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A versatile personality

Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

J.L. Nayar.— Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

"Seva Samithi keerthi kosam pranam ayina vidichestam" (We will even sacrifice our lives to uphold the prestige of the Seva Samithi). Tears well up in his eyes as he recalls this patriotic song. He represents the last generation of freedom-fighters but does not want to be identified as such. He comes as a whiff of fresh air in these days when most people try to take credit for anything that is not due to them. There are many, born after Independence, who do not hesitate to claim various concessions under the "freedom fighter's quota", even if that meant manipulation of the date of birth records.

Meet, John Louis Nayar, a freedom-fighter, physician, singer, dancer and a humorist, all rolled in one. His down-to-earth nature betrays his achievements in various spheres of life. At first sight, he might appear to be somewhat unapproachable but when he is assured that you have come to spend some time to listen to him, he takes a trip down memory lane and you can see the septuagenarian transported to a different world.

He was barely 13, when he was introduced to Subhas Chandra Bose, by the latter's friend, Uma Charan Patnaik, in Cuttack in 1939. The boy was a rebel and that was enough to induct him into the Seva Samithi Scout movement, despite his tender age. The Samithi, formed by Netaji in Berhampur, had nothing to do with scouting.

The samithi used to arrange public meetings at the Berhampur Barracks at the Old Bus Stand and Bose ignited young minds with his fiery speeches urging them to join in the struggle against the alien rulers. "People used to throng his meetings in large numbers and listen to him in rapt attention. I used to sing the Telugu songs to ignite the young minds," recalls Dr. Nayar.

Bose differed with Mahatma Gandhi in the manner of getting freedom. While Gandhiji advocated peaceful means, Netaji used to ask "Why should we beg for our freedom?" This attitude of Bose attracted Nayar towards him.

Born to K.K. Raman Nair of Palghat, Kerala and Prantoshini Nayar of Berhampur on April 18, 1924, Nayar had his early education at Berhampur and graduated from the Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam, in 1949. He lost his father at the age of five.

A great fan of the immortal singer, Kundan Lal Saigal, Dr. Nayar, himself is a gifted singer. He can sing every song of Saigal, be it in Hindi, Bengali or Urdu, and those who hear his voice without seeing him sing are sure to be mistaken that it is Saigal and not Nayar, who is singing. He gave several stage performances, a majority of which were held in Vizag and a few were organised in cities like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Berhampur and Bhubaneswar.

Dr. Nayar's daughters, Dr. Rita Prasad and Rebecca, an IFS officer, are also singers and accompany their father on stage to sing duets of Saigal in place of female singers like Khursheed, Usha Sashi and Kana Devi.

Nayar has several awards to his credit. The title `Abhinava Saigal' was conferred on him by the doctors and staff of the AMC in January 1999. He gave a special performance in aid of Kargil war heroes at Kalabharati auditorium and sent the audience into raptures. The donations collected were Rs.1.20 lakh and the amount was sent to the Central Army Welfare Fund through the District Collector.

Dr. Nayar is also an innovative dancer and choreographer. He is a Kathakali exponent. He choreographed some dance features like `Dance of the seasons', `Temple dances' and a dance ballet `Prakrithi-Purushudu' with the help of his wife, Shakuntala Nayar, who is also a dancer.

Dr. Nayar is a consultant physician for various industries. He carries his 79 years lightly and even today he goes regularly to the LG Polymers and HPCL, which are more than 15 km. away from his house located at Waltair Uplands, on his scooter.

B MADHU GOPAL

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