Any discussion on Kazi Nazrul Islam gets weighted down with superlatives. His incomparable writings, in a very short spell, established Nazrul as a genius in the arena of Bengali literature.
Nazrul was born on this day in Churulia, Burdwan, near Asansol, West Bengal. His father Kazi Fakir Ahmed was the Imam of the local mosque; his mother was Zaheda Khatun. Nazrul's family was quite poor, and Nazrul was often referred to by the locals as Dukhu Miah (the ill-fated one).
Nazrul ran off from home at a young age but trouble never ceased to follow him. He worked for a while at a bakery in Asansol, where his literary talent first came to light. At the age of 18, whilst still a secondary school student at Raniganj (in West Bengal), Nazrul thought of joining the distant World War 1. He joined the Bengal Regiment as a habildar (corporal) and was posted in Karachi. Although the regiment was never in the thick of battle and was disbanded in 1920, the lilt of the soldier's parades and marches permeated much of his writing. Nazrul emerged at a time when the presence of Tagore loomed large on the Bengali literary scene. He was a great admirer of the latter.
Tagore reciprocated by admiring the young talent. The morning after composing Bidrohi, Nazrul rushed to Tagore's house and read out the poem to the maestro. Nazrul had a powerful voice - at times embodying the swaggering rebel, and at times the gentle, creative poet -- diversity reigning supreme in his songs.
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