Manas Ranjan Mohapatra

I always wanted to meet Gour Prasad when I became a cultural administrator in 1990 after joining NBT, but he vanished from public life in the early 1990s when a new cinema came to Odisha. Our chance meeting was almost accidental.

It was 1991, I was doing a ‘Meet The Author’ Programme at Bhubaneswar in collaboration with Odisha Sahitya Akademi on the occasion of National Book Week. The authors featured were Ramakanta Rath, Binapani Mohanty and Haraprasad Das. It was the first ever such programme in Odisha and I was thrilled. We were to travel by train only those days from Delhi and the only good train was Neelachal Express. My ticket was on wait-list and it was not confirmed.

But I had to go anyway. I boarded the train with anxiety. No 2nd AC compartment was there in Neelachal Express, it was First Class only. Four people were to be in one coupe. I found a place in one and sat there.

Soon the conductor came and checked the ticket. He had to adjust one of their officers who was traveling to Allahabad. He asked me to de-board or to go to the general compartment, brought his officer and put him on the seat.

Suddenly, one of the co-passengers asked the Conductor,” Does this man to whom you have now put here possess a confirmed ticket ?” The conductor replied it is his prerogative to allow or disallow. ’No,” the co-passenger strongly objected. All others supported him. He brought me from outside the coupe and allowed me to sit on his berth. He said to the Conductor, ’This young man has a valid ticket, we all will adjust him as we adjust your officer.” So strong and impressive was the voice that the Officer had to advise the conductor to agree to it.

Gour Prasad Ghose

The train was moving. I was grateful to this gentleman, for without his intervention I had no other way to get down or to go to a general compartment to find a place to stand. I was looking at his face, it looked familiar. The tea vendor came, we took tea. By the time the train reached Allahabad, the railway Officer got down. We were 5 in the coupe, 4 with confirmed ticket and I , with an unconfirmed one. I was struggling  to recognize the gentleman. He was looking like Gour Prasad Ghose.

The gentleman was observing me for the last few hours. He asked me , ’You look to be tense, but why ? We all will adjust to you. One of us will sleep on the floor. ’No, this is not the reason. I was just finding the similarity of your face with Gour Prasad Ghose. ’ I replied.” Have you ever seen Gour Prasad Ghose? “ He asked. ’No have seen his films.“ I said.

He laughed and laughed. Oh, my God, so hearty was the laugh, and so intimate ! “ Good that there are still some people who can recognize me. I was all those years feeling sad that people have forgotten me. Dear I am Gour Prasad Ghose.” He said.

Banner of Movie ‘Kaa’

Like Sarat Pujari, Gour Prasad was a matinee idol of my adolescent days. We discussed many things. I had seen his film ‘Kaa’ which got a national award. Gour Prasad went to Delhi to sign papers for the national telecast of ‘Kaa’ by Doordarshan. The concerned officer wanted bribes and he was disheartened.Somehow, ’Kaa’ was nationally telecast .

Around evening, the train reached Mughalsarai. Gour Prasad ordered for food for all of us. We all took a peg or two, food too. Suddenly,one of our co-passengers ( he was in Air Force and was traveling to Kharagpur ) started crying. What he said was painful. His wife had an extra-marital affairs with his brother and he is not in a position to do anything than to tolerate. Poor fellow! Fighting for the country and lost war at home! He wanted Gour Prasad to make a film on his plight and Gour Prasad agreed to it while consoling him. The Air Force Office insisted on sleeping on the floor, and we had no other way than to agree.

Sarada Prasanna Naik

We reached Cuttack. Gour Prasad got down in Cuttack. We never met again. One day I was at Cuttack , I met Sarada Prasanna Naik, my former colleague at SIET, Bhubaneswar. Sarada Babu happened to be Gour Prasad’s brother-in-law..

‘Will you not go to Chandana’s residence? Today is the 10th day ( Dasaha ) of Gour Prasad’s death’, he mentioned. I was shocked to learn about a perfectionist’s  death.

I had no words to console his wife!

(The Author Manas Ranjan Mahapatra is a former editor of National Book Trust, New Delhi. Views are personal)

#GourPrasadGhose #ParvatiGhose #SaradaPrasannaNaik #OdishaSahityaAkademi #Kaa #ManasRanjanMahapatra


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