Manas Ranjan Mohapatra

My love for music grew with Mukesh Ji in the 1970s when I did my matriculation. His full name was Mukesh Kumar Mathur. I had cassettes of Mukesh and Talat Mehmood of the time during my days in Lucknow when 2-in one sets were in use. Later, I came to Delhi and possessed music CDs of these singers with Jagjit-Chitra Singh added.

It is very difficult to find these eternal voices in the crowd of politically promoted rock singers these days in the age of electronics and pen drive. Bappi Lahiri, Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar came personally to Odisha half a century ago to meet this doyen.

I started listening to songs of Akshaya Mohanty and Prafulla Kar in my college days. Prafulla Kar was a bit more classical, but Akshaya Mohanty was our most favorite singer those days. He was our Kishore Kumar!

But that age is gone. And, I silently look on, as the time flies away, remembering the past!

One day, I was about to board the Neelachal Express. Suddenly somebody called from the back….Aare, Manas…..I turned back. It was none other than Biranchi Bhaina. He was in State Bank of India, Temple Road branch and was later transferred  to Vani Vihar Branch. He was from my maternal Grand Mother’s Street Kalikadevi Sahi and was one year senior to me in school. He dropped a year and became my classmate. But my childhood respect to him as a senior remained. Biranchi Bhaina’s elder brother Surya Narayan Mishra was Professor, Political Science at Utkal University.

I was thrilled, for we met after many years. We entered the compartment and started gossiping. Many old memories, old stories…Our common friend Bhagirathi Khuntia was a ward councilor in Puri Municipality those days. We used to act in plays together. He was popularly called as ‘Bhagi’.

Biranchi Bhaina passed  an interesting piece of news…..Khokabhai is traveling in the same  train. Akshaya Mohanty, our favorite singer those days in Odisha, was popularly known as ‘Khokabhai. ’It so happened that our friend Sitaram Agrawala of  Sarthak Music (those days it was JE Cassette) made an album of Akshaya Mohanty and the first song was….’Tame Ete Derikala Khokabhai, Mu Basibasi gali Bore hoi…’

Akshaya Mohanty was a  favorite of the youth mass in Odisha those days.Some of his songs were semi-vulgar as elders used to say. Thus was the effect of Akshaya Mohanty’s songs was that Bela Tiadi, a popular cycle mechanic once threatened, on stage, to cut Akshaya Mohanty’s mustache if he sings such  vulgar songs. Akshaya Mohanty stopped singing. Everybody tried to convince him, but no result..He had only one question: ‘who will take care of my mustache’, for the mustache was the symbol of manly pride those days.

Sitaram Agrawal

Finally, Sadananda Samantasinhara, Debudutta Bhai’s father assured him he will take care of security of his mustache and the melody  resumed its performance. That night Haraprasad, my friend and I could not return home as it was 2 hours past midnight and we spent our night at sea shore.

Khokabhai traveling in the  train…my inquisitiveness increased. We went to Khokabhai. ’Aare, tamesabu jaucha ei gadire, badhia hela, gapi gapi jiba. Maja haba.. (Good that you are traveling in this train, will gossip all the way and enjoy our journey)’, Khokabhai said.

We discussed many things….starting from college function, how Bhagi was after a girl whose roll number was 115, to Bela Tiadi, to Sitaram’s album and back to ‘Nadira Nama Alasa Kanya Tirara Nama Tandra’, Akshaya Mohanty’s immortal song. Our joy and thrill  knew no bounds.

Khoka Bhai  used to consume  alcohol as a trigger  for performance. He was carrying a bottle with him. Problem was, if we take, our co-passengers may object. We went to the toilet side and had one peg each. I requested Khoka Bhai to sing a song to which he gladly agreed.

That was  the wonder. Music has an immense power. The lady nearby (later we came to know that she was teaching Sociology in a College at Bhubaneswar) got so excited to know that it was Akshaya Mohanty and, instantly, she requested for  an autograph on her palm.

Now, the other passengers in that part were also equally excited. Akshaya Mohanty sang his songs that I requested like Punyara Naditire, Hey Phaguna Tume, Smruti tume Shrabana rati, Hasata Lakhye Tanka….etc etc. Nobody bothered for his taking a sip or two at intervals while singing. We were not prepared for the end of that journey, but we had to part. Khokabhai got down at Cuttack.

My next meeting with Khoka Bhai was at Puri. He was being honored in a function. We remembered our journey. His wife was with him. ’I have given up drinking, he told us.’ ‘And music?..I asked’. His  reply was  in his song…Jeein thiba jae Gauthibi, Gau thiba jaen Jeeinthibi (I will sing till I am alive, and I will be alive till I sing.’ What a nice way to live life King Size!


My friend Prof. Chandrabhanu Pattnayak and I once had a party at my place in Delhi. I used to listen to Akshaya Mohanty’s song at home. ’Do you know who named me as Chandrabhanu.’..he asked. ’Must be your parents’, I replied.’ No, it was my Uncle (Mama) Akskaya Mohanty’, he announced with a great sense of pride.

Then he narrated the story how Prafulla Kar and Akshaya Mohanty were perceived in Odisha those days as rival singers and how Akshaya Mohanty was in love with the immortal song of Prafulla Kar….Kamala Desha Rajakumara Mu Hatare Pushpadhanu, Lakshe Rajara Maudamani Mo nama Chandrabhanu.………What a tribute!

Mukesh Ji, Lata ji, Bappi Da and Khoka Bhai are all gone now, but I am nostalgic about my tryst with music!

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

#AkshayaMohanty #KhokaBhai #Prafullakar #PunyaraNaditire #HeyPhagunaTume #SmrutitumeShrabanarati #Odiasong #Odiaoldsong