Like every other morning, Sultan appeared just on time with his rickshaw at the front door of 37 Rankin Street.
It is a big concrete building with stairs to the second floor at the back. The iron-barred windows are huge. An open balcony faces the main street and there are small gardens on either side of the entrance. There is a garage on the right. There is an open land behind it where a huge mango tree and a kadam tree stand.
To the left of the main house is a one-storey house, which has three rooms in total, all quite large. They are mainly used as kitchen and dining areas. At one point, Sultan announced his presence by ringing the bell.
The doctor is a punctual person, he gets out at exactly 7:30 am. On that day, he is going to see Maula Bakhsh Sardar's mother at Kagjitola. This is his daily routine, going for outcalls to visit patients and returning by 11 am, where a crowd of patients wait for him at the house.
He takes a break at noon, finishing by 11 at night. Other doctors take a fee of Tk20, but Dr Nandi does not take more than Tk5. This was a regular day for Dr Manmathanath Nandi who lived in this city in the 1950s.
There are a few people in Dhaka who do not know about Dr Nandy or Dr M N Nandy. In the 1950s, he was a resident of Larmini Street in Wari. He also lived for a while at Rankin Street.
Syed Ehtesham-ul Haque's father, Mohammad Fazlul Haque, was a Bhasha Shoinik (language activist). Ehtesham heard from his father that Dr Nandy was not only a good doctor, he was a person with humane qualities.
He was so popular that even the rickshaw pullers knew his home. All they needed was his name and any rickshaw puller would take you to his house.
Dr Nandy did philanthropic works under the patronage of Bhagyakul Zamindars in Srinagar and medicine was his tool.
A life dedicated to serving people
In 1939, Dr Nandy completed his medical degree from Carmichael Medical College in Kolkata. He was preparing to go abroad for higher studies and was one of Dr Bidhan Roy's favourite students.
One day, Bhagyakul's Zamindars requested Dr Bidhan Roy to suggest a doctor with an open mind for public service. He chose Nandy, who was elated. After all, Dr Nandy studied medicine to serve people.
He packed his bags and left for Bhagyakul. There, Nandy transformed one of the zamindar houses into the hospital where he also performed surgery.
During the Bengal Famine of 1943, he worked relentlessly to bring food to the people and restore health for those who were starving. Dr Nandy travelled to Dhaka from Bhagyakul on a goyna nouka (a large passenger boat). Back then, the VIP Jetty at Sadarghat was known as Goynaghat.
Azim Baksh, son of Maula Bakhsh Sardar and president of Dhaka Kendra, saw Dr Nandy one day on one of the boats. The doctor was a thin, handsome man of medium build. He recalled, "He had all the qualities of an ideal person. He spoke with a mixture of Dhakaiya, Manikganj and Bikrampur dialects. He also spoke English. He spoke to the patient in the language that the patient was comfortable in."
Dr Nandy's father, Mathurnath Nandy, was from Manikganj and worked as a police officer. Due to the nature of his job, he had to travel to different places.
In 1910, Mathuranath's eldest son Dr Manmathnath Nandy was born in Manikganj. At the young age of 25, Dr Nandy volunteered in earthquake-ravaged Bihar. He was a doctor by then.
On his return, he joined Carmichael Medical College as a surgeon. Then he came to Bhagyakul with his wife Shanti Nandi, a graduate of Scottish Church College. They had twins.
'Dr Nandy stayed back, clinging to his homeland'
Mirza A Quader Sardar's nephew and dramatist Syed Ahmad wrote in his book Dhaka Amar Dhaka, "Then came the time when the map was changing. East Bengal became East Pakistan. Many Hindus migrated to West Bengal but Dr Nandy stayed back, clinging to his homeland."
After partition, Dr was appointed by Dhaka Medical College Hospital. He shifted to a house in Juginagar.
Riots broke out in February 1950. A fire broke out in Thatari Bazar whose flames could be seen even from Juginagar. Fearing death, many of the minority population came to Dr Nandy's house and took shelter.
Since he was a popular doctor, it was natural for them to think that the house was safe. He didn't turn them away. Moreover, his childhood friend and Kolkata Mohammedan Sporting Club captain Abbas Mirza and Dhaka Police Commissioner Itteza extended their helping hands.
After the riot, Dr Nandy moved to 37 Rankin Street, Wari. His cousin, politician Bhavesh Chandra Nandy, at the time, lived in the house. Dr Nandy bought it in 1953 or 1954.
Poet Saleha Chowdhury, an American expatriate, was a friend of Dr Nandy's daughter Mandira Nandy. It is known from her memoir that they lived next door, the Dhola House at 38 Rankin Street. It was the house of the Zamindar of Dhola.
Recently, Dhola Zamindar Bari was found to have survived in its original condition. Made of red brick and a mix of Mughal and British designs, the building resembles Dhaka University's Curzon Hall. In the 1960s, the Pakistani government started using it as Textbook Bhaban.
Saleha and Mandira used to ride rickshaws together to Holy Cross College. The fare was Tk1. On their return from the college, they travelled by Mandira's father's car. Dr Nandy had a second-hand Ford Prefect. Later he bought a new Ford Prefect and the last car he owned was a Hillman.
Wari: Dhaka's first planned city
The British government acquired 701 acres of land in Wari in 1880 for its officials. One bigha of land was fixed for each plot. While allotting the plots, the government stipulated that the houses should be built within three years.
The roads were designed to run north-south, while the east-west streets intersected those. Each road was 30 feet wide.
From 1884, Wari was developed as a planned city for the next five years. Its streets are named after British officials such as Rankin Street, Larmini Street, Wyre Street or Hare Street.
Historian Hashem Sufi said, "Many people think that the name Wari is derived from Dhaka's Magistrate Frederick Wyre, but actually it is not. Wari is a Persian word, which means 'big tent'. During the Mughal period, there was a garrison here and Mughal soldiers lived in big tents. The name came from there."
Wari became an elite area at the beginning of the 20th century. Azim Bakhsh further clarified the issue of aristocracy by referring to a particular food, bread.
"There was no other clean, sparkling area like Wari in Dhaka. The houses were two-storeyed or one-storeyed. Almost all the houses were spread over large areas. Some of Wari's residents were professors, some were judges or high officials of the government. They used to have bread for breakfast."
"Abed and Company was the first bakery in Dhaka. They were also the first decorators of the city. The chief craftsman of the bakery was Pinchu Mistry. After arranging the bread in a well-covered basket, Abed's delivery men used to go to Wari. Delivery began very early in the morning. I knew such a delivery man who lived in Sutrapur. His name was Nawab Mia and he died a few years ago," recounted Azim.
Journalist Abul Hasnat wrote in his memoir, "So many famous and established people have spent their lives in this area. Government bureaucrats, established businessmen, doctors, professors and many journalists lived here. Every house had trees and gardens. The dignitaries of the city used to meet here in the evening. In the evenings, Rabindra Sangeet could be heard from many of the houses."
It is also known from his memoir that artist Kamrul Hasan, artist Safiuddin Ahmed and journalist Zahur Hossain Chowdhury lived in house number 2 on Hare Street.
Advocate Savita Ranjan Pal, politician Shudhanshu Shekhar Halder, Justice Debesh Bhattacharya and others lived on Rankin Street. Amartya Sen's family lived on Larmini Street in the 1940s.
In the 1950s, Dr Nandy's house became an established place for cultural practices. Dancing, music and drama rehearsals were practised here. His daughter Mandira studied dance at the Bulbul Lalitakala Academy. She played the title role in Rabindranath's play Shyama.
Journalist Faiz Ahmed was like a family member to them. Professor Munir Chowdhury, Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin and Ajit Kumar Guha were regular visitors of 37 Rankin Street.
Banned Communist Party leaders like Khoka Roy, Nepal Nag and Mohammad Toha used to come to this house for advice or shelter.
Dr Nandy even attended Maulana Bhasani's Kagmari conference. He was the personal physician of Sher-e-Bangla A K Fazlul Haque. He also developed a close relationship with Bangabandhu.
'You are sick, you need treatment'
I met Mir Mahbubur Rahman, the current resident of Hare Road, at the end of house number 37. He said, "When Dr Nandy left the country, I was five or six years old. I don't have much memory of him. But I heard he cured my father's tuberculosis and this was a dangerous disease at that time."
He said, "Dr Nandy kept Baba isolated in a room for a year and a half and continued treatment. Baba even recovered at one point. Dr Nandy was better known as a humanitarian and social worker. I heard from people that once someone coughed near his house, he immediately sent someone and brought the man into the chamber; he said, 'you are sick, you need treatment'. Such are the rumours about him."
"The house now has two owners. However, parts of the original house remain between the two houses," he added.
Dr Nandy was forced to emigrate in 1965. In 1964, Governor of East Pakistan Monayem Khan Adamji rioted in Dhaka and Narayanganj with non-Bangali workers of jute mills. Dr Nandy's house was also affected.
Faiz Ahmad himself went and took him to a haven. Dr Nandy was very upset and said, "I don't know Hindus and Muslims, everyone is human to me."
Later he moved to Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. After the country's independence, Bangabandhu took the initiative to bring them back to his house at 37 Rankin Street.
He sent a message saying that Dada-Boudi (brother and sister-in-law, Dr Nandy and his wife) should return to Dhaka, to their own house and he should start practising. By then, the doctor was already over 60 and he had no intention of starting over. All four of his children were well-established.
Syed Ahmad wrote, "We friends used to go to Wari in a group. He (Dr Nandy) has two sons and two daughters. Bhaskar, Shekhar, Indira and Mandira. Back then some of them were in college and some were studying in higher classes than me. I used to play with them."
"The elder son Bhaskar Nandy is an influential leader of the CPM (ML) in West Bengal while Shekhar Nandy is in charge of the British University Grants Commission. Two of the girls, Indira and Mandira, are engaged in teaching like their mother."
Mandira Nandy (Bhattacharya) has come to Dhaka a few times. When she came in 2017, she also gave a lecture on the 'Cultural life of Dhaka in the 1950s' at the History Department of Dhaka University. Her book titled 'Dhakar Smriti O Doctor Nandy' has been published by Prothoma Prakashan.
Hashem Sufi said, "37 Rankin Street is a historical house. It was originally the resthouse of the Tripura King. Then one Dasgupta (probably the then Chief Justice of Dhaka, Kamalnath Dasgupta) was in the house. This house is also said to be the house of musician Sachin Dev Burman's in-laws.
His wife, lyricist Meera Dev Burman was titled Dasgupta and was a member of the Tripura royal family. Dr Nandy's cousin Bhavesh Chandra Nandy also stayed here. But Dr Manmathnath Nandy can be said to be the main character of the house, who was praised all over Dhaka."