For a poet, a dilapidated building might well be a source of inspiration, but it does not make for a befitting commemoration. Sadly, the palatial memorial building of renowned Bengali litterateur Kazi Kader Newaj, in Mujdia village of Magura's Sreepur upazila, is in an advanced state of disrepair.
Newaj, who published several volumes of poetry in his lifetime, as well as novels, was born at his grandfather's house in India's Murshidabad on 15 January 1909. The English graduate who achieved a Master's degree from Calcutta University in 1929 also taught in several high schools across North Bengal, retiring as the headmaster of Dinajpur Zila School in 1963. He died twenty years later.
The two-storied house that was his family home is nowadays on the verge of collapse. With ten rooms and several verandas, 25-inch thick walls and 30 pillars, the formidable building, originally set on a 200-decimal plot yet attracts tourists keen to see the many artistic designs incorporated in its architecture. Students and teachers of Newaj's work are particularly eager visitors.
But while the site holds significant heritage value, with plaster falling from the ceilings and plants growing along its walls and in the roof, it looks set to be lost. Worse still, the rooms are filled with dirt, rubbish and human waste.
“The poet and his brother were once zamindar landholders in the area,” says Sharafat Ali who is currently in charge of the property. “After his death his successors sold the house. A lot of money is needed to renovate the building. At the moment, stray animals and drug addicts gather there.”
“Protecting the memory of the poet is paramount,” says associate professor of nearby G.K. Ideal Degree College Musafir Nazrul, who is also an adviser to the Kazi Kader Newaj Society. “The home was constructed around 1900. Although the district administration has taken the welcome initiative to erect a boundary wall, substantial funds are required to repair and protect the home. We are also trying to motivate adjacent landholders to sell back portions of the original estate, which were sold after the poet's death.”
“There is no doubt this building of the reputed poet is a national treasure,” one visitor to the site, Bachchu Mia from Kushtia University, told The Daily Star. “Immediate steps to renovate the building should be taken.”
Sreepur's recently-joined Upazila Nirbahi Officer Ahsan Ullah Sharif says he will look into the matter after visiting the site.