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(3)Prose>Ali Azgor Talukder - Al Mahmud Poetry: An Introduction (part-1)

Ah! I wish the lying boy came back again
And standing against the people and their mockery, like a 
bard,
Cried, ‘Death comes, O the villagers – 
Beware!’

The shepherd, who in the traditional story is depicted as a 
liar and so has always been humiliated, here 
in ‘mithyabadi rakhal’ surprisingly appears as a tragic 
hero telling the truth. Thus the variety of 
experiences and the way of thinking in Al Mahmud’s 
poetry fascinate the readers. Solely rooted in his own 
soil the images in his poetry suggest distinct, poignant 
and purely original feeling, emotion, instinct and 
knowledge. The chronological development of his poetry 
involves a mystic journey rebellious in tone based on 
love instinct, traditional lays and legends, daily domestic 
events and mystery etc., which have a sensual 
ring.

Bangladesh is a country of monsoon and soft fertile soil. 
Here the common people live near the soil and 
crops. And there they always pray for the safety of life 
and livelihood. Al Mahmud’s poetry picks up that 
life along with its warmth, feeling and significance. An 
instance may be his ‘Sonali Kabin 14’ where, to 
announce the honesty of his heart, the speaker swears 
upon the factors related to livelihood i.e. rain, 
paddy-grains, fish, meat, cows heavy with milk, the 
plough, the scythe, and the wind-blown full sail. The 
love instinct of these people are preoccupied with a sense 
of safety of life and livelihood. And ‘Sonali 
Kabin, 13’ reflects that phenomenon by juxtaposing 
lovemaking with the images of harvesting. 

With paddy grains in a lucky tray waiting all the villagers, 
ace;
Toasted paddy grains in the yard, attar and 
odorous  wood in bed. 

In these ‘conditions the essential passions of the heart 
find a better soil in which they can attain their 
maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and 
more emphatic language.’  Al Mahmud presents the 
essential passions, desire and belief of these people intact 
in a plain and emphatic language they 
use. ‘Sonali Kabin 13’ reveals the sweetness of the desire 
for love making of a chaste virgin with her 
head ‘bent in shyness’ and a young man whose ‘heart 
stirs throbbing, becoming the tiara on thy forehead’ 
with an uncommon sense and suggestion:

Open thy eyes reddened with frankincense, O fair lady
The two banks of thy embroidered hood are shaking 
against my breathing
Did the wood pigeon ever bend its head in shyness’s 
eddy?
Are you a rattan root in the storm shaking? 

This love instinct in Al Mahmud is always artfully seeded 
in sensuality. In ‘Sonali Kabin, 1’ the 
phrases ‘jalpaier pata’ (olive leaf) and ‘shei fall’ (i.e. apple) 
similitude the lovers’s love making with 
that of Adam and Eve.  

‘If you take off your clothes, you will find me plain and 
chaste 
My manliness not even an olive leaf will cover 
If you take the apple give me a part to taste, 
Aware and unaware ever will we be known 
to each other.’
 
The same episode of Adam and Eve gets more carnal in 
‘Chithi’ (A Letter) of ‘Ek Chokkhu Horin’ (One-eyed 
Deer): 

          As after plucking 
A fruit just now, Eve is calling upon Adam gesturing 
From behind the tree. And the fruit’s 
Yellow paste is oozing down her naked thighs.

These are honest and sincere expressions of the love 
instinct of the common rural people of Bangladesh as 
in ‘Sonali Kabin 1’the poor poet, unwrapping his 
ingenuous heart, declares: 

I don’t have gold coins; ask not for dowry
Only can I give you my virgin hands if you agree 
Never did I collect gold by self-trickery
The frowns all around are wounding and hurting me. 

With this honesty and sincerity when he says ‘Not am I 
defeated, O lady, poets never get defeated/ Though 
gravely hurt the veins are today aching battered.’ (Sonali 
Kabin 7) a rebellious tone springs out. Rebellion 
here takes impetus from the love instinct with which he is 
trying to solace his beloved: ‘Don’t please break 
the bangles; I’ll fill up your ear-bore/ Still I have the 
sandal pin in my house’. In this sonnet, the first 
quatrain reads the story of a robbed golden earring in a 
violently stormy environment where ‘The vegetable 
branches toss outside’. Here the phrase ‘anajer 
dal’ (vegetable branches) calls up potent images of rural 
geography. The words and phrases selected for the 
‘golden earring’ are ‘jaor’ (ornament) and ‘kanet’ 
(earring) which unmistakably take the readers back to the 
original Bengali rural world. So when the poet 
says that ‘anajer dal’ shakes in the violent storm, he deftly 
indicates that the traditional rural culture 
is shaking. The first two lines of the second quatrain 
provide the reasons why the rural culture is shaking.

Worms are wearing out the country’s creative conscience
The intelligentsia is content of selling their brain.         

So anger springs up in the speaker’s voice:

How long can it be kept hidden under gentle stance
When some rebellious poetry cries in the heart’s vein?

The same rebellious tone cries in the title poem of 
Bokhtierer Ghora (The Horse of Bokhtier). The poem is in 
direct opposition to any type of oppression. Here he has 
taken resort to the national history, the 
historical figure of Iktier Uddin Mohammad Bokhtier 
Khilji who first rescued the repressed low cast people 
of this area from the tyranny of Sen Dynasty. This figure 
has been a national myth now.

Mother moved the fan and smiled,
He is Allah’s soldier, king of the destitute.
Wherever the believers fear to call azan,
And man worships man,
He appears there. The rider of the white horse of the 
Khiljis.
Look, the tyrant is escaping through the back door
Look.

‘Ek Gunjorito Kobir Atma’ (The Singing Soul of a Poet) in 
Kana Mamuder Ural Kabya (A Tale of Blind Mamud’s 
Flying Trip) takes historical figures of Kutubuddin Ibek 
and the saint Nizamuddin to express revolt against 
slavery.

I felt
Kutubuddin Ibek’s large gesture like a huge 
forefinger.	
The gesture of independence of Hindustan. Standing 
with so straight a head 
That remains unshaken by the force of clouds, rains, 
winter, summer, storm and seasons.
The rebellion of a slave emperor against all sorts of 
slavery simply a symbol of raising the head high.

Besides taking up historical figures he works with 
traditional lays and legends to infuse new suggestions to 
them. The title poem of Mithyabadi Rakhal reverses the 
familiar story of the lying shepherd. The shepherd 
has always been regarded as a humiliated figure, a liar. 
Reversing the essence of this story Al Mahmud says 
that the shepherd was actually suggesting a far off truth 
but the society didn’t understand that:

My thought opened: might have the boy had any 
extraordinary sense
To sense the smell of death in advance? And so 
When he sensed the smell, ignoring all upbraiding 
Like a poet he would cry, Tiger! Tiger!

‘Thus I have tried to change the negative meaning of a 
traditional story and insert a positive meaning into 
it. This is the task of a poet for ages.’ While telling the 
story of a blind girl’s eye treatment by a 
quack, the poem ‘doitter bodole ek pal tola atma’ (A 
Sailing Soul Instead of a Demon) in Doel O Doita (A 
Doel and My Wife) unwraps the social evils behind the 
screen in the manner of folktales. 

The poor quack came 
And started kissing the eyelids of the blind girl and once 
Undid a button on her blouse.

The familiar figures of Satan and Sheikh Saadi in 
‘technology’ read into the heart of imperialism in the 
present world. Even in handling a subject like imperialism 
he doesn’t forget to use his wit and humor. 
The ‘poor memory’ of Satan and the image of his 
searching of pockets are humorous. The ‘torn pages of 
Masnabi’ ‘Shams-e-Tabreez’ and ‘Dewan of Hafiz’ make 
the poem witty and suggestive. 

He needs striking argument for all types of ban. But 
whatever pocket 
He is putting his hand in, torn pages of Masnabi are 
coming out.
Coming out Shams-e-Tabreez and Dewan of Hafiz.


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