A journey to days of yore - Courtesy Quanta Magazine

A journey to days of yore

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A journey to days of yore - Courtesy Quanta Magazine
Illustration Courtesy: Quanta Magazine

The author, being the childhood friend of US-based senior educationist and freelance writer Nazarul Islam, recalls the days they spent at a school and college in Dhaka. He says Nazrul believes each nation’s right to its special path, one that respects common morality and elementary human decency.

By HQ Chowdhry

‘Life is a sine curve! Highs and lows! How one addresses it, is the challenge!’

My sudden desire to dwell on this subject came up in the morning while I was looking for a piece that I once wrote on our famous poet composer, Kazi Nazrul Islam. These days, a thought takes me to another and then…. a journey to days of yore.

Nazarul Islam aka Nazrul, was one of my early friends at St. Gregory’s High School. He was not in the top bracket of good students or a great sportsman. Nor was he a stylish boy that one found in English medium schools during those days. Yet to me, he stood out!

Nazarul Islam
Nazarul Islam

He had a smile which was always shrouded with mystery! It was unfathomable! As time went by, I came to realize that he was someone who could befriend everyone…. from that big brass on the top most floor of a building to a beggar in the street. This is a quality, very few people can acquire in life. He had no ego but had a hidden pride!

Interestingly, he could have been amongst the top five students in the class. But he chose not to! His focus was into something that was always away from the rest of the lot! Once in a while, he would come out of his shell to prove that he could be as good as the toppers in the class or a good batsman in cricket. It does not end here… on the lighter side of life, he had a sense of humour that only a few could match. The jokes were topical with the humour not meant to sting; the “serious ones” arrived though … not as punches in the gut but glancing blows!  He retained that, traces of which I saw when we last met in Karachi some years back!

He had this craze of reading books which he acquired in abundance while in Dhaka. Perhaps at the back of his mind he thought of being a writer as we find him today! As the saying goes, “If you read well, you write well”…. and it turned out Nazrul, in the late sixties decided to keep his other interests on the fringe to focus into writing. He wrote and wrote and soon became editor of “Chit Chat” and “Blue and Gold”, the prestigious magazines of Notre Dame College, Dhaka. I must recall at this point that Nazrul had a very crafty handwriting, undoubtedly the finest in our batch. Sadly, this dot com age has no respect for this classy art!

Like me, his parents were originally from India having crossed the border in 1947. Our families thus initially went through the vicissitudes of life as expected in a new country; but soon we all settled down. However, post-1971, Nazrul had a different story to tell. The effects of liberation had its toll on him and Nazrul had to leave Dhaka in May 1972. Life began all over again in Karachi. After doing his Masters in English literature and a few stints at various business houses, he ultimately decided to settle down in USA. His was therefore, a long Bangladesh – India-Nepal-Pakistan-US journey which ultimately turned to be a rewarding one for him.

Nazrul is currently, a much sought after freelance columnist. He writes for various newspapers in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and USA. A genuine innovator, Nazrul found a quasi-journalistic style to suit himself. Disarmingly modest about his work, he disclaims literary merit. His writing is functional, perhaps because of his fighting years in Bangladesh, Pakistan and USA …the fruit of which is his 500+ articles. From these articles, one finds Nazrul as a great critic of the immolation of liberty and human dignity, a thinker and a moral witness who illumines the fate of the human soul. He loves his Pakistan and identifies his wounded nation that still stands for some primitive practices. But, though the love of the country is there, he loves truth, freedom and justice more. Nazrul believes each nation’s right to its special path, one that respects common morality and elementary human decency. He was practically my first friend who spoke out openly in Pakistan about the insanity of the Bangladesh war.

Every generation includes a few people who don’t entirely fit the mould. To boomers like me, Nazrul was one of the kinds. Today, the events of the entire world are at his fingers’ ends. Some of his columns look positively clairvoyant… the philosophical reflections and insights embedded in these articles will remain a treasure of troves.

Take a crack at him with any current issue and he will return you with a piece, brilliant as ever! That’s the gift he always had and still has for his friends, fans and readers plus that mysterious smile to greet you!


HQ ChowdhryHQ Chowdhry is an author, art critic, columnist and globetrotter. He is widely popular critic in India and Bangladesh. He was educated both in Bangladesh and abroad and has vast experience in scientific methodology. He lives in Dhaka and currently is the Vice Chair of NGO friendship. In 1988, he served as Consultant of US-based Spatial Education & Research (Asia pacific Region) and developed science laboratories.      

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