Ordinary to Extraordinary

Nazrul’s story begins in an impoverished daily-wage earner’s house in Ramna Basantapur, a small village in the interiors of Murshidabad district in West Bengal. Eldest among nine siblings, Nazrul had to begin working as a farmhand very early in life to supplement the meager earnings of his father Abdul Aziz, and mother Lekzannessa. Toiling throughout the day to bring home a measly Rs 4 at the end of it was tough for a small, undernourished boy. But Nazrul had the spirit to fight against the odds, which was also manifest in the determination with which he refused to leave primary school like his brothers.

In between working in the fields, he attended classes and sailed through school. College — the nearest was at Baharampore, an hour’s bus ride from the small town of Domkal, itself an hour’s walk from Ramna Basantapur — was tougher. And since Nazrul was still required to help keep the home fires burning, he skipped his honors degree and went back to work in the fields. He soon managed to get a clerical job at Writers’ Building. With a steadier source of income, he began studying again and passed the state civil service exams. A year later, he successfully appeared for the Union Public Service Commission exams and became an IPS officer.

Today, even as his brothers continue to plow fields and sow seeds in somebody else’s farmland to earn their living, Nazrul is one of the better-known IPS officers of West Bengal, a deputy commissioner of police (detective department) in Calcutta. As a law enforcer, he is tough and uncompromising; he even arrested a ruling party MLA in the very first month of his service. But behind the toughness lies a humble soul. Nazrul cooks his own meals at home, not leaving the job to his orderly. He still travels second class by train and bus when he visits his birthplace, and chooses to walk from Domkal to the village as he once used to. “In a city driven by a million motivations, Nazrul remains simple and sincere, driven only by compassion and commitment,” points out former Calcutta police commissioner Tushar Talukdar.

To top it, he is one of the best-known names in literary circles, author of 12 critically acclaimed books and winner of the state’s highest literary award, the Ananda Purashkar, for his thoughtful writings on Hindu-Muslim relationships.

It is no wonder then that Nazrul is a hero in his village. “Byatt (son) has shown us the way. At long last, our children have a role model to emulate,” gushes Noor Mohammad Mondal, a poor farmer in Ramna Basantapur. In his good fortune, Nazrul has not forgotten his roots. His “mission” now is to ensure literacy in the backward village. “I owe this to the villagers for I grew up under their loving gaze,” he explains. Pooling the Rs 1 lakh he got as the cash component of the Ananda Purashkar and royalties from his other publications, Nazrul bought land and constructed a lime-and-brick structure to set up a primary school — Ramna Basantapur’s first-ever. As the country celebrated its 50th year of Independence, 300 students of Nazrul’s school organized a variety programme to celebrate the occasion. “For the first time in our village, the national flag was hoisted,” says a proud M. Nazim, one of the two teachers in the school.

A British Gurkha soldier who single-handedly fought off up to 30 insurgents in Afghanistan, even using his gun tripod when he ran out of bullets, has been rewarded for bravery, British officials said today. Sergeant Dip Prasad Pun, 31, of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, fired 400 rounds, launched 17 grenades, and detonated a mine to thwart the assault by Taliban fighters at a British checkpoint near Babaji in Helmand province last year.

The only weapon he did not use was the traditional curved Kukri knife carried by the Nepalese soldiers because he did not have it with him. “I think I am a very lucky guy, a survivor. Now I am getting this award, it is very great and I am very happy,” said Pun, who is originally from Bima in western Nepal but now lives in Kent, southeast England, with his wife.

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