays in the book contains the temperament of a people’s poet. It is very difficult for a people’s poet to liberate her/himself from the inborn temperament of poetic protest or resistance. Anisur Rahman, the poet journalist can’t also escape from this reality. Anisur Rahman is simply bringing the socio-cultural reality of the contemporary life of the people of Bangladesh into the palms of the readers. The forty capsules of writings make up a 112-page book with an ‘Excuse’ from the author instead of a preface, marking the visible evidence of blindness of independent and modern society. It is not only a story of a particular country. It is the story of all the postcolonial countries. Independence changes only the colour of the rulers but not the conditions of the social situation of the particular countries, which annually celebrate Independence Day as the visible exit of the colonial rulers. The selection of issues and themes clearly exposes the intention of the author’s aspirations and expectations for a genuine democratic world for all the people in the country. Rahman sums up in the essay titled ‘Humayun Azad’s Renewal of Life’ and clearly establishes this. Rahman writes, ‘We would like to be ambitious, by following in the footsteps of Humayun Azad, and to take oath at his life’s renewal. We expect life’s renewal in Bangladesh through the freedom from corruption, razakars and religious fundamentalism. We hope for life’s renewal in Bangladesh, for a rebirth of our nation. New dreams, new times, new hopes wait for Bangladesh. That is how we patterned our thoughts. We will follow the beliefs Humayun Azad held dear. He renewed himself and the time he lived in.’ The failure of understanding this simple truth is the cause behind all the issues challenging the lives of human beings on mother Earth. The thought-provoking piece ‘Know Thyself — But How?’ reveals how we are parading towards a doomsday against the aspiration, ‘We dream of a state where our children will grow up and know themselves at home, in school and out in the wider world.’ The role of education and media in shaping up the minds of people, particularly children and youth are vibrant but effectively utilized by the rulers (it may be colonial or postcolonial) to control the people as subjects or the law and order obeying citizens. The rulers, if they white or black or brown needs crowed only for the celebration of monumental independence but not a society with creative power and critical thinking. But the cultural personalities included in the book think differently and waged a life for the creation of a positive world for all. Anisur Rahman, bringing in issues of the voiceless and marginalized to mainstream media which is the real evidence of presence of a poet in the minds of a staff reporter and journalist. This book indirectly arouses fundamental questions: to what extent are the art and literary scenes of South Asian countries are familiar to each other? How do the international pages in the print media or news segments in the electronic media portrays South Asians? Who are the sources or providers of the news to the main stream media of South Asian countries? Why the South Asians fails to connect to each other even in the electronic age? What are the elements blocking in the minds of South Asians? How are we going to link ourselves? What are the roles of mother languages and the electronic media in the interaction process? How to build the consciousness of solidarity and equality? These are few fundamental questions we have to think of in the initial stages. The essay titled ‘Language, Politics and Culture’ raises important issues for deeper and detailed studies. The author also mentions that ‘In 1998 marking the glorious tragedy of 1952 for our mother language Bengali, UNESCO has shown its empathy for the survival of every language and ‘the languages of ethnic minority groups are also vulnerable today. Here literature does not mean only literary text like poetry, fiction and non-fiction but also all works on and about science, technology, philosophy, arts, geography, and history. Here the question of translation is so vital.’ Rahman worried about the lack of initiative for exchanges only between Bangladesh and Sweden. In the essay titled ‘Swedish Writers’ Journey to Tagore’s Land’ he claims that ‘there was no initiative during the last century after 1913 for literary exchange between these two countries with rich literary heritage. The readers in Sweden are barely familiar with Tagore and his Gitanjali. They are uninitiated into the rich and very developed literature in South Asia.’ The author’s consciousness of South Asian context is a positive aspect in this regard. But the important question is why we are missing the consciousness of communicating among ourselves, the South Asians? The Absent Poet & Other Essays of Anisur Rahman is a key to open up ourselves on our own to reach our realities in order to enrich and enhance ourselves as people of South Asia and beyond.
Sivagnanm Jeyasankar is a Sri Lankan poet, teaches at the Department of Fine Arts, Faculty of Arts and Culture, Eastern University Sri Lanka. He is currently on a three-week visit to Bangladesh.
The Absent Poet & Other Essays by Anisur Rahman Publisher: Biddya Prokash