Hara Prasad Das is a name to be reckoned with in contemporary Odia literature. He excels as a poet, an essayist, a columnist and a thinker. One can see a refreshing tone and something novel in his writings.
Some attributes that his writings are very often incomprehensible for the common readers but his credentials as an intellectual is well recognised. He is one of the few having access to the western and pan Indian literature as well as the Odia literary traditions.
I remember that when he returned to Odisha in early nineties he started writing a regular column in daily Sambad and it was a revisiting of our rich poetic traditions starting from Sarala Das. It created a ripple among the Odia writers and intellectual circles.
The innovative approach in his writings was widely appreciated and discussed. I recall that in a meeting in Utkal University Guest House one day those days the veteran writer Prof Chandra Sekhar Rath openly praised him for his column and told that he felt like touching his feet for his scholarly articles. One can see his erudition and appreciation of our ancient poets in his own way, which had escaped the notice of our critics till then.
Although in his younger days he created a sensation by his works of fiction, he was almost silent for years when he was posted outside the State for quite a long time. From the nineties onwards he became one of the most prolific writers of Odia literature.
He is a good orator and always gives new interpretations of things to the eager audience. He had also acquired a very good reputation as a tough and knowledgeable officer in IAAS cadre and occupied many key positions in Government of India. He had served as Principal Accountant General in states like Odisha and Bihar. He is a person who calls a spade a spade and therefore incurred the displeasure of many in his life. However, he never surrendered to his detractors at any point.
His epic poem Desha (the Country) which got translated into Hindi is a unique work of poetry and it received huge critical appreciation at national level. His poems depict the philosophy of life in different hues and are full of unusual images and metaphors created in his own style.
One will feel as if the poet is in intimate conversation with the readers and the characters are picked up from the ordinary day today. The diction of his poetry distinguishes him from his contemporaries and has earned him a unique position in present day Indian poetry scenario.
At the personal level he is very warm and affectionate particularly with the young writers. He used to edit a regular section in a literary journal featuring young poets and giving his critical appreciation of their writings. It made him hugely popular among the young poets. He is credited with a dozen poetry collections and a number of books of essays.
He deservingly bagged many awards including Sahitya Akademi award in 1999, Sarala Award and Gangadhar National Award for Poetry in 2008 and Moorti devi Award in 2013. Of late some of his writings have political overtones inviting criticism in certain quarters but an intellectual need not be necessarily apolitical. One has a right in a democracy to take sides and exhibit his commitment to certain principles he believes to be right. Intellectual discourse in the public domain should be encouraged and the voice of dissent should be honoured in a true democratic tradition.
My association with him dates back to the nineties when we used to meet frequently in various literary meetings and it was always refreshing to talk to him. When he was Principal AG in Bihar posted at Ranchi I visited Ranchi with my esteemed friends Dr Gourahari Das and Paresh Patnaik and he extended his warm hospitality during our stay. His company is no less memorable.
(Mr. Pradeep Biswal is a bilingual poet writing both in Odia and English. His poems are widely anthologized. He is also an editor and translator of repute. A retired IAS Officer, Mr. Biswal presently holds the position of Member, Odisha Real Estate Regulatory Authority and stays with his family at Bhubaneswar. Views are Personal)
Tags: #Odialiterature #UtkalUniversity #NationalAwardforPoetry #SahityaAkademiAward #IAAScadre #SaralaDas #GangadharNationalAward #OdiaPoet #MoortideviAward #Indianliterature