Date of birth: 03-02-1954 (As per school record)
Place of birth: Basantapur, Dt murshidabad, WB .
Day: Tuesday (as per the memory of mother).
Time: Sun-rise (as per the memory of mother).
Mother Late Lekzan Nesa, Father late Abdul Aziz.
His father was a part-time marginal farmer and part-time daily labourer.
Dr Nazrul Islam is the eldest of 7 brothers and 2 sisters. He was born at the dwelling house of his maternal grandfather. Her mother can only recollect that, it was a Tuesday morning. The Sun was just rising. A few days of Bengali month, Paush was left. Depending on it, some argue that, his actual date of birth must be some day on or about 10 January and not 3 February.
At that time, there was not even a primary school at his paternal village, Ramna Basantapur, where he was brought up in the childhood. One village elder, Khodabakhsh Mandal, took him, along with others, to the primary school in the neighbouring village, Bhatsala. In the admission registrar, the headmaster of Bhatsala Primary School recorded his date of birth as 03-02-1954, as per the rough age given by Khodabakhsh Mandal. That continued to be his recorded date of birth.
He was born at his maternal place. They gave him the name of ‘Mani’. His paternal relatives gave him some name. His mother claims that he was given the name of ‘Nazrul’. But as far as he remembers, before going to the primary school, he was not being addressed as ‘Nazrul’. On the inquiry of the headmaster of Bhatsala Primary School, Khodabakhsh Mandal mentioned his name as ‘Nuzbal’/ ‘Nuzmal’. The headmaster did not like it. He recorded the name as ‘Nazrul Islam’, perhaps after Rebel Poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam. After he got the doctorate degree in 1991, his name became ‘Dr Nazrul Islam’.
In 1999, he decided to change his name to ‘Bakul Bangali’. He made affidavit in the court and was about to announce the same in the newspapers, which is a requirement for the change to be effective. But some of his very close friends persuaded him not to make the change of name effective.
[There was a rationale for the change of his name. He wrote a book on how the Hindu-Muslim relationship could be made cordial. One of his recommendations was that the name, which identifies a person with some particular religion or a particular caste of that religion, should be abolished and secular name should be encouraged. He thought that, he should implement it in his life. ]
At this time, the primary school was just established in the neighbouring village, Bhatasala. At that time Elahi Mandal was the leader of their part of the village. The school authority approached him for sending some students. His eldest son, Khodabakhsh Mandal took Nazrul Islam, along with others, for admission to the school. In this school he met his most respected teacher in life, Shri Amarendranath Pal, who made Nazrul to dream big.
Primary School : Amarendranath Pal was an outstanding teacher. He used to teach through play. The students used to just play and learn. Nazrul still remembers how Amarendranath Pal wrote some letters on small pieces of cardboard and they were asked to arrange these in order and in the way taught them how to make correct words by arranging necessary letters and correct sentence by arranging necessary words in proper sequence and putting the punctuation marks properly.
On Saturday’s routine he did not keep any usual classes. Instead, he used to arrange the weekly programme called ‘Saptahik Asar’. In it students had the option to take part as per his or her ability. One could sing. Another could dance. Yet another could recite. Being from the family of an illiterate daily labourer, Nazrul could not learn singing and dancing. Mr Pal made him to deliver a speech on some selected topics. The topics included the life of many great men. Their lives inspired Nazrul to aspire for dream high. When he read the life of some scientist like Jagadishchandra Basu or Dalton, he aspired to be a scientist. When he read the life of some patriot like Gandhiji or Netaji, he aspired to be a patriot. When he read the life of some literatteur like Rabidranath or Kazi Nazrul, he aspired to be a literatteur. The life of Vidyasagar was more inspiring to him. Vidyasagar was born of a poor family. Yet he got education and established educational institutions for his countrymen and struggled hard to reform the society. Nazrul was also born in a poor family. Thus, if educated like Vidyasagar, one day he would also be in position to do something for his country and countrymen.
Nazrul thinks that, whatever achievement he accomplished in life is due to the teaching of Amarendrnath Pal of Bhatsala Primary School.
Higher Secondary School :
His father was not in favour of his further education. His father thought that, his son had enough education to check the correctness of revenue receipt and read and write letters. So he should learn cultivation. The son of a cultivator would not get any job. So he would starve in case he failed to master cultivation. His mother was in favour of his education up to High School. One of her maternal cousins had passed High School, went to Pakistan and got a job. So her son also might get some job. Nazrul’s primary teacher, Amarendranath Pal got him admitted in the Dumkal Higher Secondary School. He passed Higher Secondary (XI) form this school in 1971.
He was lucky that the school was within a few kilometres from his native village. So he could attend the school on foot. If there was no such school he could not study well. But he realised in his later life that the standard of the school was very low and many of the teachers were not suitable to cover the syllabus. This was a hindrance in his competing in the competitive examination.
Nazrul always used to score very good marks in Geography. But when he saw the syllabus for Central Civil Services Examination, he found that he did not study anything about Australian, North American and South American continents. He did not study anything about glacier, aurora australis, and avalanche. Why? Because, suppose, the book of Geography contained 250 pages as per syllabus. The subject teacher covered only 40 pages. Examination was held from the 40 pages. 210 pages were not covered. In this way, from class V to class VIII, he learnt only 160 pages of 1000, which is only 16% of the syllabus. How could he compete with a student who covered 100%? He was compelled to cover the rest 84% of his school syllabus, after graduation, that also of his own effort.
Nazrul chose Science stream. Syllabuses of no Science subjects except Biology – Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics – were covered fully. For example, in Higher Secondary Mathematics syllabus contained ‘Binomial Theorem’. The Mathematics teacher left it aside on the plea that sufficient number of questions would be available from other chapters to answer the required number of questions. It was right. But he did not tell that this theorem was necessary to study Mathematics in the college.
In those days, Core Mathematics was taught to the Higher Secondary science students. At that age, the students like Nazrul were not aware that this subject was ‘core’ to future learning. One might not study Elective Mathematics. But he must study Core Mathematics. But the teacher taught them differently. They emphasised that as there would no final examination by the Board, so the students should not bother much for Core Mathematics. Nazrul remembers that, only a very small portion of the syllabus was covered. Almost entire syllabus of Core Mathematics was never touched. Thus he did not learn anything about mean, median, mode, standard deviation of statistics. But these were included in the General Knowledge syllabus of Central Civil Services Examination. So he was compelled to learn these anew for the examination. Then it was very difficult for him to compete with those students who were taught these in their schools.
There were topics like ‘Upasarga’, ‘Anusarag’, ‘Pratyay’ and ‘Natwa bidhan-Shatwa-bidhan’ in the Higher Secondary Bengali syllabus. The subject teacher did not teach these. These are required not only for passing examination, but also for writing correct Bengali. These are required for understanding words formation, spelling and sentences, which are life-long requirement. So the unsuitable teachers made their students to suffer lifelong. Why are we writing these things? Dr Islam wants to make the students aware so that they do not suffer likewise. It is very difficult to compensate such loss in the school life. This is why almost all students of good schools with qualified and dutiful teachers are generally established in life. But the majorities of students of ordinary schools with unqualified and callous teachers fail to make any mark in life.
The college life of Nazrul Islam was a tragic one. Their economic condition was very bad. To add fuel to fire, there was a devastating flood in 1971, the year he passed HS. Crops were damaged. The cattle died. His father tried to do a part-time business in buying raw jute and selling it in the ‘arhat’ of ‘mahajan’. The ‘mahajan’, Khokan Thakur, took the jute from his father and decamped overnight. He did not pay the price. His father could not avoid paying the local people from whom he purchased the jute in credit. The administration did not come to his help. His father had neither ability nor courage to approach the court. The court was situated in the district headquarters, where the house of the cheater ‘mahajan’ was situated and he was reported to patronise some criminals for intimidating the wretched people like the father of Nazrul whom he had cheated. Nazrul went to him thrice. He gave dates after date and did not pay. His father had to sell a portion of his land for paying the money. So his father was not in a position to pay the money required for his admission in the college. He worked as daily labourer and earned some money and got him admitted in the college with the money.
He could not afford any lodging at Berhampore. So he had to travel twice daily the distance 5 kms on foot and 35 kms in bus. At that time, there was no bridge over the Bhairab River. All had to cross it on boat. It was time-consuming. The bridge on the Bali Channel was on floating drums. The passengers had to cross it on foot. It also took time. Thousands of refugees from the then East Pakistan took shelters on the roadsides. It also made the speed of the buses very slow. For covering a distance of 35 kms it took about two hours and sometime more than that. Nazrul used to get up very early in the morning, take his bath, take food and start for the college at seven. He almost ran to reach the BDO Crossing for catching the bus at about eight in the morning. The bus was overcrowded. It was difficult to get inside. He had to hang from the handle for some distance. Then he could get in, but getting a seat was beyond any possibility. At about 1030, the bus used to reach the Berhampore Bus-stand. Getting down from the bus, he again began to walk hurriedly. But he could not reach the college before one or two periods were over. The classes were used to be over by 1730, except on days when the practical classes were at the end and the practical classes took more time.
From the college he used to hurriedly rush to the bus-stand, board the bus, stand in the bus till it reaches Dumkal. He needed money as bus fare. So at Dumkal he had to give tuition to children of well to do family. When the tuition was over it was generally 10 passed. Completely exhausted – heavily tired and highly hungry – he used to set feet towards home. He generally used to reach home at about 12/ 1230. He took the food, if there was any, and went to sleep. After a few hours the hectic activities for the next day used to start.
He had no time to study. No time to take rest. No time to think. Moreover, on account of his utter poverty, he could not buy even a single book. He could not buy even the exercise books for taking class-notes. So in the college days he could not make any study.
There were two more hindrances. Firstly, he was drawn to the ideas of communism by his schoolteacher, Abdul Bari, who was a CPI (M) MLA from Dumkal Assembly Constituency. But very soon he found that CPI (M) was not doing much for the very poor people like him. So he was attracted towards the more radical Naxallite Movement. It dented into his already meagre time. Secondly, during his school days, he used to take part in debating. He represented his school in the inter-school debates and stood first in the district. In his college days he represented his college in may competitions, including all Bengal and all India level competitions and also got first prizes for his college. This gave him some pleasant moments in his very miserable college days. But it further reduced his study time for the honours course.
Though Nazrul Islam sometime dreamt of becoming a scientist, he did not have the chance to attend any university regularly. Just after graduation, he joined service. During the service period, he passed Special BA, passed M A, and obtained Ph D and D Litt degrees from Calcutta University and M B A degree from Jadavpur University.
He began his life as ‘Mani’ at his maternal village. Very soon he was brought to his paternal place and became ‘Nuzbal’/ ‘Nuzmal’. Admission record in the primary school made him Nazrul Islam.
After primary school he was admitted in the Dumkal Higher Secondary School. He passed his Higher Secondary Examination, in Science Stream with higher First Division and Letter Marks, in 1971.
He got himself admitted in B Sc (Honours in Chemistry). He obtained his B Sc degree from this college. The final examination was scheduled to be held in 1974. It was actually held in 1975 and the result was out much later. So he passed the B Sc of 1974 in 1976.
He began his career as a daily labourer. He left his paternal house and took a job of Private Tutor at a village in Hooghly district, at a monthly salary of Rs 100. At the intervention of his college teacher, Dr Asish Chatterjee, he joined as a temporary Laboratory Assistant of Krishnath College, Berhampore, at a monthly salary of Rs 150. Through the Clerkship Examination, he joined as a Lower Division Assistant in the Writers Buildings in 1977.
He appeared at many competitive examinations like WBCS (Executive) etc, ASM in Railways, Guard in Railways, KGO in Land & Land Reforms Department. Through these examinations, he got five jobs at a time. He joined as ARCS (WB Co-operative Service) in the Co-operative Directorate of Govt of WB, New Secretariat Buildings in 1978.
Through the Central Civil Services Examination 1980, he joined Indian Police Service in 1981.
Mentors/ whom he remembers
He remembers his both parents, who cultivated first the idealism in him. Besides them there are few more persons, whom he remembers till today for affecting his life.
Ichharuddin Fakir played an important role in his life. He was being revered as a ‘pir’. He used to live a life of pious Muslim. But he had no dogmatism. People of the area used to believe that he used to wield supernatural power. They believed that, he had command over the angels and fairies. He could walk over the water. He could fly in sky. The ferocious animals like tiger respected and made way for him. He could exorcise ghosts. His popularity cut across the religious lines. People used to come to him for exorcising ghosts and curing of other disease. He could realise hefty amount from them, as is done by the so-called sacred men. But he did not take any fees from them. He used to work as a carpenter. The wage of this carpentry was his livelihood. He lived a very simple life. So requirement was less. He could serve other people selflessly. This helped Nazrul throughout his life to live very simple life and keep his requirement very limited.
If any other persons have any effect on him, it was that of Dr B R Ambedkar, and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Dr Ambedkar was born to a Mahar family, which was considered untouchable. In spite of all the difficulties, he became B A of Bombay University, M A and Ph D of Columbia University, Bar at Law, M Sc and D Sc of London University; and rose to be the first Law Minister of India. What is more, he struggled all through his life for the emancipation of the untouchables, among whom he was born and brought up. He never forgot to fight for them. And Gandhi, the ‘half-naked fakir’ became and continued to be the unquestioned leader of the millions of Indians. But he used to live a very simple life. The people of the country could think him as one of them.
In his childhood, Nazrul was a devout Muslim. He used to have namaz seven times a day. He used to observe roza. He used to take part in the religious discourses. So Ichharuddin Fakir and other elders like Adhar Sekh used to like him much. The liking was so intense that, once, when the regular khatib became absent, they made schoolboy Nazrul their Imam in the Friday Jumma prayer and the Octogenarian villagers like Ichharuddin Fakir and Adhar Sekh also had their prayer under his leadership.
In his Higher Secondary days, Nazrul was attracted to science and communism. He became logical. He gave up having prayer and observing roza. Yet Ichharuddin used to like Nazrul for his good disposition. Once some people complained to him against his affection for Nazrul, who did not have namaz and observe roza. The fakir answered to them in a different way.
“You people go to my house”, He asked, “Don’t you?” The people answered, “Yes, we go.” “But when I come to your place you don’t go to my house for me”, He asked, “Do you?” The people said in one voice, “No, we don’t go.” “Why? Don’t you need me then?” “No, no.”
“Because you are available in our place.” “Likewise Allah comes to him. He needn’t go to Allah. He needn’t have namaz like us. Allah doesn’t come to us. So we have to go to Him. We have to have namaz.” The people became voiceless. He continued, “We need it. He doesn’t need it.” The people stood spell bound. He went away. Later on, there was much discussion about it and the people could not come to a conclusion whether dictum of the fakir was out of his realisation or out of his blind affection for Nazrul. But they did not raise this point again to him. Ichharuddin Fakir was a pious man. But he never preached to others. People followed him out of their reverence to him. People of the area used to come to him for the cure of ailments. Without any objection, he used to puff the water for the purpose. He used to go to any place to exorcise the ghosts, if requested. When inquired confidentially, he confided Nazrul that he had no supernatural power. He stated that his puffing the water did not cure any disease. His exorcising did not cure any ghost. “Then why do you do these?”
“The people are very poor.” He replied, “They could not pay the high fees of the physicians. So they did not attend them. They come to me. I puff the water. They believed that, they would be cured. They feel assured. Some of them are cured in this way.” “Walking on water, flying in the sky and command over the angels and fairies?” “I have no such power.” “Then, why do people discuss so?” “People aspire to be more powerful. They want the ability to walk on water, fly in the sky and command the powerful. So they imagine these things. They revere the pious. So they ascribe these abilities to them. That’s why.” “Simply that’s why?” “Simply that’s why.” This was Ichharuddin Fakir.
Another villager had profound effect on Nazrul. He was Elahi Mandal. He was the ‘mandal’ of the ‘Mandal Clan’ of the village to which Nazrul’s father belonged to. Elahi Mandal was illiterate. But he could tell the section of IPC and ayat of the Koran. He always tried to lead his clan well. He tried to get his children educated. He was not successful. He sent his eldest son, Khodabakhs to Batikamari Primary School. He could not go further. His son Atar was contemporary of Nazrul. Elahi spent much for his education. He could not do well. Nazrul’s father was poorer than he was. He could not spend much for Nazrul’s education. Yet Nazrul was progressing well. This was why Elahi used to like Nazrul well. He wanted that, Nazrul should take the role of the leader. He wanted Nazrul to lead them to prosperity. Before arriving at any important decision for the village he used to discuss matters with Nazrul. When Nazrul was a college student, there was a feud between the Mandals and Biswases. At the time of discussion, Elahi stated to Nazrul, “They are from the same village. They will live here. We shall also live here. Find way out so that both are saved.” Nazrul liked the feeling very much. In his later life, it paved the path for his thinking about the welfare of even those, who were perpetrating damage to him.
Among his teachers, Nazrul remembers his primary teacher, Amarendranath Pal most. It was he, who set the goal and idealism of his life. Among the High School teachers, Gangaprasad Ghoshal appeared to him the most secular person present in the school. Among his college teachers, Sakinath Jha, Dipankar Chakrabarti and Dr Asish Chatterjee demand special mention. Both Professor Jha and Porfessor Chakrabarti were ultra-left in their thoughts. In his school and college days he used to represent the school and college in the debating. For discussion he used to meet the relevant teacher. The clarity of thinking of Professor Jha and Porfessor Chakrabarti influenced him much. In his later life also their thoughts went on paving the path. Dr Asish Chatterjee of chemistry influenced the life of Nazrul much. He was very much optimistic and idealistic. When Nazrul was away from home with the job of a private tutor, he arranged the job of Laboratory Assistant in K N College. It was he, who encouraged Nazrul to appear at the WBCS Examination within a few days of his recovery from small pox. It was he, who encouraged him to join IPS, when Nazrul’s friends were against his joining police. Dr Chatterjee argued, “Won’t the police of independent country reform? You will join police. You will remain honest and you will make the police honest.”
Prof Debapriya Banerjee also helped Nazrul in going ahead in his life.