Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,
On Monday, 3rd September 2012, at 10.35 p.m. Shri Nirmal Nahar, the senior-most member of the Advisory Board of Overman Foundation and a lifelong disciple of Sri Aurobindo has left his physical body at his residence in Kolkata. He was ninety years of age.
Born on the 28th of July 1922 to Prithwi Singh Nahar (a noted disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother) and Suhag Kumari, Nirmal Nahar hailed from the famous Zamindar family of the Nahars of Azimgunj, Murshidabad and belonged to the Swetambar Murtipujak Oswal Jain sect.
Nirmal Nahar received his early education at Santiniketan where he stayed with his family from 1929 to 1935. He did his schooling from South Suburban Branch School where he was initiated to the student movement. He raised the national flag in the school building and as a result he was transferred to South Suburban Main School. At the Main School, along with other students, he raised funds for flood relief work and handed over the same to the Congress President, Subhash Chandra Bose, in 1939. During this period he was initiated to the freedom movement by Phani Majumdar—a Forward Block [the party established by Subhash Chandra Bose] leader and Lieutenant of Bose who later became a minister under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh.
After the disappearance of Subhash Chandra Bose in January 1941, Nirmal Nahar was directed by Phani Majumdar to go underground to avoid arrest. He gave up his studies and left for their Zamindari estate at Dinajpur where he joined his uncle Bikram Singh Nahar and elder brother Dhir Singh Nahar in starting the Nahar Farm and was entrusted to look after their agricultural farm at Nijpara, Birgunj in Dinajpur district (now in Bangladesh). He cleared the jungle and bush and started farming after reclaiming 60 acres of land.
Meanwhile on 29 May 1938 Prithwi Singh Nahar joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry with his eldest daughter Sujata Nahar, then aged twelve. Gradually his other children too became inmates of the Ashram; his third son Noren Singh Nahar joined the Ashram in 1939 and was followed by Abhay Singh Nahar (Prithwi Singh’s youngest son) in 1940; his daughters Sumitra and Suprabha Nahar settled in the Ashram in 1941 along with the family of Dhir Singh Nahar, Prithwi Singh’s eldest son. Bir Singh Nahar, the second son of Prithwi Singh who was a pilot in the Royal Air Force joined the Ashram in 1945. And in 1943 Nirmal Nahar became an inmate of the Ashram. The Mother asked him to take up agricultural farming at the newly acquired “Cazanove” garden which was put under his charge. On 15 March 1943 the Mother wrote to Prithwi Singh about Nirmal Nahar: ‘As for Nirmal Singh, I am glad to have him here. I hope he will be happy and I am sure he will make himself useful.’ In 1946 when the garden was fully developed he requested the Mother to relieve him of the responsibility and eventually joined the Book Sales Department under Prithwi Singh.
In October 1947 Nirmal Nahar joined Reuters Associated Press of India and Press Trust of India as their special correspondent. In 1951, he was declared a persona non grata by the French Indian government and a warrant of arrest was issued for exposing French misrule in India as a journalist, but he was smuggled out of Pondicherry by the then Indian Consul General, Mr. R. K. Tandon. After his return to Kolkata he joined a Bengali daily Jana Sevak as its chief reporter. After leaving journalism he became a promoter of the Haldia Scooter Project in collaboration with an Italian firm, Armachie Harley-Davidson SPA, in 1964. Apart from several articles in English and Bengali on topics related to spirituality and economics, he also authored the book Sri Aurobindo: His Birth Place. He also co-edited along with Anurag Banerjee the book Sujata Nahar: Loving Homage which was first published in December 2011.
Nirmal Singh was one of the founder-members of Sri Aurobindo Society of West Bengal at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan in Kolkata, nominated by the State Government in 1972. He was also a member of West Bengal State Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Celebration Committee set up by West Bengal State Government in 1971. He, along with his brothers Noren Singh and Abhay Singh, and sisters Sujata Nahar and Suprabha Nahar, donated their collection of over 500 books and research papers on Sri Aurobindo and the Freedom Movement along with a large number of photographs on the said subject to the National Council of Education, Kolkata, and also Rs. 2 lakhs for research on Sri Aurobindo and the Freedom Movement in memory of their late father Prithwi Singh Nahar on his birth centenary in 1998. They also donated Rs. 80,000 in memory of their late mother, Suhag Kumari Nahar on her birth centenary in 2000, to Viswa Bharati University, Kala Bhavan (Art and Craft Department), to create two annual scholarships to the deserving students in craft.
Nirmal Nahar was a member of the Governing Council of All India Sri Swetambar Murtipujak Jain Tirth Raksha Trust and Trustee of Murushidabad Sangh Nahar Family Trust. His other previous activities included:
- Founder Trustee-cum-Secretary of Jain Swetambar Society, Madhupur, Shikharjee (Paresnath-Jharkhand).
- President of the Insurance Underwriters’ Association of India and of General Insurance Agents Association of India.
- Advisory Committee member of Jain Panchayati Temple Trust, Tullapatty, Kolkata.
- Executive Committee member for several years of Murshidabad Sangha.
- Assistant Secretary of Santiniketan Ashramik Sangha.
- Assistant Secretary of Calcutta Art Society.
- General Secretary “Maha Sangeet Sammelan,” Kolkata.
- President, Indian Chamber of Consumers, Kolkata.
- Executive Committee member of: French India Journalist Association, Calcutta Press Club, South Calcutta District Congress Committee.
- Joint Convenor South Calcutta District Congress Conference.
- Formed a co-operative society along with other Journalist Associates and published an evening Bengali daily, Sandhya, of which he was the Chairman.
- Sectional President, Junior Chamber International during All-India Convention at Kolkata.
- President, Zoological Garden Sramik Union, Kolkata.
- Partner, Nistarani Match Factory.
- Director of Utility Products Ltd.
Nirmal Nahar was one of those rare beings who possessed both the beauty of form and spirit. He had a beautiful and young heart which was completely dedicated to Sri Aurobindo. He was always full of life and optimism and had an extremely active mind which neither illness nor old-age could affect. And what an extraordinary memory he possessed! He could narrate the biographical details of persons who died long ago or of incidents occurred several decades ago with absolute precision. He was in fact a storehouse of information. Unlike the members of his generation he did not live in the past nor did he become a recluse; on the contrary he was always conscious of what was going on across the world. He was an ideal example of a householder practising the Integral Yoga.
When Overman Foundation was established on 29 March 2010, Nirmal Nahar became its Advisory Board Member and continued to be an active mentor till his last days. Though he fell critically ill in the beginning of 2012 he recovered fully and when I met him on 28 July 2012 on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday he was in the pink of his health. I had spent more than an hour with him on that day. Who knew that it would be the last time I was destined to see him! His health began to deteriorate a few days after his ninetieth birthday. He valiantly fought the battle of life but did not emerge victorious this time. He passed on to the Beyond on 3rd September 2012 at 10.35 p.m. at his residence in the presence of his beloved family.
Nirmal Nahar was never afraid of Death for he knew that “the Divine will keep him on earth as long as He perceives his usefulness on earth and will make him leave the earth when he has nothing more to do there” to quote the words of the Mother and accordingly he lived in the certitude of the supreme wisdom of the Divine. His physical absence would continue to hurt us but it cannot eradicate our love for him. Let’s follow the Mother’s advice and concentrate our love on him ‘in peace and calm’ and bid him a loving adieu though with a heavy heart.
With warm regards,