Manas Ranjan Mohapatra

I am fortunate to have worked with both Sarat Kumar Kar and Rajat Kumar Kar in many ways. We lost Sarat Kumar Kar one and half years ago and now, lost Rajat Kumar Kar too to eternity.

In my NCERT days, I was transferred from Lucknow to Bhubaneswar in 1989 thanks to the intervention of the then Director, SCERT Rajat Kumar Kar. It is difficult for me to forget his help and blessings. Very painful to bear this pain. My last award was received by my wife in my absence from Rajat Kumar Kar last year at Puri. I feel it impulsive now to write about my association with him.

I knew Rajat Kumar Kar for many reasons. He was a friend of my uncle. I received my first prize in Essay Writing from him in 1976  in Bhanja Jayanti, Railway Colony, Cuttack. Later, I met him on many occasions at Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Puri. He used to do the running commentary of Car Festival for many years. Those days radio was the only medium. Later TV came up. Rajat Kumar Kar was a Techno Savvy person.

I have written separately on my long association with Sarat Kumar Kar, Minister and Speaker, Odisha Assembly. Both the brothers were great researchers of Indian Culture.

Rajat Kumar Kar and Sarat Kumar Kar

I was in the Odisha Education Service, School Branch for some years. Rajat Kumar Kar was Joint Director, Education those days. Later, I joined NCERT as a Media Researcher in 1987. I was posted at Lucknow. My daughter was born in 1985 and was very small. The then Joint Director CIET (NCERT) Dr. Manmohan Choudhury understood my plight and wrote a letter to Director, SCERT, Odisha for providing me working space in his office at SIET, Bhubaneswar. But, no reply came for a few months. I reached SCERT to persuade the matter. To my utter surprise, I found the nameplate of Rajat Kimar Kar as Director there.

I was overjoyed. But, there was a fear that he may have forgotten me as many years had passed in between. I gathered courage and asked his PA. He took my slip. After a few seconds, a call came and I entered inside and introduced myself. He asked me to sit.

– So, What is your problem ? He asked me.

I told him my story. He asked his PA to check from the Section Officer if any such letter was received. After some time PA confirmed that the letter was received and is with the Section Officer. Immediately the Section Officer was called.

I found Panigrahi there as a Section Officer. He was a corrupt officer and once I thrashed him while in State Education Service at Bhubaneswar. He was then a clerk and possibly, was promoted as Section Officer.

– ‘Sir, Mr Mahapatra doesn’t respect his seniors and never sticks to the rules of punctuality. We should not accept him here,’ Panigrahi said. His words were not in good taste.

– ‘We have been offered free services by an Officer from NCERT and not to write his confidential report ‘, Rajat Kumar Kar observed with disgust and ordered the Section Officer to put up the draft reply to NCERT immediately . He asked me to wait for an hour to collect the letter personally from the office and carry it to NCERT.

I was offered a cup of tea and asked to narrate if Panigrahi was correct. I narrated to him the whole episode- how Panigrahi wanted a bribe and I thrashed him. I got the letter in an hour and next is History.

Many years later I was going to receive an award at the temple of Goddess Sarala in the honor of poet Sarala Das. Poet Ramakanta Rath was the Chief Guest and Rajat Kumar Kar was the Chief Speaker. I was by that time heading the National Center for Children’s Literature in NBT.

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

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