Civic chief Krishna Chakraborty garlands the Nazrul statue on May 25 as councillors Asesh Mukherjee, Anindya Chattopadhyay, Rebecca Sultana and Ila Nandy look on. (Saradindu Chaudhury)
The proposed academy on Kazi Nazrul Islam may have got shifted from Salt Lake’s Indira Bhavan to New Town but going by the Nazrul knowledge quotient of people living in the neighbourhood of Indira Bhavan, perhaps Salt Lake could have done with a museum to educate its residents on the rebel poet.
Hours after the poet’s birth anniversary was marked by the Bidhannagar Municipality by garlanding the township’s sole Nazrul statue opposite Indira Bhavan on May 25, The Telegraph Salt Lake visited BF Park, one of the parks nearest to the now cancelled museum site with a set of questions on Nazrul (see box).
While most residents knew the bare minimum facts about the poet, others were clueless. When asked if he had heard of Nazrul, engineering student Sunny Prashant said that it was the name of a Metro station. He added that he had recently moved to the city and did not know much about Bengali culture.
Jyotirmoy Kundu, a Class VI student playing football in the park, said Nazrul was a freedom-fighter. When his mother gave him the look, he changed his mind. “He was a singer.” No number of nasty looks from his mother could get the correct answer out of the boy. “He was something like thatů” Jyotirmoy concluded. “But I know he sang a song — Karar Oi louho kopat — that my father likes to sing.”
Majority of the respondents did not know that Nazrul had been a journalist and worked for the radio in course of his career. Senior citizens seemed to know that he had married a Hindu lady but his place of birth drew a blank. Only 75-year-old Bela Bhattacharya got the answer — Churulia — correct.
She was the only one who could name two Nazrulgeetis; most could not even name one. “I had once performed Durgom giri kantar moru so I remember it,” she smiled. “I no longer sing now but like to attend the Nazrul Jayanti programmes in our block.”
Another engineering student Sohini Bose raked her brains but could not recall a single Nazrulgeeti. “I’ve danced to them as a child but cannot recollect the songs,” she regretted. She could name as many Rabindrasangeets as one wanted. Even A.K. Mishra, who hails from Odisha and was playing with his son at the park, managed to name Ekla cholo re when asked to name a Rabindrasangeet but most Bengalis failed to recall a single Nazrulgeeti.
Six-year-old Nimisha Munshi even sang Purano shei diner katha but did not know any Nazrulgeeti. Her mother Ashima knew one — Shukno patar nupur paye. “I will be enrolling my daughter in Rabindrasangeet classes soon. Even though Nazrul was an accomplished poet, it is Rabindrasangeet that is in the blood of Bengalis,” she said.
No one could name any of the Nazrulgeeti exponents, with one confusing Dhiren Basu with Dwijen Mukhopadhyay.
Most were unaware that the poet had been awarded the Padmabhushan, some complaining that Nazrul had not got his due from the government. Very few were aware of his birth anniversary, but most said “it comes within a month of Rabindra Jayanti”.
date dilemma: People who walked into Nazrul Park on May 25 , when Bidhannagar Municipality paid tribute to the poet, would have been surprised had their eyes caught the slab at the base of the garlanded statue. Nazrul, the slab states, was born on May 24, 1899. The slab had not got the date wrong. The civic body had chosen to go with the Bengali calendar to mark his birth anniversary, and 11th of Jaishtha this year fell on May 25. Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee
question of answers
Following are the questions fielded to residents at BF Park on May 25. Within parentheses are the percentages of respondents who answered correctly.
Nazrul worked as a journalist. True or false?
True. He became chief editor of the newspaper Nabayug in 1940. (20%)
Nazrul worked for a radio station. True or false?
True. He supervised production and broadcasting of the musical programmes at Calcutta Radio. (30%)
Did Nazrul marry a Hindu or a Muslim woman?
Hindu. He married Pramila Devi (picture above left) on April 25, 1924. (40%)
Was Nazrul born on this day (May 25) in 1899?
Yes and no. (see picture caption right)
By what title is he commonly known?
He was known as Bidrohi Kabi, for his revolutionary works against the British. One of his most famous poems is called Bidrohi, published in 1922. (50%)
Where was he born?
In Churulia village of Burdwan district. The village is near Asansol. (11%)
Nazrul was awarded the Padmabhushan. True or false?
True. He received India’s third highest civilian award in 1960. (11%)
Nazrul died in Calcutta. True or false?
False. He died in Dhaka in 1976, aged 77. The government of Bangladesh accorded him honourary citizenship and he spent his last days there. He was buried beside a mosque in the University of Dhaka. (20%)
Is Kazi Aniruddha Nazrul’s father, brother or son?
Son. Kazi Aniruddha, a guitarist, was his youngest child. (20%)
* The respondents were also asked to name three Nazrulgeetis, three Rabindrasangeets and a