Haldhar Nag was recently awarded with the prestigious Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India by Government of India in 2016. He is a prominent Kosli language poet and writer from Odisha.
Haldhar Nag, popularly known as Lok kabi Ratna was born in a poor family of Ghens in Bargarh district of Odisha. The 66 years old poet from Barghar district in Odisha has barely attended school having lost his father at the tender age of ten. He had formal schooling upto third standard only as he had to dropout from school after class three due to his family responsibilities at that tender age. He did odd jobs like washing dishes, and cooking at a school for years until he opened a small stationery shop near a school. He also worked as a cook at a high school for almost 16 years. It was during this period that Nag started writing. His first poem, 'Dhodo Bargachh' (The Old Banyan Tree) was published in a local magazine in 1990.
He was certainly not a man of means but his poetic fragrance lured many. Even though he might not have attended school, his works have gone even beyond them.
Initially writing Kosli folk stories, in the 1990s he started writing poems in the Kosali language. Needless to say he got lakhs of followers in Odisha and Chatishgarh, who congregate in large number to listen to his Koshali poetry when so ever he orates on the podium.
The Sambalpur University in Orissa is also coming up with a compilation of his writings-Haldhar Granthabali-2- which will be a part of the university syllabus. His contribution in the academic sector doesn't end there. Five scholars have done their PhD research based on the works of Nag. Even the BBC has made a documentary film about his life and works.
Nag has never worn any footwear and always wears white dhoti and vest as he feel free in this attire. “Life of a widow’s child was tough” said Nag.
“He remembers whatever he writes and has been reciting them. You just need to mention the name or subject. He never misses anything. Now he attends at least three to four programs every day to recite his poems,” said an associate of poets.
Popularly known as Lok Kabi Ratna, he draws his themes from rustic surroundings, nature, society, mythology and religion. He also takes up the cause of the oppressed and social reforms through his writings. “In my view, poetry must have a real-life connection and a message for the people,” Nag said.
Such accreditation proves that wisdom and feelings are natural, and so are the expressions, verbal or written in a script. Today, when the World is perhaps full of literate ignorant people, we definitely require more of such illiterate wise people to make it a better place to live. Kudos also to the Award Committee for this out-of-box decision!