Published:  12:00 AM, 11 December 2016

Gallant and amorous ballads

Kobita Ekattor by Helal Hafiz, publisher - Bibhash Prokashoni in 2012
            Mahfuz Ul Hasib Chowdhury defines the factual amative impetuosity of a rhymer

Helal Hafiz, one of the top-ranking Bangladeshi poets of present time does not need to be introduced to the readers. Kobita Ekattor (Poems 71) is an anthology containing a good number of the most celebrated poems by Helal Hafiz. All poems of this book are translated into English by Jubak Anarjo.
 
Helal Hafiz is one of the most successful and garnished poets of our country. The political uprisings in the history of Bangladesh, particularly the non-cooperation movement of 1969 and the glorious Liberation War of 1971 moved him deeply and got the shape of imperishable ballads through his exhilarating and whetted verses.

 "Forbidden Editorial" one of the landmark poems by Helal Hafiz ornamented him with the love and applause of readers when it was first published a few decades ago.

 The poet upheld the indomitable spirit and verdure of youth in this poem and idealized the power of young men and women to smash all adversities on the way to freedom and justice. To quote a few lines from "Forbidden Editorial":
 
"Now who is in youth
It is the best time for him to go to the procession.
Now who is in youth
It is the best time for him to go to war."
 
The above lines glare with a fiery clarion call to the youths of our country to implement their irresistible force to move out of home and join the strife for independence and self-esteem.

Youth is is the finest portion of a person's life and the value of youth has been highlighted by poets of many countries. Another lovely poem by Helal Hafiz titled "My Youth and the Sad Day" also speaks of the responsibility resting on the shoulders of young people. In this poem Helal Hafiz writes:
 
"If I shall not go to the procession on such a sad day
Simile I shall be of a coward being the successor
With my youth if I today decorate just woman
In such tumultuous time."

In these lines the poet places responsibilities on top of his passion for his beloved. Romance can wait, but one's duty to his motherland comes first with the highest magnitude of obligations. The poem also liberates the theme of love from the cloistered notion of romance between men and women dovetailing the role of love with processions and combats for nobler causes.
 
"Arm Surrender" another striking poem by Helal Hafiz holds the power to put readers in goosebumps. This poem is the poet's deepest homage to the Liberation War of 1971 and it speaks of the passionate bonds he had developed with his gun during the war of nine months.

 It made the poet sad while surrendering his gun to the authority as the war was over but he pledges to shatter the iron bars of the arsenal if his patriotic spirit calls him back to fight for the country once again. The way Helal Hafiz personified the fire weapon with which he fought deserves salutes and adulation. To cite some lines from the poem:
 
Mortal Arm, remember the love between you and me.
For nine months I had known you as my friend, only you.
 
The poem concludes in the following way:
 
"If again there comes troublesome time
Breaking the black jail
Love will be, Mortal Arm, between you and me."
 
The spectacular ties between love, revolt and patriotic zest have been illustrated by Helal Hafiz in such a mind-blowing style that readers fall short of words to admire his poetic prowess. Simultaneously, Jubak Anarjo's translations of these poems have added to these fabulous works of Helal Hafiz a universal echo of heroic epics.

It is categorically comprehended that the translator successfully inhabited the thoughts and visions of the poet. "Festival of Fire" another symbolic poem by Helal Hafiz makes allegoric allusions to 1971 with the words: "That was a festival of fire, on that day I kept my whole heart on the auto firearm."

The revolutionary vein in the poems by Helal Hafiz makes us visualize the havoc and bloodbath through which our beloved motherland was born.

 Love crosses the parameters of individual passion and merges with the wholeness of life in most of the poems by Helal Hafiz. Love is not just a soft sentimental feeling. Rather it has the power to ignite the sparks of rebellion and warfare-the poems of Helal Hafiz tell us.
 
The poet recalls the memory of his bygone sweetheart like the retrospective musings of a hermit in the last two lines of his poem "Symbol":
 
"You know, the neighbors know I did not get you But you are in the pleasure and sacrifice of this ascetic poet."
 
The poet's queen of his heart has departed, but she prevails across his thoughts and remembrances both at times of mundane joy and at the moment of monastic solitude.
 
Helal Hafiz portrayed the eternal romance between him and poetry in his poem "Brace Biography":
 
"I am in pains
The poems keep me happy, let it be.
If so many days and nights have passed
Let more of life be passed."
 
The poet acknowledges his debt to poetry for being his companion through benign and hard times. Poetry has proven to be Helal Hafiz's most trusted comrade and it never left him alone. Despite the prevalence of dismay in the current world, Helal Hafiz is not totally devoid of hope. We find an emblem of this theme in his poem "The Creeper of Loveliness":
 
"This day without love and loving is not at all final
There are days many more
Not so in distance
Like verandah close to the door."

The lines remind us of a few words found in a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, the most exalted Spanish bard. Garcia Lorca once wrote in a poem, "If I die, please wait, and keep your window open." Love is like the mythical bird phoenix. It cannot be destroyed forever. Even if it is immolated in fire, it revives over and over again. Love is one of the holiest gifts and one of the most perpetual forces bestowed to mankind by God.
The poverty-ridden and marginalized lives and woes of Bangladeshi peasants have also secured a special pasture in the poems of Helal Hafiz. "Song of a Landless Farmer" ends with the following lines:
 
"Someday this day will pass, the season will close.
Afflicted with decay and drought, desert
The unploughed aged land
Will not get the farmer even after crying."
 
The arid landscapes weeping in silence and whispering their remorse to the barren surroundings cannot be traced by anyone but poets and sages. The heart-broken farmers have left out of grief but the fields which they tilled shed ethereal tears like newlywed brides cry when their grooms move away from home never to come back.
 
Helal Hafiz is a poet of outstanding literary stature. His poems have won widespread claps and cheers from readers of all ages by means of his valorous and saint-like approach to love, freedom and humanity.


The reviewer is a columnist for The Asian Age

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