Lalon left no trace of his birth or his ‘origin’ and remained silent about his past, fearing that he would be cast into class, caste or communal identities by a fragmented and hierarchical society. Despite this silence on his origins, communal appropriation of this great politico-philosophical figure has created a controversy regarding whether he is ‘Muslim’ or a ‘Hindu’ — a ‘sufi’ or a follower ‘bhakti’ tradition—a ‘baul’ or a ‘fakir’, etc. He is none, as he always strove to go beyond all politics of identities. Lalon sang, “People ask if Lalon Fakir is a Hindu or a Mussalman. Lalon says he himself doesn’t know who he is.
Lalon does not fit into the construction of the so called ‘bauls’ or ‘fakirs’ as a mystical or spiritual types who deny all worldly affairs in desperate search for a mystical ecstasy of the soul. Such construction is very elite, middle class, and premised on the divide between ‘modern’ and ‘spiritual’ world. It also conveniently ignores the political and social aspects of Bengal’s spiritual movements and depoliticizes the transformative role of ‘bhakti’ or ‘sufi’ traditions. This role is still continued and performed by the poet-singers and philosophers in oral traditions of Bangladesh, a cultural reality of Bangladesh that partly explains the emergence of Bangladesh with distinct identity from Pakistan back in 1971. Depicting Lalon as ‘baul shomrat’ (the Emperor of the Bauls) as projected by elite marginalizes Lalon as a person belonging to a peripheral movement, an outcast, as if he is not a living presence and increasingly occupying the central cultural, intellectual and political space in both side of the border between Bangladesh and West Bengal.
To understand Fakir Lalon Shah is to understand the politics of lifestyle that he practiced. He never was a celebrator of the state of nothingness sometime associated the generic folk cultural movemets known as ‘baul’. His position should not be construed, as a willing suspension of disbelief, nor a reckless abandonment of responsibility or that of becoming inordinately fatalistic. It is a living quest to go back to the dynamics of where it all began: to our infancy as much as the first moments of creation. It is a quest we cannot undertake without some prodding assistance, albeit to our well charted ‘roots’, if we have one? Clearly, life is a blessed moment of procreation and an extension of the continuous cycle of Mother Nature which rolls on over, when we know all too well, it is also a process that simply cannot be rolled back.
It is in context of looking for meanings to living, versus that of death which is as an instant, if not completely the end of reasoning, and the probabilities of a life devoid of answers to the future and where it ultimately places us, is the harrowing spectre human beings are condemned to life in his living. This premise of not knowing where ‘everything’ if ever ends is one that significantly dilates the implication and importance of NOW.

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