Manas Ranjan Mohapatra

It was in 1976 in the midst of Emergency in India that a young adult of 16 reached the first literature festival of India – Prajatantra Bishuba Milan – and recited an untitled poem, those days called as Anam Kabita and declared proudly himself as Anam. All were amazed.

Madhu Mohanty, the philosopher of Anam Movement was present. On both sides of him were two stalwarts of Anam Poetry Kumar Mohanty and Harihar Mishra. They all called that young adult and accepted him in their fold. I am that young adult. Let me write about that movement.

The Anam Movement began in 1969. Its architect was Poet Kumar Mohanty along with Poet Harihar Mishra. Madhu Mohanty was the Socrates of this movement and several other voices of dissent and these two led Anam Movement like young Alexander! Mohanty (13 July, 1942 – 19 December, 1995) was the ideologue for young poets like me in the early years of our growth as budding poets half a century ago.

I am fortunate enough to have worked with these two friends, Kumar Mohanty and Harihar Mishra and writing for a journal from Delhi. The other poet who popularized the movement was Rajendra Kishore Panda. Creator of the symbol of dissent ‘Anam Das‘, in his poetry, Anam poet Rajendra Kishore Panda, voice of dissent, got the prestigious Kuvempu Samman from Karnataka.

Poet Rajendra Kishore Panda

A few months ago the same poet was to receive Sarala Samman, but some miscreants managed to cancel the plan of the Vice President of India to bestow that honor on Poet Rajendra. Now, in the process, Odisha lost the opportunity to honor its one of the finest poets. I have had an association with this great poet for the last almost five decades since our days in the Anam Movement way back in 1976-77.

Organizing a Literature Festival or a Book Fair has now become a business. The Voice of dissent has become a matter of theory rather than practice these days. But, there was a time when people like Kumar Mohanty and were writing in Odia against the government and Chief Ministers like Nandini Satpathy or Janaki Ballav Pattnayak were listening to them with patience and honor. Vishnu Khare and Mangalesh Dabral were similar poets of dissent in Hindi and PM Indira Gandhi was happy to listen to their poetry reading.

Poet Vishnu Khare and Magalesh Dabral are no more. I was never in their close circles but I will remember their sweet memories forever. Vishnu Khare and I were known for almost two decades. We met around Mandi House a number of times, be it Ravindra Bhawan, Shri Ram Center, Kamani or LTG. Suddenly I found Vishnu Khare in the National Book Trust as a Consultant. Manglesh Dabral, my long time friend and renowned Hindi poet was there too in NBT as a Consultant for almost 3 years.

I have a bad tendency of trying to write or speak languages in which I don’t have mastery. Delhi was declared as the Book Capital of India and we planned a series of literary or book related events throughout the country. I sent a note in Hindi mentioning my plan to our Director. As I remember, we had Nuzhat Hassan, a police officer as Director and she sent my note to Vishnu Khare for comment. Vishnu Khare, instead of commenting, circled some words by red ink and sent it back to me. I could not understand and went to him. Mangalesh Dabral was also present there.

‘When you write a language, write it correctly, ‘Vishnu Khare said. ‘I tried my best. I can’t write better. It is a note, not an answer sheet, ‘I replied. Mangalesh Dabral intervened, ‘Vishnuji, Manas is from Odisha, his mother tongue is Odia. We should be happy that he speaks Hindi well. May be, his written Hindi is not that good. By the way, can you or I speak or write a few words in Odia?’

‘How can I understand that  this note is from a non Hindi speaking person? I thought it was from a Hindi editor.’ Then he spoke about his experience with  some Hindi editors of NBT. We met last time at Bhubaneswar in the Odisha Art and Literature Festival at Bhubaneswar in February 2018. ‘Come, I have now mastered some Odia words,’ he said.Then he uttered in grief, ‘But I can’t speak those fluently as you speak Hindi’.

`It is a matter of practice Bhai, I replied. Vishnu Bhai and I  stayed in the Festival for 3 days.He attended all the sessions. ‘We will meet next time at Delhi’, he said. I assured him that I will do. ‘But I hope you will not ask me to appear in any Hindi test…’I said in a tone of joke. But, that occasion never came.

I am an ardent Anam. While dissenting on the bad deeds of government, I also believe in universal brotherhood.

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

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