Padma Shri Poet Haldhar Nag Is a Class 3 Dropout, but His Odia Poetry Is Now a PhD Subject

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On Monday, the Padma Shri was awarded to a poet from Odisha who remembers all of his poems and 20 epics by-heart, even though he hasn’t attended school after Class 3.

66-year-old Haldhar Nag’s Kosli language poetry is also the subject of PhD research by five scholars. Besides this, Sambhalpur University is compiling all of his writings into one book, called the Haldar Granthabali-2, and will use it as part of its syllabus.

He is known to recite his poetry from his mind, without having to refer any books.

Haldhar nag

Haldhar Nag

Source: Facebook

According to a close associate of Nag, he attends at least three to four programmes daily, where he recites poetry.

Nag was born in 1950 into a poor family at Bargarh district, about 76 kilometres from Sambhalpur. His father died when he was 10 years old, and he couldn’t continue school after Class 3. Instead, he took up a job as a dishwasher at a sweet shop. But two years later, he shifted to a school, where he worked as a cook. He remained there for 16 years.

While working at the school, he realised that there were a lot many schools opening up in the area.

“I approached a banker and got Rs 1000 loan to start a small shop selling stationeries and eatables for school students,” Nag said to the Times of India.

While he had been writing folk stories in Kosali till then, in 1990, he penned his first poem. When Dhodo Bargachh (The Old Banyan Tree) was published in a local magazine, he sent four more. All of them got published. The rest, as they say, is history. His poetry began to receive appreciation from critics and admirers.

“I was felicitated and that encouraged me to write more. I started touring nearby villages to recite my poems and got huge response,” he said. It earned him the name Lok Kabi Ratna.

His poetry talks about social issues, fighting oppression, nature, religion, mythology, all derived from the everyday life around him. “In my view, poetry must have real-life connection and a message for the people,” Nag said.

Dressed always in a white dhoti and no footwear, he received the Padma Shri from President Pranab Mukherjee for his outstanding contributions to Odia literature. Nag said, “It’s great to see the huge interest of young people in poems in Kosli. Everyone is a poet, but only a few have the art of giving them shape.”

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