Curious Case of Nayan Fakir

Nayan Fakir is no more. Long live Nayan Fakir. He departed, but left his begging bowl with me, left his Dafli for all of us. It doesn’t surprise me any more that I become the chosen one often to talk about those unnamed artistes, who are uncannily huge personalities at the same time.

Md. Iqbal Ali urf Nayan was not a Fakir by birth. His father was a tailor, an immigrant from somewhere in Pabna district of Bangladesh. That man was so moved by the unusual welcome gesture in this Saare Jahan Se Accha homeland of ours, that he named his son after Iqbal. Iqbal was born a little prematurely at the border – possibly Hili border of Dinajpur – while his mother was gunned down by some patriotic overzealous BSF soldier. He entered his homeland with his elder sister, father and a few more illegal immigrants, called refugees. He was nursed by another immigrant mother in those trying days of 1971. East Pakistan became Bangladesh, but his father never considered going back. Iqbal was named after a poet, and became a singer.

When I met him for the first time, he was singing and begging on a train – Goud Express – back in 1998. He was a giant of a man, 6 inches taller than me, dark and robust with broad square shoulders. But his eyes were dreamy, and the voice – unusually tender, soft, and perfectly tuned. Later I discovered that he was an authority of Lalan Fakir songs and the whole legacy that we the “seculars” often boast of. No, Nayan was not a secular hypocrite – he was a Muslim, a thorough-bred one for that matter – but his easy blasphemous confession was that “I was born to a Molla, so I praise Allah, had I been born to a Vaishnav, may be I’d have sung Baul”. Music was the religion; his religion was not guided by which holy book he was referring to. In another conversation, as late as 2017, he told me about his wish to unify the world – at least his part of it – with music alone. “Whoever appreciates my music is my brother”. As a music-researcher myself, and being one who is worried about the skewed identity narratives dished out by various agencies – I wouldn’t have much to say on contrary.

He was killed by some illiterate, uneducated political goons. His crime was, when the goons-in-power-that-be rampaged through the nomination-filing process, he saved the Leftist candidate under his wings. Nayan was a robust man, it was not very difficult for him to tackle 3-4 untrained teenager hooligans. But then, the hooligans took their revenge. They came back as a pack of wolves at night, inflicted critical injuries on Nayan, and he died two days later in a hospital – almost unattended. Medical care has to be bought with money, which was not there. Those wolves would never know what they have done. However, our media too is too busy with other important stuff. A beggar’s death makes no news, that too in a Sufi garb. Last night I thoroughly scanned all newspapers where a report could have been carried. Save for one Uttarbanga Sambad that carried a three-liner (with wrong name, that too), no news clippings popped up anywhere. Okay, no news is good news. For his family is still too scared to open their mouth, it’s better that news vultures don’t flock around them.

Yes, this beggar had a family too. His sister never got married, because one of our Romeo gentlemen thought she was too beautiful not to be burnt with acid, and he took the onus on himself to burn her life. And Nayan has had a son, probably an autistic one, they say he is “retard”. Nayan’s wife died a few years back of severe anemia.

Okay, such things happen. But what doesn’t happen regularly is that WATAN and yours truly getting involved in it. We are determined to stand by this family any which way we can, and for the time being – “money” is the primary requirement. Kulsum Banu (Nayan’s sister) is too proudly paranoid to take any help from the Baul-Fakir Sangha, too scared to talk to our friends in the legal profession who’d genuinely help her to get some justice; some form of justice! But they have to live on. They also have to repay the debts that this incident created – the ambulance was free, but the hospital wasn’t.

However, I am with them. I’ll do whatever it takes within my not-that-ample resources, which is barely sufficient for me. If anyone else wants to share the responsibility – do get in touch with me. Or just to clear your conscience – send to the UPI id watantrust@axisbank – no amount is small amount for them.

A quick note: Generous friends have donated to help the family of deceased Md. Iqbal Ali alias Nayan Fakir, and we now have exactly 23,000.00 INR in the fund (including WATAN contribution), which is enough to free the family from debts that we know of – but certainly not enough to find a permanent solution to their woes. I am proud of my friends. Let us see what more can we do for them, and what can we do to stop the Political Violence so that no more Nayan Fakir dies.

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