Poet Rafiq Azad’s passing on March 12, 2016 begins the departure of a generation of litterateurs who crafted some of the finest poems of their time, but who were also caught in the middle of a major socio-cultural transition.

He belonged to an era when poetry was king, and being a poet was enough of an achievement, an act in itself, which gave a person the right to any kind of lifestyle. They were a bunch of vagabonds by choice in the footsteps of the French greats like Baudeliare and others. Hard-drinking, substance-abusing, and attendant decadence ate into their health and ultimately their lives.

But when they flourished in their late youth, they were stunning, and Rafiq Azad produced some of the finest including, “Bhat de Haramzada” (Bastard, give me food) which got him into trouble during the Mujib era (1972-1975) when a famine was on.

It was an angry poem, full of impotent rage, and the man who speaks of his hunger ends by saying, “I will eat your flag, your geography.”

The poet was duly noticed and he got into serious trouble. But he was saved because of his earlier connections as part of his Tangail, Quader Siddiqui days as a freedom fighter, and being a “harmless poet.”

He wrote a long analysis of how his poem reflected the great literary tradition of Bengal and so on, and poetry loving Sheikh Mujib forgave him. He never made the mistake of angering the powerful again.

But he should be remembered for several others poems like “Beshar Beral” (The whore’s cat), and his earlier ones which dealt with love, death, and longing mixed with despair. A man who never could put his own life in order, he lived on as his health issues mounted, being unable to repair them. Alcohol followed him like an assassin, and his body ravaged by diabetes and other problems ultimately caved in.

In the end, if his patriotic memories are preserved in “Chunia amar Arcadia”, the Tangail village of sanctuary in 1971, his last days were more reminiscent of a poem he had written long back on decay and decline.

Oh Lady, unfaded rose,

Have you too known death as your last lover?

Goodbye Rafiq bhai. Au revoir.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

2 Responses to “Goodbye Rafiq bhai”

  1. Nusrat

    While writing a tribute, one should remember that it ought to be an evidence of attesting to some praiseworthy qualities or characteristics of the departed. It should mainly focus why you admire and respect that person. Though I’m a nondrinker, I think it is totally unacceptable that you brought up his drinking binges and assumed it led to his death. Diabetes alone can kill a person as the organs get eaten up one at a time. You did the same with the Suchitra Sen tribute by bringing up some unsavory things in her marriage. Those could very well have been rumors. We all know that what we learn in the media are not always gospel truth. This poet’s abilities and achievements are clear indications of his worth. Few drinks that he had taken in his life mustn’t define him. The other similar poets like Baudelaire who had followed Gothic and decadent style would be Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. They were much younger than him and by the time 20th century came those poems became more or less history. While giving references one should not only hint by saying others. Then people do doubt whether you read them at all or just dropping names. I am sorry to say that I never read Rafiq Azad’s poems but have listened to the recitation of the Bhat de…. A phenomenal piece! As his son said, he left no regrets. May he rest in peace and may his poems live-on.

  2. Syed Badrul Ahsan

    Thank you, Afsan bhai….

    For this paean to a truly significant poet of our times.

Comments are closed.