Rahmat Ali-Pathoni, a freedom fighter of the Bangladesh Liberation war, and the grandson of a First and Second World War veteran, was born in 1951 in the village of Pathon, Sylhet. He is currently the Chair of East London based Bengali literary society, Renaissance Shahitya Majlish. Mr Pathoni’s eldest uncle, who also served in the British Military during the Second World War, arrived in Britain in the 50s and made way for his family to settle in the UK. Mr Pathoni however, was unable to join his uncle and father until 1978 due to the refusal of his elder sister, who instead inspired him to pursue a journey in poetry. With the encouragement of his elder sister and his teachers in his Islamic School, Mr Pathoni started writing poetry at a very young age and performed his poems regularly at Muslim weddings and Islamic celebrations. In 1979, Mr Pathoni opened a clothing factory in 94 Brick Lane which later relocated to 51a Commercial Road. In 1985, he became a regular contributor in the Renaissance Shahitya Majlish and has recently published 2 books. Unfortunately, most of his poems from the early years has been lost. His poems manly focus on spirituality, social issues, personal reflections and nationalism.
Listen: A poem about grass being greener on the other side
Listen: Mr Ali-Pathoni talking about his background and role of poetry in rural Bengal [translated transcript below]
View: Mr Ali-Pathoni reading 'Swadinota Tomai Salam' - Independence Salam To you!
"I was a secondary school student when I started writing poetry. I have got my inspiration from the nature and also from the environment. My elder sister used to read nursery rhymes to me when I was young and that inspired me too.
The life in the village was very different when I was growing up, and the entertainment was very limited. There was no cinema hall or anything like that in the village because the older generation used to think that was a bad influence in the society. Also the religious leaders were against it. But there was one kind of entertainment that people liked when there was a wedding or other gatherings, and that was reciting poems. I used to write these kind of poems for the weddings and there was another kind of poems in which a story used to be narrated. In those days in Madrasa the children used to sing Islamic songs or Gazals and that inspired me to write poems as well. A Gazal competition used to be held between the students in Madrasa, and I was one of the competetors. A N M Bodrul Hauque Shasthri, also known as Sharo Pandit was my Ustad or teacher in Lauta High School and he was a renowned Bengali teacher and writer. He taught in many different well known schools and wrote a lot of books, and a lot of my inspiration came from him. At that time I started writing a little but when I left them in Bangladesh my writings were ruined. I came in this country in 1978. After my degree, I joined the army and became 2nd lieutenant. After training I planned to go to Comilla Cantonment on 28th of March, but the war started from 25th March, so I couldn’t go to Comilla and went to India to fight for the liberation war. At one time I was tied with a bomb and luckily I survived, and in December 1971 I was the commanding officer and after that our country became independent."