If the Flute Doesn't Play Any Mor
(Jadi Banshi ar na Baje)
Original: Kazi Nazrul Islam
Translation: Sajed Kamal
Only the supreme Ruler, the Mover, the Lord of this universe knows why it is that you have chosen someone as insignificant as I to preside over this silver jubilee celebration of the Bengal Muslim Literary Association. This you know—whether at home or outside, publicly or privately, I have no desire whatsoever to preside over anyone or any place. Only the One who is the true ruler of all activities, religions, races, nations and the whole world has the right to preside or lead. Human beings can have this right—I admit it. But unless it was sanctioned by Him, it is arrogance. I consider this arrogance a messenger of ugliness. This arrogance is not divine, it's demonic. I don't worship ugliness; my God is supremely Beautiful. To me He is eternally the Beauty of endearment, the Beauty of love, the Beauty of flavor, the Beauty of joy. Upon your call when I come down to the crowded world of activities—being deprived of His company, my world inside and out cries out with endless tears. I cannot tolerate my separation from Him even for a moment. Vowing by His name I have dedicated my entire existence in life and death, my present and future, to Him. I have no hesitation today in saying that my forgivingly-beauteous Lover has accepted me for my true self.
Many of my dearer than kin literary and poet friends have complained to me that I had the immeasurable potential to give of myself to my country, to my people, to literature—but that, miserly and selfishly, seeking my own deliberation, I withheld that gift and reached out instead for the Unknown. They love me more than my kin, so to hear them say this makes me cry. The complaint they have about me, with my stoical individuality I place the same complaint before my Lord of supreme Beauty. From the ocean as I rose as dark clouds during stormy nights bringing repeated lightning and roaring thunder across the sky, I also quenched the thirst of the Earth with abundant rain. There are some who saw only my dance of destruction. But the same restless dark clouds did not just come with drums and horns of destruction, but also with tears of compassion that made flowers of love, the lotus and plants blossom and the wilderness flourish. The same clouds have brought a flood of joy, jingling of anklet-bells, resonance of divine melody and stream of songs. The same cloud lay atop a Himalayan peak as white snow. It's Power—it's lover too as if in the guise of Mahashsheta lay there absorbed in deep meditation. Amidst the same meditative state I used to recall the ocean which I came from. I would be struck by the question: "Who created this vast ocean?" Searching for an answer I would lose all my thinking, my intelligence, my pride to some supreme Unknown which lay beyond all the skies. So I tell you my friends—this is not my miserliness or selfishness. This is my calling, my own nature. What some people have gotten out of me has not quenched their thirst. They said they did not believe me when I told them of my helplessness. When a kite gets caught in a tree, pulling it only leads to tearing the kite and breaking the string. The uncomprehending mind still keeps on pulling and snatching.
You have not come to this joyous literary occasion to hear about my life's helplessness. I have already told you about that in the past. But if you force a singer who has tonsillitis or a jujube seed stuck in his throat to sing, more than singing, he will talk about the helpless condition of his throat. His pain will matter more than his tune. You have, therefore, chosen this punishment yourself; I'm innocent. The lion which has been locked up in a cage—you can keep pulling its tail—even snap it and hear the lion roar—but you cannot pull it out of the cage. Unless the one who has locked me in is kind enough to open the door, there's no way for me to come out.
The Power from the joyful crimson sky which nourished me—as I have told you—also periodically turns, as Mahashsheta, deeply absorbed in meditation. With it, I too turn silent, my flute doesn't play any more, my blood flow freezes into ice, my spirited body turns into statue of stone. It's not death, but its more joyless than death. I say this to you now—the Power has once again risen, but it's still not out of its meditative trance. If the power of Anandamoyee in me does not go back to its meditative state, does not dissolve me by carrying me away into the supreme Void, then I will once again sing the songs of love, songs of equality—of the kind that this world has not heard for a long time. But if I do not get this love from my eternal Lover, then I'll have to understand that my play has ended for this time. I will leave behind my flute on the bank of the river of separation. If someone picks up the flute from the dry sandy beach and can play it again, then my flute will be blessed.
If the same divine source which has permitted me to experience the eternal Beauty of the Formless within my body wills to accept my entire existence and returns to it the Anandamoyee's Power of Love, if a flood of tears wells up in the eyes of that Power, if once again nectar rejuvenates Power, if its feet dance to Krishna's rhythm, then I will turn this malicious, ugly, communal, discriminating, demon-ruled world into a beautiful world. What this thirsty world has been deprived of for ages—love, nectar, joy—it will get these back again. Equality, unity and peace will return again. I will be merely an occasion, a channel for all that which will be coming from the eternally beautiful and loving God. You can't get any sap by wringing a dried-up tree. Give it the opportunity to regain its sap. I know that you are extremely thirsty for joy and freedom—but you need to wait. I am myself waiting at His door with a begging bowl. If one of you gets it instead of me—I swear in the name of the supreme Beauty—I will be just as happy. I will be the first one to go and worship at his feet; as his attendant, as his servant, I will listen to his command. If you are looking at me to bring about that happy day, then please pray that my half-asleep Power of Anandamoyee doesn't retreat to meditation, that I may be graced by His beautiful look, that I can dance again rejuvenated with the wisdom, power and joy of Love.
If the flute doesn't play any more—and I'm not saying this as a poet, rather as a recipient of your love—please forgive me, please forget me. Trust me, I did not come to this world to be a poet, to be a leader; I came to offer my love and to receive love. But disappointed and hurt, silently I bid goodbye to this loveless world forever.
The constant fighting between Hindus and Muslims, animosity between nations, and wars; the inequality between the mercilessly poor, indebted and needy and the monstrously greedy piling up crores and crores of rupees in banks—these are what I came to eliminate. In my poetry, songs, music, works I have established the beauteous unity and equality. I came to forgive the ugly and slay the demon. You are my witness and so is the supreme Beauty. I do not seek fame, glory or leadership. Still, when you lovingly put me in the position of leadership, I cannot hold back my tears. I have not received His command but with the beauteous power of destruction, jointly with you, I wish to slay all the ugliness in the world. Pulled by the intensity of your love, if I have to come down from my lone void at some untimely hour, then don't think of me as that Nazrul. That Nazrul has escaped through the back-door of death a long time ago. Don't look at me that day as someone belonging only to the Muslims. If I come, I will come only as a servant of the one and only indivisible God who is above Hindus and Muslims, above all nations and creeds. Please forgive my estranged-beauteous Lover, please forgive me too, that this joyous occasion, under the overcast of an estranged shadow, has turned into a dark night of rain. Please think of me as a restless youth who came to this world with a thirst for fulfilment, but it was his departed soul suffering from the pain of unfulfilment who came to you in your dreams and shed tears.
Literature is really an expression of personality. The identity of my literature lies within my personality. Just as the lotus worships the Sun and spreads its petals for it, I too have grown looking towards my Beloved I worship. I have never accepted any obstacles, and the memory of bygone days has not misled me on my way; I have cleared my way at my own speed.
I have been associated with the Bengal Muslim Literary Association for a long time. Through the invitation of some of my friends I found a haven in the discussions at the Association. Here I also became friends with Mr. Muzaffar Ahmad, Mr. Abul Kalam Shamsuddin and others. During those days our discussions or rap sessions were truly alive with living human beings! We weren't just a bunch of so-called "aristocrats" or benumbed crows. One day Bombardier Barinda came and commented: "This is what I call a real discussion!" Today's youths are so preoccupied with building security nests, which we didn't do. We celebrated life!
I plea to you to help the Association in every way you can—especially financially, to keep it alive. If the Association is resourceful, it can offer refuge to many young talents to help them blossom.
On April 5th and 6th, 1941, at the Calcutta Muslim Institute Hall, the Bengal Muslim Literary Association (Bangio Mussalman Shahitya Shamiti) held its silver jubilee celebration. As the president of this celebration Kazi Nazrul Islam delivered this speech, "Jodi ar banshi na baje" (If the flute doesn't play any more). It was the last speech of his life. On July 10, 1942, while participating in a children's program on all India Radio, Calcutta, Nazrul was suddenly struck by the loss of his power of speech. His mental capacities were affected too. Despite various treatments, Nazrul remained in this incapacitated condition for thirty-four years until his death on August 29, 1976, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The cause of his collapse and his subsequent condition remain a medical mystery. Prior to his collapse, there was nothing known about Nazrul's health to indicate the condition which followed. Just as mysteriously, his speech—characteristically philosophical, poetic, dramatic, down to earth, conscientious, rebellious while revolutionary—seemed to be his own premonition about his future.