Literary Shelf

Mahatma by Humayun Kabir

Let us see how is Kabir’s Mahatma, the great soul, the father of the nation, the Indian nation, what does he think it about, taking him as to be the topic of his poetry piece? When did it Gandhi appear on the scene? How was the nation slumbering and how lethargic the people? He appeared on the scene like a magnificent colossal figure and broke the slumber, making them mindful of lethargy, inaction, fatalism, superstition, backwardness, illiteracy and poverty and told them personally as for how long would they be slumbering, how long would they be passing time as thus and asked to get up from their sleep as it was time to do duty for family, society and nation they lived in, belonged and owed allegiances to.

Mahatma is the first poem which appeared in Kabir’s Mahatma and Other Poems published in 1944, but the piece saw the light of the day in 1942 when he composed it. His prose work, The Indian Heritage, published in 1946 is an excellent work on the unity and continuity of Indian culture which he so richly deserved to tell of.

Before reading him, it must be kept in mind that it is not easy to grapple with a man of his stature as his is a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional personality. After receiving his education from Presidency College, Calcutta, Calcutta University, Exeter College, Oxford and so on, Humayun Kabir (1906-1969) taught in universities after his return from. In his student days he was involved in the Oxford Union and the Oxford Majlis journal apart from trade union gadgets and pamphlets and newspapers. A politician, an orator, a writer, an educationist, he was Joint Education Adviser, Education Secretary and then the Chairman of the University Grants Commission, Delhi and the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Education Minister under Nehru and Shastri twice. Kabir helped in the translation of the biography of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

A man walking past, striding along, casting the shadows behind, awakening from dead and dormant ideas and habits, heralding a new dawn, speaking for posterity, Gandhi stands just like a titan. How to awaken a slumbering nation? How to infuse a feeling of new hope? How to promise for a golden future? How to show a path never visualized? An ancient race we needed to be guided and he took upon shoulders the burdens just as a true son of the soil, a humanist of the first order. He was not a man, but a great man, not a soul, but a great soul, never to be born again on earth.

The country was fraught with so many problems and stood he undaunted in steering it across, facing the odds, suggesting remedies, seeking for help from people and they are coming out in response to him. The old man, the great old philosopher, we could never imagine about.

A new chapter was added, a new beginning was made, a new journey was undertaken. Breaking his silence, he hinted towards the work to be done and the promises to be fulfilled. It was suffering which bore it fruit in the end, it was the culmination of it that materialized in the long run.

He was himself a force behind the change, he was the motivation pushing and pulling out of lethargy and inaction. With his arrival, the whole continent awoke it and the people abuzz about, instilling a new hope, enthusiasm and inspiration to carry it far.

Across vast spaces and vast times he strode
Buoyed upon the hopes of an ancient race
achieving courage out of dark despair.
Like a huge serpent resting coil on coil
slept the vast country in involuted sloth,
but a breath of life stirs every vein —
for Gandhi breaks the charm of magic sleep,
brings back life till age-long lassitude
drops like old dead skin from frozen limbs.

A puny figure strides upon the scene
of vast and elemental suffering ; Strides
against a background where slow death
paints in dull phantasmagoral grey
the end of all endeavour, hope and faith.

What secret magic transforms the scene?
Whence springs forth a deep abiding force
that thrills the landscape with abundant life,
till the puny figure dominates the scene,
over vast and elemental suffering triumphs,
and with new birth’s pang and radiance shoots
the landscape’s dull phantasmagoral grey?

The static, dead and slothful continent
thrills to a new song of hope, of forward move.
The momentum gathers, the masses shake
and strain and quiver for the onward march
from slow decaying death to resplendent life.

A lone figure stands upon the sands of time,
stands upon the shores of India’s timeless space,
draws upon its vast primeval wells
of granite suffering and immemorial hopes:
Launches India’s resistless caravan
into adventures new, a perilous path
where out of Life’s substance must be carved
new values, new direction, order new---
Gandhi, Mahatma, India’s leader, India’s soul.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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