Poverty by Kazi Nazrul Islam

Translation: Kabir Chowdhury

O poverty, thou hast made me great.
Thou hast made me honoured like Christ
With his crown of thorns. Thou hast given me
Courage to reveal all. To thee I owe
My insolent, naked eyes and sharp tongue.
Thy curse has turned my violin to a sword.
O proud saint, thy terrible fire
Has rendered my heaven barren.
It has prematurely dried beauty.
My feelings and my life.
Time and again I stretched my lean, cupped hands
To accept the gift of the beautiful.
But those hungry ones always came before me.
And did snatch it away ruthlessly,
Now my word of imagination is
Dry as a vast desert.
And my own beautiful!
My yellow-stalked pensive desire
Wants to blossom like the fragrant shefali.
But thou cruel one
Dost ruthlessly break the soft stalk
As the woodcutter chopsthe branches
Off the trees. My heart grows tender
Like the autumn morning
It fills with love

Like the dew-laden earth.
But thou art the blazing sun
And thy fiery heart dries up the tiny drop of the earth
I grow listless in the shadowy skirt of the earth
And my dreams of beauty and goodness vanish!
With a bitter tongue thou askest,
“What’s the use of nectar?
It has no sting, no intoxication, no madness it.
The search for heaven’s secred drink
Is not for the in this sorrow-filled earth.
Thou art the serpent, born in pai .
Thou will sit in the bower of thorns
And weave the garland of flowers.
I put on thy forehead the sing
Of suffering and woe.”
So I sing, I weave a garland,
While my throat is on fire,
And my serpent daughter bites me all over!
O unforgiving Durbasha! thou wanderest
From door to door with thy beggar’s bowl.
Thou goes to the peaceful abode of
Some sleeping happy couple
And sternly callest, “O fool,
Knowest thou, that this earth is not anybody’s
Pleasure bower for luxury adn ease.
Here is sorrow and separation
And a hundred wants and disease.
Under the arms of the beloved
There are thorns in the bed,
And now must thou prepare
To savour these.” The unhappy home
Is shattered in a moment,
And woeful laments rend
The air. The light of joy is extinguished
And endless nights descends.
Thou walkest the road alone
Lean, hungry and starved.
Suddenly some sight makes thy eyebrows
Arch in annoyance and thine eyes
Blazeforth-fires of anger!
And lo! famine, pestilence and tornado
Visit the country, pleasuregarden burn,
Palaces tumble, thy law
Knows nothing but death and destruction.
Nor for thee the license of courtesy.
Thou seekest the unashaamed revelation of stark nakedness.
Thou knowest no timid hesitation or polite embarrassment
Thou dost raise high the lowly head.
At thy signal the travellers on the road to death
Put round their neck the fatal noose
With cheerful smile on their faces!
Nursing the fire of perennial want in their bosom
They worship the god of death in fiendish glee !
Thou tramplest the crown of Lakshmi
Under thy feet. What tune
Dost thou want to wiring
Out of her violin? At thy touch
the music turns into criesof anguish!
Waking up in the morning Iheard yesterday
The plantive Sanai mourning those
Who had not returned yet, At home
The singer cried for them and wept bitter tears
And floating with that music the soul of the beloved
Wandered far to the distant spot
Where the love anxiously waited.
This morning I got up
And heard the Sanai again
Crying as mournfully as ever.
And the pensive Shefalika,
sad as a widow’s smile,
Falls in clusters, spreading
A mild fragrance in the air.
Today the butterfly dances in restless joy
Numbing the flowers with its kisses.
And the wings of the bee
Carry the yellow of the petals,
It’s body covered with honey.
Life seems to have sprung up suddenly
On all sides. Asong of welcome
Comes unconsciously to my lips
And unbidden tears spring to my eyes
Some one seems to have entwined my soul
With that of mother-earth. She comes forward
And with her dust-adorned hands
Offers me her presents.
It seems to me that she is the youngest daughter of mine,
My darling child!
But suddenly wake up with a start. O cruel saint, being my child,
Thou weepest in my home, hungry and stoned!
O my child, my darling one
I could not give thee even a drop of milk
No right have I to rejoice.
Poverty weeps within my doors forever
As my spouse and my child.
Who will play the flute?
Where shall I get the happy smile
Of the beautiful? Where the honeyed drink
I have drunk deep the hemlock
Of bitter tears!
And still even today
I hear the mournful tune of the Sanai.

Nandalal Bose, Untitled

Mahatma Gandhi in Sudan

“In 1935, Mahatma Gandhi stopped over in Port Sudan (on his way to England through sea) and was welcomed by the Indian community there. In 1938, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stopped over in Port Sudan on his way to Britain and was hosted through a function at the home of Chhotalal Samji Virani. The Graduates General Congress of Sudan formed in 1938 drew heavily on the experience of the Indian National Congress.”

“British Indian troops fought alongside Sudanese in Eritrea in 1941 winning the decisive battle of Keren (Bengal Sappers won a Victoria Cross for mine clearance in Metemma, now on the Sudan-Ethiopia border). The Sudan Block at India’s National Defence Academy was partly funded with a gift of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II.”

“At the 1955 Bandung Conference, the delegation from a still not independent Sudan did not have a flag to mark its place. Taking out his handkerchief, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote “Sudan” on it, thus reserving a place for Sudan in the international community.”

Source: http://www.eoikhartoum.gov.in/India-Sudan-Bilateral-Brief.php

Martin Luther King, Farewell Statement for All India Radio, March 9, 1959 (Audio)

King_press conference in Madras_meets Swami Vishwananda_untouchability

Farewell Statement for All India Radio

Leaders in and out of government, organizations—particularly the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and the Quaker Centre—and many homes and families have done their utmost to make our short stay both pleasant and instructive.

We have learned a lot. We are not rash enough to presume that we know India—vast subcontinent with all of its people, problems, contrasts, and achievements. However, since we have been asked about our impressions, we venture one or two generalizations.

First, we think that the spirit of Gandhi is much stronger today than some people believe. There is not only the direct and indirect influence of his comrades and associates but also the organized efforts that are being made to preserve the Mahatma’s letters and other writings, the pictures, monuments, the work of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, and the movement led by the sainted Vinoba Bhave. These are but a few examples of the way Gandhiji will be permanently enshrined in the hearts of the people of India.

Moreover, many governmental officials who do not follow Gandhi literally apply his spirit to domestic and international problems.

Secondly, I wish to make a plea to the people and government of India. The issue of world peace is so critical that I feel compelled to offer a suggestion that came to me during the course of our conversations with Vinoba Bhave.2

The peace-loving peoples of the world have not yet succeeded in persuading my own country, America, and Soviet Russia to eliminate fear and disarm themselves. Unfortunately, as yet, America and the Soviet Union have not shown the faith and moral courage to do this. Vinobaji has said that India or any other nation that has a faith and moral courage could disarm itself tomorrow, even unilaterally.

It may be that just as India had to take the lead and show the world that national independence could be achieved nonviolently, so India may have to take the lead and call for universal disarmament. And if no other nation will join her immediately, India may declare itself for disarmament unilaterally.3

Such an act of courage would be a great demonstration of the spirit of the Mahatma and would be the greatest stimulus to the rest of the world to do likewise.

Moreover, any nation that would take such a brave step would automatically draw to itself the support of the multitudes of the earth, so that any would-be aggressor would be discouraged from risking the wrath of mankind.

May I also say that since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.

Many years ago when Abraham Lincoln was shot—and incidentally he was shot for the same reason that Mahatma Gandhi was shot for, namely, for committing the crime of wanting to heal the wounds of a divided nation. And when he was shot, Secretary Stanton stood by the dead body of the great leader and said these words: “Now he belongs to the ages.” And in a real sense we can say the same thing about Mahatma Gandhi and even in stronger terms: “Now he belongs to the ages.” And if this age is to survive, it must follow the way of love and nonviolence that he so nobly illustrated in his life.4

Mahatma Gandhi may well be God’s appeal to this generation, a generation drifting again to its doom.5This eternal appeal is in the form of a warning: “They that live by the sword shall perish by the sword.”6We must come to see in the world today that what he taught and his method throughout revealed to us that there is an alternative to violence and that if we fail to follow this we will perish in our individual and in our collective lives. For in a day when Sputniks and Explorers dash through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war.

1. Earlier in the day King read a version of these remarks during a press conference at the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. His typescript included two introductory sentences: “Our much too brief pilgrimage to India has regretfully come to a close. I wish to thank everyone for the way your doors and hearts have been opened to me, my wife and Dr. Reddick” (King, “Farewell statement,” 9 March 1959; see also “Need for Universal Disarmament,” Hindustan Times, 10 March 1959).

2. On 3 March, King walked for several miles on a padayatra (walking tour) with Vinoba, a disciple of Gandhi and founder of the Bhoodan movement, an effort to convince landowners to give land to the poor. King questioned Vinoba about his strategies for change and the future of India. For Vinoba’s replies, see “Dr. Martin Luther King with Vinoba,” Bhoodan 3 (18 March 1959): 369-370; see also Bristol to Johnson, 16, 17, and 22 April 1959.

3. At the press conference this suggestion provoked a flurry of questions from reporters. When asked if he meant that the Indian army should disband, King told the press that he favored the elimination of “all major weapons of destruction” (“Need for Universal Disarmament”).

4. King underlined the following passage in his copy of missionary E. Stanley Jones’s Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1948), p. 154: “When Lincoln was shot for the same reason that Gandhi was shot, namely, for the crime of wanting to heal the wounds of a divided nation, Secretary Stanton said as he stood beside the dead leader, ‘Now he belongs to the ages.’ Of Mahatma Gandhi it can also be said, and said with deeper meaning, ‘Now he belongs to the ages’; for if there are to be any ages to come for man on this earth, we will have to apply his way of truth and nonviolence.” Edwin M. Stanton was Lincoln’s Secretary of War.

5. Jones, Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation, p. 159: “So Mahatma Gandhi is God’s appeal to this age—an age drifting again to its doom.”

6. Cf. Matthew 26:52.

Source:  Gandhi Centennial Radio Program, 1968. The Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, Stanford University

Ghana Calls by W.E.B Du Bois

Dedicated to Kwame Nkrumah

I was a little boy, at home with strangers.   
I liked my playmates, and knew well,   
Whence all their parents came;
From England, Scotland, royal France   
From Germany and oft by chance
The humble Emerald Isle.
But my brown skin and close-curled hair
Was alien, and how it grew, none knew;
Few tried to say, some dropped a wonderful word or stray;
Some laughed and stared.
And then it came: I dreamed.   
I placed together all I knew
All hints and slurs together drew.   
I dreamed.
I made one picture of what nothing seemed   
I shuddered in dumb terror
In silence screamed,
For now it seemed this I had dreamed;
How up from Hell, a land had leaped
A wretched land, all scorched and seamed   
Covered with ashes, chained with pain   
Streaming with blood, in horror lain   
Its very air a shriek of death
And agony of hurt.
Anon I woke, but in one corner of my soul   
I stayed asleep.
Forget I could not,
But never would I remember   
That hell-hoist ghost   
Of slavery and woe.
I lived and grew, I worked and hoped
I planned and wandered, gripped and coped   
With every doubt but one that slept   
Yet clamoured to awaken.
I became old; old, worn and gray;   
Along my hard and weary way
Rolled war and pestilence, war again;   
I looked on Poverty and foul Disease   
I walked with Death and yet I knew
There stirred a doubt: Were all dreams true?   
And what in truth was Africa?
One cloud-swept day a Seer appeared,   
All closed and veiled as me he hailed
And bid me make three journeys to the world   
Seeking all through their lengthened links   
The endless Riddle of the Sphinx.
I went to Moscow; Ignorance grown wise taught me Wisdom;
I went to Peking: Poverty grown rich
Showed me the wealth of Work
I came to Accra.
Here at last, I looked back on my Dream;   
I heard the Voice that loosed
The Long-looked dungeons of my soul
I sensed that Africa had come
Not up from Hell, but from the sum of Heaven’s glory.
I lifted up mine eyes to Ghana
And swept the hills with high Hosanna;
Above the sun my sight took flight   
Till from that pinnacle of light
I saw dropped down this earth of crimson, green and gold
Roaring with color, drums and song.
Happy with dreams and deeds worth more than doing   
Around me velvet faces loomed   
Burnt by the kiss of everlasting suns
Under great stars of midnight glory   
Trees danced, and foliage sang;
The lilies hallelujah rang
Where robed with rule on Golden Stool   
The gold-crowned Priests with duty done   
Pour high libations to the sun
And danced to gods.
Red blood flowed rare ’neath close-clung hair   
While subtle perfume filled the air   
And whirls and whirls of tiny curls   
Crowned heads.
Yet Ghana shows its might and power   
Not in its color nor its flower   
But in its wondrous breadth of soul   
Its Joy of Life
Its selfless role
Of giving.
School and clinic, home and hall   
Road and garden bloom and call   
Socialism blossoms bold
On Communism centuries old.
I lifted my last voice and cried   
I cried to heaven as I died:
O turn me to the Golden Horde   
Summon all western nations   
Toward the Rising Sun.
From reeking West whose day is done,   
Who stink and stagger in their dung   
Toward Africa, China, India’s strand   
Where Kenya and Himalaya stand   
And Nile and Yang-tze roll:
Turn every yearning face of man.
Come with us, dark America:
The scum of Europe battened here   
And drowned a dream
Made fetid swamp a refuge seem:
Enslaved the Black and killed the Red   
And armed the Rich to loot the Dead;   
Worshipped the whores of Hollywood   
Where once the Virgin Mary stood
And lynched the Christ.
Awake, awake, O sleeping world   
Honor the sun;
Worship the stars, those vaster suns   
Who rule the night
Where black is bright
And all unselfish work is right   
And Greed is Sin.
And Africa leads on:   
Pan Africa!

The Moral Government of the World: On Faith, Reason, and Truth

I. THE SOUL-FORCE IN HISTORY

In his spiritual message to the world, notable because it is one of the rare extant speeches Mohandas K. Gandhi gave in English, the satygrahi remarked that

There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything, I feel it though I do not see it. It is this unseen power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses.

God is indescribable and ominpresent for Gandhi, capable of being sensed without manifesting physically. Love is perhaps the most important illustration of this truth: one cannot see love, one cannot grasp it in one’s hands; it lodges itself in the deep recesses of memory and time to be reawakened in each epoch by resurgent forces that seek to preserve it. We can thus see, equally, what is not loved for where there is no love, there is loss and war, war with self and war with the greater family of humankind. To the Western empiricists who demanded proof that Indians were deserving of their freedom, all the while beating, jailing, and exploiting them, Gandhi effectively replied: I cannot show you, but I can assure you that I feel a deep love for my downtrodden countrymen and for you, because you have not yet been discovered by God’s love.

Part of Gandhi’s turn to nonviolence towards all human beings and living entities was profoundly influenced by the belief that all matter is life, a scientific discovery confirmed by Indian biophysicist, Jagdish Chandra Bose, who presented his experiment on the sensate faculties of plants at the Royal Society in 1901. Bose, who Gandhi references in this speech, would invent the crescograph to detect whether or not plants were able to feel and respond to external stimuli like members of the animal kingdom by sensing microscopic movements. This proved that a flower was capable of feeling pain, like a man. Humans, in Gandhi’s eyes, had a much higher purpose: to overcome the need to inflict pain and suffering on other beings. The putative progress of Western science had outrun its moral progress in prescribing the very opposite, Gandhi understood, like Martin Luther King Jr.,

Finally, Gandhi’s critique of Western science recalls W.E.B Du Bois’s critique of scientific positivism, the philosophy of science advanced by the Comteian school, which held that the human world could be studied like its physical counterpart, a perspective which could not fathom the infinitude of human decisive and creative power. Consciousness of the world and the struggle for life creates conditions for improbabilities that deviate from the expected trajectories and outcomes. These improbabilities are what we call history, which is nothing more than the words and deeds of humankind. Gandhi also said, like Marx, that struggle is the mother of history. History, Gandhi argued

is really a record of every interruption of the even working of the force of love or of the soul. Two brothers quarrel; one of them repents and reawakens the love that was lying dormant in him; the two again begin to live in peace; nobody takes note of this. But if the two brothers, through the intervention of solicitors or some other reason, take up arms or go to law-which is another form of the exhibition of brute force-their doings would be immediately noticed in the Press, they would be the talk of their neighbours and would probably go down to history. And what is true of families and communities is true of nations. There is no reason to believe that there is one law for families and another for nations. History, then, is a record of an interruption of the course of nature. Soul force, being natural, is not noted in history.

The soul force transcends history. It is the energetic residue that persists in the world after every physical incarnation of life, taking new form and life at every new interval. History interrupts the soul’s unfolding unto the cosmos because it creates divisions reinforced over time. Thus, Gandhi argues, we can see that what is true of family quarrels is also true of national conflict for it is the contending desires and wills of large units of people that then lives on in human memory. Consider, for example, the history plays of Shakespeare, the story of Abraham’s family, the fraternal conflict between Cain and Abel. Nowhere is this more true than America, where an unnatural color line persistently fragments the human family and suppresses the human soul-force.

Faith transcends reason because it returns us to this cosmic journey of the soul force to be free of earthly suffering. The belief in something higher than oneself, has been central to the development of human civilization for millennia because it forces consideration of the larger aims and ideals of civilization itself–of how human beings ought to live with one another. Thus, the greatest practitioners of all of the world’s religions have evolved a culture of peace, which overcomes our understanding, that is, our reason. And yet, faith without reason can degenerate into fanaticism. This faith in the power of the human mind and heart in its “upward reach for God,” to recall Dr. King, pervades Du Bois’s critique of Western science as it does Gandhi’s in his spiritual message to the world, which declares that all matter is life, and so, infinite in its relational and regenerative capacities.

Du Bois asserted that human behavior and society were not merely governed by fixed natural laws as claimed by Comte and others; rather, there was something fundamentally incalculable, and thus unknowable, about humanity and to accept a positivist dialectic would negate the truth of human reality, which is the mirroring of past and future against the present, each side existing simultaneously The infinitude and incalculability of human possibility grows in direct proportion to one’s faith in God which is why faith is the salvation of the oppressed, the Disinherited, to recall Howard Thurman. Faith confers to the disinherited the belief in their humanity in the face of dehumanization. Under such circumstances, faith deepens one’s own capacity to evolve to greater ends. It creates power, through self-love and communal affection, in the face of powerlessness, giving significance, substance, and continuity to one’s life. The love of the people for their civilizations, which were destroyed by imperialism, fired the freedom movements of the twentieth century, which sought to sever Europe and white America’s chokehold on the development of oppressed races and nations.

It is not historically insignificant that the last thing Du Bois entrusts his literary executor Herbert Aptheker with a book of poems called Prayers For Dark People before taking leave to Ghana. Du Bois, like Thurman and King, recognized the capacity of oppressed humanity to reach super-humanity through love, friendship, and material cooperation. The human will in both epistemologies is a decisive force. Thus, history and philosophy–the force of the human will to wrest destiny from a bitter Earth–could not be studied objectively in a natural vacuum, as the positivist averred. Rather, history was a contention of contesting wills struggling for the realization of self and people. This epistemology was indispensable to Du Bois because for too long, the black working-class was studied as an adjunct of American history rather than a shaping and determining force in the history of human relations on this continent.

II. THE PENALTY OF DECEPTION

To arrive at the truth one must face the truth about oneself. James Baldwin said in No Name in the Street that Western civilization is caught in the lie of its pretended humanism. Until whites reckoned with the psychological consequences of their investment in color prejudice, they would remain fundamentally severed from their own humanity. They cannot love their black childhood playmate, their initial care-providers, their very own children and siblings. And they cannot stop lying to themselves about who they are and how they arrived upon their identity, which is a founded upon a series of lies and distortions about black peoples all over the world.

Deception can only culminate in an eternity of guilt. The guilt of deception is overwhelming, robbing relationships of their sincerity and productivity. Howard Thurman writes that deception has particularly dangerous consequences for the development of humanity and the progress of civilization. As a consequence, Life becomes a meaningless series of events manipulated into a narrative that suits the liar’s interests, canceling out all moral distinctions and discipline. The internal lie of the liar persists such that he or she is inhibited from arriving at a sober distillation of the truth. As he observes in Jesus and the Disinherited

The penalty of deception is to become a deception, with all sense of moral discrimination vitiated. A man who lies habitually becomes a lie, and it is increasingly impossible for him to know when he is lying and when he is not. In other words, the moral mercury of life is reduced to zero. Shakespeare has immortalized this aspect of character in his drama of Macbeth.

To face yourself, you must first know love. Thurman refers here to William Shakespeare’s play about the Scottish king, Macbeth, because though driven by purpose and a great sense of his destiny, Macbeth is ultimately defeated by his political ambition because he sought the love of power rather than the power of Love. If you cannot love others, you cannot love yourself and this has tragic consequences– psychological and physical–for Macbeth. He is consumed with guilt and paranoia, indeed paralyzed from ruling, his initial aspiration. The original sin of Duncan’s murder begets new sins and crimes Macbeth and his wife must undertake in order to stabilize their power over the realm, which ultimately results in their descent into madness and death.

Time is long. And the words and deeds of humans persist so long as there is suffering. Faith is the sigh of the oppressed, the Disinherited. Faith itself cannot be proved by extraneous evidence Gandhi deduced in his message of peace to humanity. As such, the safest course, was the moral government of the world. A moral science of America reveals a deeply divided country with a profoundly fragmented psychic and social life. In a nation plagued by a profound spiritual emptiness, we must once again pose the question: what does a truly moral government of the world, a kingdom of heaven on earth, look like and what has it to do with the pursuit of love and faith in our common humanity?

© 2019 Divya Nair

W.E.B Du Bois, The Hands Of Ethiopia

Here are the beginnings of a modern industrial system: iron and steel for permanent investment, bound to yield large dividends; cloth as the cheapest exchange for invaluable raw material; liquor to tickle the appetites of the natives and render the alienation of land and the breakdown of customary law easier; eventually forced and contract labor under white drivers to increase and systematize the production of raw materials. These materials are capable of indefinite expansion: cotton may yet challenge the southern United States, fruits and vegetables, hides and skins, lumber and dye-stuffs, coffee and tea, grain and tobacco, and fibers of all sorts can easily follow organized and systematic toil.


Those who do believe in men, who know what black men have done in human history, who have taken pains to follow even superficially the story of the rise of the Negro in Africa, the West Indies, and the Americas of our day know that our modern contempt of Negroes rests upon no scientific foundation worth a moment’s attention. It is nothing more than a vicious habit of mind. It could easily be overthrown as our belief in war, as our international hatreds, as our old conception of the status of women, as our fear of educating the masses, as our belief in the necessity of poverty. We can if we inaugurate on the Dark Continent a last great crusade for humanity. With Africa redeemed Asia would be safe and Europe indeed triumphant.


Twenty centuries before Christ a great cloud swept over seas and settled on Africa, darkening and well-nigh blotting out the culture of the land of Egypt. For half a thousand years it rested there, until a black woman, Queen Nefertari, “the most venerated figure in Egyptian history,” rose to the throne of the Pharaohs and redeemed the world and her people. Twenty centuries after Christ, Black Africa,—prostrated, raped, and shamed, lies at the feet of the conquering Philistines of Europe. Beyond the awful sea a black woman is weeping and waiting, with her sons on her breast. What shall the end be? The world-old and fearful things,—war and wealth, murder and luxury? Or shall it be a new thing,—a new peace and a new democracy of all races,—a great humanity of equal men? “Semper novi quid ex Africa!”