Nazrul's Illness and Treatment

Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq

There is not much information about Nazrul's illness and treatment available online. However, there are also some uncorroborated (dis)information in circulation. Here we present an account of his illness and treatment, based on three leading biographers of Nazrul: Muzaffar Ahmad, Nazrul's lifelong friend and patron (India), Dr. Sushilkumar Gupta (India) and Dr. Rafiqul Islam (Bangladesh).


Nazrul's treatment in Europe

"When Nazrul's illness became clear in July 1942, he did receive medical attention, but it was inadequate and not timely. Even then some physicians indicated that it may have been already quite late. If the poet could be sent to Europe at that time, he may have received neuro-surgery. However, even if resources could be harnessed, the poet could not be sent to Europe because the WWII was in full swing. The Nazrul Treatment Committee was organized too late, in June 1952. After the poet and his spouse spent four months at Ranchi sanitorium, both of them were sent to London in May 1953. They left Howra Railway Station on May 10.

Several prominent specialist physicians tried to diagnose his ailment. A board consisting of eminent physicians, such as Russell Brain, William Sageant, and MacKisk, met three times [note: spellings of the names taken from Bengali book may not be precise]. Apparently, during each session they charged 250 pounds. According to Russell Brain, a senior physician, the ailment of Nazrul's brain was incurable. There was also serious disagreement between two groups of specialists about the diagnosis. One group made the case that the patient was suffering from "involutional psychosis". The other group concurred with the diagnosis of the Indian physicians from Kolkata. Both group agreed, however, that the treatment during the early stages has been inadequate and inexhaustive. At the London Clinic, a hospital in London, the poet had Air-encephalography" X-ray ... which indicated that the "frontal lobe" of the poet's brain has shrunk. ... Several physicians, such as Dr. Mackisk, recommended a procedure called "MacKisk Operation". ... However, Dr. Brain opposed that recommendation. 

At that point, the medical dossier of the poet was sent to renowned physicians in Vienna as well as other major European locations. Professor Roetgehn [note: spelling may not be correct], a professor of neurosurgery at Bonn University in Germany argued that MacKisk Operation won't apply to the case of Poet Nazrul. Neurosurgeon from Vienna also differed with Dr. MacKisk's recommendation. All three of them recommended a test called Cerebral Angiography of his brain. With concurrence of the poet's well-wishers, the poet was admitted under the care of Dr. Hans Hoff in Vienna, a renowned neurosurgeon, who also was one of the eminent students of Nobel Laureate Julius Wagner-Jauregg. On December 9, 1953, the poet was administered the exam. After reviewing the test results, Dr. Hoff firmly opined that the poet is suffering from a neuro-disorder called Pick's Disease. The frontal and side lobes of brains of such patients shrink.  ... According to Dr. Hoff, the ailment has advanced so much that the patient has virtually no chance of any recovery.

On December 27, 1953, Daily Jugantor of Kolkata published a report "Nazrul in Vienna" by a neurosurgeon of Kolkata, Dr. Ashok Bagchi. At that time, Dr. Bagchi was in Vienna for more advanced training. He was closely involved with Nazrul's treatment.  ... The British physicians did charge hefty fees to examine Nazrul, but the physicians from other European locations did not charge any fees for examining the national poet of Bengal. Soon after Nazrul's departure from Europe, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, visited Vienna. He also met Dr. Hans Hoff and discussed about Nazrul. Nazrul and those who went with him departed from Rome by air and arrived at Kolkata on December 14, 1953." [This excerpt is translated from Muzaffar Ahmad, pp. 253-254]

The above account is broadly similar to those in the biographies by Prof. Rafiqul Islam [pp. 595-596] and Dr. Sushilkumar Gupta [p. 106]. All these accounts mention Pick's Disease as his ailment.


References

  1. Muzaffar Ahmad, Kazi Nazrul Islam Smritikatha [Memoirs of Kazi Nazrul Islam - Kolkata, India: National Book Agency, 10th print, 1998]
  2. Rafiqul Islam, Nazrul Jiboni [Life of Nazrul - Department of Bangla, Dhaka University, May 1972]; Prof. Rafiqul Islam is a national Nazrul professor in Bangladesh and one of the leading Nazrul researchers.
  3. Sushilkumar Gupta, Nazrul Chorit-manosh [Kolkata, India: De's Publishing, 1990]

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