How Did the Word ‘Freedom’ Become Ours? || Nirmalendu Goon

Translated by S M Maniruzzaman


A poem was waiting to be written

An ocean of people was waiting for the poet

With pent-up furor

With the long deferred demonstration of anger

With keen ears to hear him

With patience the ocean was waiting.

When would he come?


There was no park here then

There was no garden here then

No procession of flowers blowing in furor

The sky was not so depressed in such a drowsy afternoon

Then how was that afternoon?

Then how was this enormous field, the very heart of the capital,

Now covered with gardens, parks, and benches?

I know the demon has raised its black hand again

To erase the mementos of that afternoon.

That’s why in this displeased field in her poet’s absence today we see

         Poets against poets,

         Fields against fields,

         Afternoons against afternoon,

         Gardens against gardens,

         March against March…


O coming child, o future poet

O hark me, I am writing the story of that greatest afternoon

One day you may get to know the truth through this story

While swinging on those rocking cradles on the park

O hark, the field was not as she’s today

There was no park, no garden then— none of them

Like the deep blue open sky here was only a field

An enormous field covered with grass after grass

Green grass which became the greenest

When we gathered together here on that day

With the greenness of our freedom-loving heart


With blazing red letters of freedom on their foreheads, on their elbows

They joined the procession and came….

The laborers from the factories, the farmers from paddy fields

With their ploughs on their shoulders

With their half-naked body defying the discipline of the civilization

To demonstrate their demand of freedom

And they came, so the students grabbing the arms

From the hands of the men like those today in black on gourd to protect the power

And the middle-class with their ever-blooming dreams blazing on their eyes

So the lower-class, the sick clerks, the women, the homeless prostitutes

So the bohemian vagabonds like me and the flock of Tokais little like you

A poem would be declared

How diligently how passionately the ocean of people was awaiting the poet

To hear the poem of freedom!


After years of struggles, years of sufferings the poet came at last

And with Tagore’s resolute steps,

Threaded his way up the stage

And rose before the ocean of people like a sun.

Then in a blink, the ocean of people bloomed high

With the tidal surge of a prolonged rage,

With the dreams of golden days,

And with the tidal wave of a roaring cry

together devastated the demons’ sky.

Who could block them, dam them then?

Who could stop his thunderous voice then?

And he, the poet of freedom declared the poem

“The struggle this time is for emancipation!

The struggle this time is for independence!”

And then the boat of freedom

floated over the dams imposed by the demon damnable

And then the ocean of people with the tidal surge of courage

dared to wash away the dam of bondage,

the dump of sufferings and break free!

From that afternoon onward, the word “freedom” belongs to us too.


Previously published in The Daily Observer on 24 December 2016.

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