A Message for the Madhusudans

Article Posted in: Essay

A Message for Madhusudans

 by – Hisham M Nazer, Vol.II, Issue.XXII, November 2016

Introduction to the Author:

Hisham M Nazer, a lecturer of English Language and Literature at the Department of English, Varendra University, is a trilingual poet from Bangladesh, a literary and philosophy theorist, a columnist and an occasional short-story writer. He is a prolific writer, published worldwide and nationally. His works have appeared in literary journals/magazines/anthologies/dailies from Austria, Greece, Belgium, France, USA, UK, Canada, Romania, Philippines, India and Bangladesh. Adding more credit to his literary career, he has been awarded the first prize in the “2016 International Poetry Writing Contest- Shakespeare As You Like It” by the Department of English, Farook College, Kozhikode, Kerala, India (affiliated with the University of Calicut). Worked as a sub-editor for two literary magazines- Shasshwatiki (print journal, Bengali, Bangladesh) and The Browsing Corner (Multi-lingual e-zine, India).

When we write something we write our ideas, we don’t merely write a language. That is exactly where most of us make the mistake, and thus, in the process, end up having misplaced hopes, consequential failures and anxieties, and finally complaints. For many of us English is only a language from a foreign land, a strange tongue, a set of linguistic “structures” that have to be performed properly in order to please somebody else other than ourselves, a gateway to the politics and culture of the English speaking world, and if possible to exploit it using their own tools of exploitation. Then there is this another and more subtle purpose that sometimes works, always unacknowledged, behind the learning of this language: the wish to rise to a status that is generally deemed superior by a group that uses a language geographically common to all. The vague triumph of the tongue, consciously faked and shamelessly enjoyed; the delusional notion of being someone greater, in a cultivated lucrative identity that is not original in us, hypnotizes our brain and wakes us up to a design we have no clue about when we ourselves are the designers, drugged by the potion of dishonesty. This is the stream where we have drowned, often involuntarily, and these are the degenerate and very narrow ends people, of this continent, have brought English down to. In a foreign land it is still a foreign body, looked at with awe and wonder, with fear and veneration. English is still merely a language here, to be learned but never to be loved. The few who truly, and out of an innocent urge, dare to transcend the native ego of the tongue and intend to give it different tunes, often meet obstacles, created by the language conservatives who have never been wholly able to welcome the invasive force of English (the language in itself), that with it brought the portals to other worlds, new colours and music to describe and thus know differently the world we inhabit, along with its human agents who ignited the actual opposition. Although it leaves much room for arguments (and they will duly be addressed in the research) but it can be said that language was always and always is innocent. English as a language, like every other language, only serves the mind, no matter if it is filthy or fair, no matter if it is of Shakespeare or of the atrocious dictator monarchs.

The polarization of a socially “manufactured”, politically detailed and nationally encouraged linguistic ego marks the beginning of an opposition, that even in its naïve form attempts to estrange—and thus often to demean—the existence of anything that is not soil born. This sense of opposition is rooted deep inside the soul of the “native reality”, which is very carefully designed by history and which does not compromise any logic, even if that logic comprises a harmless truth. In this pursuit to conserve the ego that is often not even threatened, we forget that the word “foreign” does not necessarily imply “enemy” or “alien”. Such was the implication, true, but that was the time of physical imperialism. It does not require anymore the attestation by an omniscient someone to know that like the bio-war the First World countries attempt to dominate the whole world with their other subtler guerrilla schemes, and if anyone blames the language for the idea it translates and transmutes, the entire action might suffer the consequence of misplacement. For even English, very much like all other languages of the world, stemmed not out of a “plan”, but out of a simple necessity to express and communicate (for such is the Genesis of any language!). Like religions, later it has been tortured with political propaganda and painted with manipulative/misleading colours since the dawn of extreme nationalist intellectualism. In the branches of the alphabets today there hide cunning schemes, camouflaged. The language has been charged with so many extralinguistic forces; it has been “used” in such a way so that it can meet the expectations of the minds it serves. And it may even serve the mind of an Easterner as well, whether it is full of dramatic plots for the English audience, or it plots crimes for its own selfish ends. Therefore, language, at its worst, can only be the water that carries the viruses. It is only an innocent but powerful catalyst that stands convicted for all the changes that happen around it. But should we characterize or define something by the changes it is responsible for? Do we define the centre by the periphery or is it the other way around? If all the extra-linguistic forces mean everything to us and if we judge a language on their basis, I am afraid we should altogether stop studying language scientifically and consider it only and only an exclusively cultural product that has no essence of its own and has nothing to do with the necessity of communication. And if we fail first to differentiate the different streams (for after all West is not all Evil) that run down towards us and then to distil it and take what is essentially harmless, then it is only our own failure as a nation that claims to have the potential to judge. The question is- are we truly ready to judge? What is the basis of our questions that we throw on an immigrating body, be it a man or a language? For this very reason of having a pre-programmed mind, for our taking a metaphor as something real and for our ever defining attitude, we make a language stand in trial, in a court where the verdict is always already decided. And this verdict is not individually reached upon but largely dictated, by a class whose intention is otherwise noble but in their excess of care they lose sight of a world where everything is equally welcomed.

It has been frequently asked, especially by those who are Bengali literature enthusiasts (and even by those who aren’t enthusiasts of anything at all!): why does someone write in English? It would be much easier if they were replied thus: “don’t you know, English too is a “language”!” It is a debatable issue and one stream maintains that there can only be an origin of a language, not an owner; that English is not American or European; that it is, above everything, a language, a set of signs that have the power to express our innermost thoughts. The question often takes the form of a frown, sometimes of an accusation, and most disconcertingly of a premonition of someone’s doom as a writer. And Mr. Madhusudan Dutt is already there, to give them more reasons why they should look down upon this kind of unreasonable ungodly practice. It is the single name that many have had to hear in all these occasions, invariably. As if he is the standard of failure, for any Bengali writer writing in English! As if anyone whose mother tongue is Bangla but writes in English, is bound to follow inevitably the fall of that deluded poet who had tremendous strength of his own but instead chose to become someone else he was not. Mr. Madhusudan, on the contrary, took English as an American or as a Europe-born product. He was aware of the vast political and cultural background of this language and was naturally tempted towards it. His dream to become a Shakespeare or a Milton blossomed from a sense of history and what that history entailed. He was not there in Calcutta; he was not there within his self Madhusudan. He was in a time that even predates the birth of his own culture. He was always Michael. Mr. Madhusudan undoubtedly was an extraordinary poet and he proved his literary strength through his epic Meghnadbadh Kavya, but he was only himself when he wrote in Bangla, and the moment he attempted to write in English, he ceased to exist in his time and rather woke up to the present of a past. Therefore, his failure as an English poet was obvious. He did not love English; he merely found English admirable, and so out of personal whim that had a very clear vision—not epiphanic rather so purposefully and consciously created—of a cultural future (it was the time of British colonialism in India), he pursued the life of an English poet, when within his soul, probably he was much more deeply a Bengali than anyone else of his time (except the then adolescent Poet- Rabindranath Tagore). His coming back to his own language can be considered the resurrection of a poetic soul that died because the language was more important to it than poetry itself. So here it is. When we take language so seriously, we start to drown in the almost infernal river of mud that cultural theories have created for us, often quite unnecessarily and annoyingly! For that same reason the moment we take English too seriously, it becomes the “other”, charged with so many histories and cultural paradigms we have no idea about, and there we strengthen our native defense and mistake a stream of possibilities as an invasion by all those things that are not ours.

Unlike Mr. Madhusudan if we set the course of our journey towards our own selves, irrespective of the language with which we write our own incantations, we are bound to end up giving birth to something original, even in a language that is not our own. Because we can always discount the “importance” we so love to attach with a language and use it only as a means of exploring the world around us. By the virtue of an indifferent attention the moment the feeling of the “other” (for which we blame the West) vanishes for something that is not our soil-born, we with our own history and culture, with our own individualism, become one with that thing, and in the only true passion for creating beauty, we get consumed by its power and consume it ourselves wholeheartedly, not to achieve a goal, not in the admiration of a history, but only to create, and only in the admiration of the moment that is present and is beautiful.

Language is at the same time the music and the instrument through which not only we express our ideas but also ourselves; it is the string through which we connect us with others and the world we attempt to realize by means of our human vocabulary. The more we tend to describe, the closer we get to the realities that revolve and evolve around us and it is partly our linguistic endeavours that take this evolution to newer extents. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore we meet the Bengal and smell the incense of a soil that they so musically and magically transform into recognizable signs. The strength of his words is so powerful that this recognition is often intuitive! That means even with his consciously constructed lines, he presented us with a world of images wrapped in Bangla that had the scope of being loved without being fully understood. Such should be the case with any writing that has successfully become what it describes. The metaphors become real in them, and for their artistic force the realities become metaphorical. The interconnections are made so effortlessly visible that no one doubts their veracity anymore. It is the language that gives birth to metaphors, as a natural necessity to render our communications musical and thus attractive.

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