Review Article

One Bikraman Nair

Nityananda Ghosh

Reading Manas Bhattacharya’s* ‘Naiarda’r Katha’ [The Tale of Naiarda i.e. Bikraman Nair, in Bengali] , is very interesting to recollect and reflect on the world around Nair, a popular journalist in a Calcutta-based daily. The writer has shared many events of Nair’s life during his 30 years of journalistic journey in a light mood. Nair hailed from Kerala but he actually made Bengal his home while learning Bengali seriously and integrating himself with Bengali cultural milieu.

The writer has shared so many anecdotes in this well-readable book containing 174 pages! Once the writer went to Nair’s mess at 69, Ripon Street, along with Jyotida--Jyot iChattopadhyay. Jyoti went there to collect party levy from Nair. The first encounter with Nair for Manas was not pleasant. As he was a stranger Nair became furious and rebuked Jyoti at length because those were the days when naxalite movement was picking up. Perhaps Nair didn’t like the idea of disclosing his revolutionary political identity to an unknown person. Few days later Nair inquired about Manas and asked Jyoti to bring him to his residence. Hearing the incident Pradip Chatterjee, another party whole-timer, consoled Manas and asked him to meet Nair again. Nair was actually a very soft person. But apparently he looked tough. The time was April 1976. Manas Bhattacharya’s second encounter with Nair was nice. And he became a close associate of him in no time. Their bond or friendship whatever one may call it remained solid for the next 30 years. Nair engaged Manas as a typist to type the manuscript of Asit Sen, a naxalite leader who announced the formation of CPI-ML at the Saheed Minar Maidan meeting. Sen presided the meeting but tragically enough he had no prior knowledge about the party formation. Meanwhile, Nair arranged a meeting of Manas with Samar Sen at 61, Mott Lane and soon he began to work as an office assistant of Frontier, the magazine Samar Sen launched in 1968. Finally, Manas joined the Telegraph.

Nair’s life is full of colourful events. After passing intermediate from Maharaja College of Ernakulam in Kerala he was admitted to BA in Biswabharati of Santiniketan at the initiative of one of his teachers G Shankar Kurap, a Gyanpeeth awardee for his poems. In truth Santiniketan was the turning point in his life. He learned Bengali with precision and became a part of Bengali art and cultural milieu in Kolkata.

After passing BA from Biswabharati Nair joined a school in a remote village near Silchar in Assam. But after sometime he returned to Kolkata and started studying MA in English in Jadavpur University. Once he met Samar Sen who was then working in the Ananda Bazar group’s English daily Hindusthan Standard. As he was jobless Samar Babu asked him to join Hindusthan Standard and Nair gladly accepted the offer. Surprisingly enough, after Nair’s joining Samar Sen within a few days resigned from Hindusthan Standard because of a dispute with the management over the publication of a controversial news item on communalism. Nair finally moved to Ananda Bazar house’s business daily –Business Standard.

Bikraman Nair was the only son of KartyaniPonnama and Gopalan Nair, born in a tiny village named Aanekutty under Aleppy district of Kerala on 9th August 1936. Since his childhood he was a voracious reader. At his early age his father left home forever to join NetajiSubhas Chandra Bose’s INA. He was brought up by his grand-father and grand-mother. Professionally his father was a lawyer.

Nair had to pass through many bone-chilling moments when death narrowly missed him. Nair once interacted with Bhenkitesh Ramakrishna, the Nobel laureate NRI and during discussion he said he overcame hard times of his life by reading literature. Nair felt magic realism in real life too. Detective writings were his special area of interest. George Simone was one if his favourite writers. Once he visited the place where the great BankimchandraChattopadhyay wrote his ‘epic’ ANANDAMATH at Joynagar in the district of 24-Parganas. Nair stayed at the two-storied old building with whirling stairs for a night to grasp the environment in which Bankim wrote that historic novel.

He maintained good relations with everyone. He had no enemies. He was a great admirer of veteran journalist Sankar Ray, a regular contributor to Frontier. Manas has written this book in a very lucid manner and readers cannot stop without finishing the story of a journalist who was also a political activist in those turbulent days of the 1970s.

*Nairdar Katha
Aksharik Publication
19/2, RadhanathMullick Lane
Price: Rs 250

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Vol 56, No. 22, Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2023