I heard the word Allahabad at the age of 7.One of the friends of my father Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Ji visited our house.My father was in Swatantra Party,but was a well wisher of the Socialist Movement.My brother Dr Babaji Mahapatra was in Socialist Party.In 1967 Dr Lohia travelled the whole country to request people to oust Congress . Dr Babaji Mahapatra published a Souvenir after the death of Dr Lohia.
In 1981 I came to Delhi for the first time to appear in an interview at UPSC .Nilachal Express was a tri weekly one at that time.The train was starting from Puri at 12 noon and reaching New Delhi at 9 pm the next day.It was not a superfast.The day Puri Superfast passed through Allahabad in 1985 ,the whole city came to the railway station to welcome us with sweets.Allahabad people were interesting people !
Later, I came to Allahabad with my father to immerse the bones of my mother at Sangam in 1988.I could not immerse my father’s bones at Sangam,my bad luck.When I came with my father,my friend Dr Hemant Kumar guided me how to do everything here.His father was a great man,a professor and we had been to their house.I was at Lucknow those days.His father was a great author for children and is no more.
With this association with Allahabad of almost 5 decades,I directed a Course in Book Publishing at Allahabad University in 2019.In one of the classes I taught ‘Publishing as a Career’ to 60 +students of the Course.
I was passing through Johnstonganj one evening and became nostalgic.15 years back I organised an exhibition of Books at 10 different locations in this city.I have fond memories of spending a week in this city that time in a hotel at Johnstonganj in a Hotel.
When I came for the preparatory works for that series of exhibitions,Dr Murli Manohar Joshi was the Union Minister for HRD.His wife Mrs Joshi was younger sister of Shivani,prominent Hindi Writer.I met her to consult on the venue for inauguration.
‘Do it at Anand Bhawan.’She said.
‘Anand Bhawan !’I exclaimed .
‘Yes.It is a national monument .It is connected with our freedom struggle..’She replied.
My reluctance had a cause.DrJoshi was from BJP and Anand Bhawan is connected with Congress .
But Mrs Joshi cleared the sky for me.’A place of national importance can’t be ignored for its political affiliation with a party.It is a national monument,’ she said. Alas , people like Dr Murlimanohar Joshi or places like Anand Bhawan are now in the past.
‘Dada,what is your tomorrow’s programme ,for tomorrow is an off day of our Training Course,’my colleague Narinder asked.
‘Tomorrow I will go to Anand Bhawan’,I replied.
‘Can I meet Mrs Joshi too tomorrow ?’ I asked my friend Prof . Susheel Kumar Sharma.
‘ Both Dr Joshi and Mrs Joshi have now relocated to the National Capital Delhi and sold out their house,’ Dr Sharma replied.￼Since Mrs Joshi is not at Allahabad ,I had no interest to visit Anand Bhawan alone as it is no more maintained as once the Centre of Indian Freedom Struggle .
‘Then, let us go to Sangam tomorrow so that I can pay my tributes to my father , and what about going to Netram for kachodi after that for Lunch ?‘, I asked .
A STAIRCASE TO THE MOON
Once upon a time among the Achiks in Achik Asong tribes of Tura in Meghalaya lived a man named Jarang. He had a beautiful wife and a good-looking son though he was still in his early teens. Jarang loved his wife and child dearly, in fact more than anything else in the world and tried his level best to please them in all possible ways. .
One evening as he was sitting with his beloved wife and child in the open courtyard of his house, there appeared the moon in all its glory , high up in the clear, serene sky. The child especially watched it delightfully for a long time and then cried out to his father:
“Oh, what a beautiful moon! I wish I could grasp it in my hands and play with it. Father, please fetch it for me. ”
Jarang reasined with the child, saying that the moon was very far from there and it was possible to get near it as no road leads one to the Moon. But the spoilt child would not be appeased by these gentle words. He cried incessantly and insisted on having the moon. He refused to eat food and drink milk and gradually grew pale and haggard-looking.
Jarang’s wife, unable to endure the distressing tantrums of the child any longer, scolded her husband, saying:
“Do you wish the doleful cries of the child should continue till he dies? Surely, had you tried, you could have fetched the moon for him. Why not construct a staircase to the moon and drag it here within our reach once and for all?”
The fool could not realise the gravity of the situation that she was pushing her husband into an impossible task. . Unnable to bear any longer the constant nagging of his wife and the persistent crying of his child, the young man decided to build a staircase to the moon. He assured his son that he was going to fetch the moon for him.
Jarang set about gathering together enormous quantities of wooden posts and bamboos to raise the intended structure, and piled up the needful material at one place. With the help of his nephew, he laid the foundation for the immense staircase. The job of fetching the wooden posts and bamboos from the huge pile was assigned to the nephew, while Jarang got himself immersed fully in erecting one staircase upon another.
When the staircase ascended far above the clouds, Jarang got confident that he was surely near the moon. He shouted from above to his nephew below:
“Bring up bamboos. Bring up bamboos.”
His wife and nephew on the ground far below could not catch his words distinctly. To them it sounded as if he was shouting exultantly:
“I’ve got the moon. I’ve got the moon. Hew down the staircase.”
Again and again they listened attentively and the same message seemed to be wafted down . Immediately the obedient nephew took up an axe and hewed down the main pillars of the enormous structure. Soon it fell with a tremendous crash, propelling Jarang through space to a distant place .
Not finding his fallen body, his wife and nephew waited expectantly for many days for him to return bearing triumphantly in his hands the cherished moon. But there was no further sign of the returning conqueror. After many more days of weary waiting, Jarang’s wife and nephew angrily concluded that he had furtively fled to the abode of the moon and stars.
The fallen heap of the staircase afterwards became a small range of hills which eventually came to be known as Jarang Kadoram. This small hill range can still be seen in the Achik Asong to this day.
My Lost Memories of North East
My North East memories always haunt me.I remember many ,recollect many sweet events. One of the persons I fondly remember is Aiyusman Dutta ,the feature editor of Sentinel.
It was on a fine morning that my friend Som Kamei (Then Director,Postal Services,now PMG,Dibrugarh)brought two young people to me and introduced them as Aiyusman and Tulika.While Aiyusman was in the newspaper Sentinel,Tulika was a casual staff with Prasar Bharti.
Aiyusman and Tulika remained close to me throughout the period of my stay at Shillong.We used to interact over phone. One day an idea came to my mind that I should translate a poem of mine and send the same to Aiyusman for consideration for publication in Sentinel.But I had a fear,he ,may not find it up to the mark.I reluctantly sent it to Som Kamei.He sent it to Aiyusman.Suddenly,one day I found the poem published in the weekly literary supplement of Sentinel.I was thrilled.Later,I translated about 20 of my poems into English and Aiyusman published those in Sentinel.
During my Shillong days Aiyusman was one of my strong inspirations.Many times I did not have proper sleep and I used to write on facebook ;late in the midnight or may be the wee hours of morning.And then,Aiyusman’s like comment comes.He used to have the same problem of sleeplessness like me.
Aiyusman,Tulika,my colleague Satish and I went to Dimapur together.I wrote to Madhuchhanda Adhikari .Corporate Communication Head of Numaligarh Refineries for accommodation as advised by Aiyusman and it was done.We reached there at 10 pm night.While coming back we went to Nagaon to drop Tulika and I saw a dead river there.I wrote a poem ‘Eie Nadi Sei Nadi Nuhan( This river is not that river)’ based on that experience.
Aiyusman had a dream to hold a Music Festival at Guwahati. He did one long back.His application came for financial assistance.I always wanted to help,but Secretary,NEC thought that probably the Tourism Sector of NEC can assist better.
One day I called the Secretary,NEC’s office to find out if he is free to grace the inaugural function of Odisha Art and Literature Festival on 8 February 2019 at Bhubaneswar.’Sir,Secretary will inaugurate the Guwahati Music Festival organised by Aiyusman Dutta on that day,’Mr Choudhury,Secretary’s OSD replied.
I have missed many things and will miss many things in my life.But the major loss is death of Aiyushman in Covid two years ago.
Tribute to a Bookman
Odisha sells books and many in the state have Book Publishing and Marketing as a career these days.But there was a time when publishing and book trade was confined to Cuttack.Apoorba Ranjan Ray and Bhagban Nayak Burma,two young Bookmen from Bhadrak, then part of Balasore District ,had great contribution to Books and Reading half a century ago.
I remember today Apoorba Ranjan Ray, who was one of the tallest figures of Odia literature. A writer of as many as 60 books and editor of 100 more books, Ray was relentless in his effort to enrich Odia language and literature till his death.
Whenever I remember Apoorba Ranjan Ray, I go back to 1976 when I met him for the first time at Matrubhoomi daily Odia Newspaper office at Jail Road, Cuttack.￼The person who introduced me as a young poet to him was Bhagban Nayak Burma, the finest literary editor of my time in Odisha.Nayak Burma was then Editor, Dharitri Saptahiki. Apoorba Ranjan Ray and Nayak Burma were from the same town Bhadrak and were childhood friends.
An essayist, a novelist, a fiction writer, a poet, an editor par excellence – all at the same time .Ray was a full-time writer and journalist ,refused to join any government service and decided to serve Odia language and literature lifelong.Kuntala Kumari Sabat jibani o pratibha, Saraswata Sadhaka Kabi Shehar Chitamani, Saraswata Purusha Kantakabi Laxmikanta and Sahitya Suchiru Ketoti are among his most popular books. ‘Nirabatara Swaralipi’ and ‘Abyakta Andhakar’ were two of his popular novels.
Way back in 1972, Ray wrote ‘Adhunika Odia kabitra digdarshana’, a rare book on Odia Poetry,which was way ahead of its time.’Salandi tirara niti o swikruti’ – a very popular book edited by him – aptly portrays the rich literature, history and culture of Bhadrak.
Odisha is popular for ignoring the best of its authors and artists from honours and rewarding the third rate artists.Apoorba Ranjan Ray was no exception.Though was honoured by many literary organisations,it is interesting to note that his book never made it to Central Sahitya Akademi Award or Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award .Odisha Sahitya Akademi later honoured him for his overall contribution. But the stature of Apoorba Ranjan Ray is much bigger than those small awards.He was the editor who along with Bhagaban Nayak Burma highlighted the author Kanheilal Das after his untimely demise in 1975.His whole life was spent for promoting books and reading.He brought many young fiction writers of 1970s including me through Galpajhara Story Monthly of late Balaram Sahoo at one point of time.
Apoorba Ranjan was the president of the premier literary organisations – Bhadrak Pujya Puja Sansad,Purnima Shahitya Asara, Boudhika Bichara Mancha etc. It was Ray who established Bhadrak Pustak Mela.
In 2015 on one December evening I made a call from Delhi to inform Manorama Biswal Mohapatra, one of our major poets to inform that I am visiting to meet my sisters’ at Bhadrak the next day.
Next moment I got a call from Apoorba Ranjan Ray to invite me as Chief Guest to the Valedictory Function of Bhadak Book Fair 2015 and honour the legendary author Debraj Lenka with the Pustak Mela Award.
Yes , I will definitely be there,’ I replied.
That was the only occasion that I had the honour to share dias with this great Bookman in 2015 in Bhadrak Pustak Mela. So happy he was that he spoke on our half a century long literary association for half an hour that nobody knew by then in Odisha.
Ever since 1969,the the first book fair in India was organised at Windsor Place New Delhi all the book fairs are inaugurated by political leaders. But now,Book Fair in Odisha has become a profitable political business !
The Great Teacher
I was once sending my poems almost in a mad manner to Puja specials of magazines and newspapers. Very few were there and many were not publishing new writers. I remember Bhagban Nayak Burma of Dharitri saptahiki, he was encouraging new writers….half a century ago.
Now I have reached a position that any newspaper or magazine will happily publish me, but the craze that was four decades back is not there in me after seeing the rackets of literature everywhere. I don’t find a single person like Bhagban Nayak Burma in the group of Odia literary magazine editors who goes by merit of the writing than status of the writer. I feel sad and have almost stopped sending my poems to magazines.
While writing in magazines and newspapers I came across many wonderful news items. Once I came across news about Bipra Charan Pattanayak of Phulbani popularly known as Bipra Sir.
I had many reasons to meet Bipra Sir, for he preferred to be a School Headmaster than an Inspector of Schools. He did an excellent translation of Richard Bach’s famous book ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull’.
My happiness was doubled when I came to know that my dear young friend, Binay of Srujanika, translator of Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s educational classic Totto-chan into Odia for NBT is his son. We were doing the largest newspaper of the world which later got award from the Limca Book of Records. A series of workshops involving children was being held throughout the country for the purpose. Binay proposed that the workshop for Odisha be held at Phulbani, his hometown in Odisha. I being the Odia language editor of NBT was given the responsibility to conduct the workshop with the help of Manavik, an organisation led by Binay’s brother Bijoy.
I reached Phulbani. Phulbani valley is the district headquarters of Kadhamal district, one of the most underdeveloped districts of the state. It is home to the Kandha tribes who constitute more than half (54%) of its total population. Literacy rate of the district is low (male 65% and female 44% as per Census 2011). This district located at the heart of Odisha is known for it’s natural beauty, rich biodiversity, indigenous culture and forest products including turmeric (with a GI tag), ginger, arrowroot and varieties of honey, mushrooms, seasonal fruits and organic vegetables. This district is also known world over for the longest riot of the world that took place here in 2007 after the assassination of Swamy Laxmanananda Saraswati, founder of the Chakapad Ashram.
It was a bright morning of April 1999. Bijoy had given me their address. I had been to Phulbani twice before, once in 1995 for attending Phulbani Book Fair organised by my teacher Adhyapak Biswaranjan as a Guest, and later, to hold a Book Exhibition of NBT in 1996. But this time it was different. On the two earlier occasions I had heard about Bipra Sir, and this time, it was a great pleasure to meet him and spend a day with his family.
I knocked at their door. A girl opened the door.
Namaskar, Manas Bhai! Welcome. I hope, you had no problem in reaching here,’ she said.
She was Surabhi, younger sister of Binay. They were aware of my visit, Binay kept them informed. Soon the entire family assembled. I had a grand welcome with tea.
Binay and Nikhil Mohan Pattanaik had a cosmic relationship. As said by Binay, ’Nikhil Bhai came to Phulbani in 1987 couple of times and interacted with Bapa and his active colleagues for organizing the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BJVJ), 1987 that moved from Kerala, entered South Odisha and moved to Bhopal via Phulbani and North Odisha. Bapa, being a deep lover of science, organized this grand BJVJ-1987 in Phulbani in collaboration with the science enthusiasts from the valley. We all supported the activities enthusiastically as volunteers and enjoyed the true spirit of science by interacting with reputed scientists and a wide range of scientific tools.
Nikhil Bhai while interacting with us at our home came to know about my interest in science, participation in zonal science camps and my keen interest in research. He asked Bapa if I would like to do research with him. Bapa liked Nikhil Bhai very much. He agreed. I gave up my research with Prof. Sushil Kumar Pattanayak, Berhampur University and teaching at Udaygiri college and moved to Bhubaneswar. The historic BJVJ-87 experience gave me a new hope in science!’
Our handmade newspaper Workshop held at A. J. O. High School, Phulbani was attended by over 50 enthusiastic children. I must have done over a thousand such workshops and it was the first of its kind in tribal Odisha. We came back in the evening to a local book store, Geetanjali Book Store who was one of the local book stores enrolled by me during my tenure as the Odia Editor of NBT. Alas, my successor has given no emphasis on distribution of NBT books in Odisha. Owner of this book store was a laboratory assistant. He was a student of Bipra Sir.
I had to come back to Bhubaneswar the same night. In the evening I saw Bipra Sir distributing homeopathic medicines among the local poor people.
‘Are you a practitioner of homeopathic medicine, Sir?’ I asked.
Bipra Sir smiled and replied, ‘This is a part of the debt I repay‘.
‘Repay?’ I was amazed.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘I have two more debts which I regularly repay. I spend only a quarter of my income for me and my family,’ he smiled and replied.
Then he said,’ I repay three debts as per Hindu view of life. The first debt is Pitru Runa or repayment of debt of my forefathers. The second is Bhoomi Runa, debt of the land that stands me. The third is Deba Runa. This charity is a part of Deba Runa that I am repaying.’
Then he said, ‘Pitru Runa is what I have done or is doing for my seniors and forefathers. Bhoomi Runa is what I spend for education of children.’
Bipra Sir served children and people whole life on the central hills whole life silently. He never aspired for any power or, position. Rather he enabled his associates to be in position and he stood with them as a guide and mentor. He never applied for any award in life! Bipra Sir closed his eyes on 17 January this year after an active dedicated life of 60 years in Kandhamal!
Bipra Sir didn’t possess a vehicle. In the night, Bijay dropped me on his scooter at the bus stand after our dinner.