NEW DELHI: In our lives, we come across people several people – some born with a silver spoon in their mouth, while a few others who are born in acute poverty and face extreme hardship till their last breath, yet they never give up and leave an indelible impression on our minds through their determination, hard work and contribution to the society.
One such man is Haldhar Nag, a man who barely went to school, lost his parents at an early age, did menial jobs for a living, sells ‘raga chana’ (spicy chickpeas) and has been awarded a Padma Shri for his contribution to the field of Odiya literature in 2016.
Who Is Haldhar Nag?
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Born in 1950 to a poor family in the Bargarh district of Odisha, Haldhar Nag is a famous Odiya folk poet of the ‘Kosli’ language, who despite receiving a formal school education, has five Phd theses on him. A true embodiment of ‘simple living and high thinking,’ Nag lost his parents at the tender age of 10. Due to the poor financial condition of his family, Nag was forced to quit his studies when he was in class 3. He spent several years at a ‘dhaba’ serving the customers and dishwashing in order to survive.
With the help of a village head, he worked as a ‘cook’ in a local school for the next 16 years. A few years later, he took a bank loan of Rs 1000 to set up a small-scale stationery shop near the school. Though he is barely educated, he did not let his passion for writing die and kept writing small pieces.
In the year 1990, Nag wrote his first poem ‘Dhodo Bargach’ (The Old Banyan Tree). Luckily, his poems and compositions were published in a local magazine and with the passage of time, he became famous as a folk poet of the ‘Kosli’ language. His poems, popularly known as ‘Lok Kavi Ratna’ in Odiya, revolve around nature, society, mythology and religion.
Through his writings, Nag also promotes social reforms. He is renowned for his work ‘Kavyanjali’, an anthology of English translations of his selected poetry.
Selling ‘Raga Chana’
This 74-year-old dark-complexioned legendary Odiya poet can be easily spotted selling ‘Raga chana’ (spicy chickpeas) during ‘Rath Yatra’ in his village in Bargarh every year. His ‘Raga Chana’ is a favourite among the visitors and devotees who come to witness the Rath Yatra every year. However, he has no aversion to selling chickpeas and says that it is his occupation and he earns his livelihood from it. He further says that he has been selling it since his youth and can’t stop selling it for the fact that he is a Padma Shri recipient.
In 2016, the Government of India decided to honour him with a Padma Shri for his invaluable contribution to the field of literature. Nag’s simplicity could be understood from the fact that when he received a call confirming the government’s decision to award Padma Shri to him, he pleaded, “Sahib! I do not have money to come to Delhi, please send the award (Padma Shri) by post.”
Nag grabbed a lot of eyeballs when he came to receive the award barefoot wearing a spotless white dhoti skirt and vest from then-President Pranab Mukherjee. In yet another proof of this man’s simplicity and greatness, Nag donated the Padma Shri allowance of Rs 10,000 to an orphanage.
Nag, who writes in the Kosli language, has penned 20 epics and numerous poems. In recognition of his accomplishments, a compilation of his writings ‘Haldhar Granthavali-2’, has been made part of the syllabus in ‘Sambalpur University’ of Odisha.