Asmat Fakir

Asmat Fakir

interviewed at Jilangi, Murshidabad on the Bangladesh border.

April 2, 2013

-    Tell us your name and the name of your village.
-    My name is Asmat Fakir. I come from the village Majlishpur, police station Karimpur, Nadia district of West Bengal.
-    Since when did you embark on the Fakir path?
-    I embarked on this path in the year 1477 of the Bengali calendar (1).
-    Why did you embark upon this path?
-    I used to be an alem (2) according to the Shariati tradition before becoming a Fakir.  I discovered that within the Quran Sharif, there is a surah (3) called bakara. Within this surah, there is a particular word in Arabic-rahabaniyat. Translating this term into Bengali, it says that within Islam, there is the scope of following sannyasa or the life of an ascetic/mendicant. I began searching for this path within Islam. There is another surah in the Quran Shaif called anam. I found the hundred and fourth ayat (4) of this surah a particularly illuminating (quotes the verse in Arabic). Translated into Bengali, this means that the One whom we refer to as Allah or the Creator has given to every human being an inner eye. Those that try and perceive Allah through this inner eye, or try and cleanse their soul, are performing a good deed. And those that do not, oppose their own soul. Once I read and realized this, I started to follow it. Even after discovering this verse within the Quran, I had to seek out an enlightened human being in order to fully comprehend its essence. He is my guru. His name is Sheikh Sadi-Zul Rahman.
-    Is the guru who initiated you into Baul/Fakir practice and the guru who taught you music the same?
-    No, the guru who initiated me is Fazlur Rahman and the one who taught me the essence of the Fakir way of life is Sheikh Sadi-Zul Rahman. The guru who taught me music is Nukman Saheb.  
-    Can one practice the Baul/Fakir way of life in addition to pursuing other activities vis-à-vis daily domestic life?
-    Yes! One can practice the Baul/Fakir way of life with or without being married. One can maintain one’s daily activities- eating, sleeping, etc and still practice this way of life. This is a practice that completely revolves around the philosophy of the self and the body. Anyone can practice this deha-tattva (philosophy of the body).
-    Why are the Bauls and Fakirs described as Pagol/Crazy?
-    The very term ‘Baul’ means crazy or passionate. Someone who is passionate about/towards the Creator is termed ‘crazy.’ Those that fervently seek the Creator are described as ‘crazy.’
-    What are they crazy about?
-    They are crazy about attaining the Creator. Those who seek to know about the material being, and through the material being seek to know the Creator, are described are ‘crazy.’
-    What kind of songs do you sing?
-    I primarily sing the songs of Lalan. I also sing songs composed by other great men. But I follow Lalan, and subscribe to his philosophy.
-    Will you sing something by him?
-    Do you want me to sing a song or talk about Lalan’s philosophy?
-    Anything you wish!
-    I shall not be able to talk at length about his life, because he passed away many years before we were born. But I can talk at length about his songs and the philosophy espoused therein.
-    Tell us about that and if you could also sing a couple of lines...
-    Ok, I shall sing a couple of lines of his verse—
(sings) The mind that is indestructible
In the journeys of life and death!  
I pay homage to the guru!
Guru, you uplift the reprobate;?You are akin to the Creator!  
The mind that is indestructible
That traverses the banks of this life!
Guru, you uplift the reprobate;?You are akin to the Creator!  
If I do not attain you,
Who do I blame?
So, my eyes are cast upon you,
You the deliverer!
Guru, you uplift the reprobate;?You are akin to the Creator!  
The Trinity- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
Venerate you night and day!
Besides you, I know none!
You are my universe!
Guru, you uplift the reprobate;?You are akin to the Creator!  
-    Jay Guru!
-    Jay Guru!


 (1) There’s a contradiction here as the Bengali year corresponding to 2018-19 of the Gregorian calendar is 1425.
 (2) An alem refers to an Islamic cleric versed in Sharia law.
 (3) Section of the Quran.
 (4) Verse.

Recorded at Jalangi, Murshidabad April 2, 2013

Interviewer, Producer, Director - Shubra Dutta
Main Camera - Shubra Dutta
2nd Unit Camera - Suman Biswas
Camera assistants - Asim and Amit
Sound Engineer - Partho Pratim Barman
Sound Assistant - Tarun Mukherjee

Translated by Parjanya Sen