Manas Ranjan Mohapatra

I went back to my college days while speaking of the Odisha Arts and Literature Festival organized by Manu Dash three years ago.

I was in my first year in college. It was 1976. Debadutta Bhai was one of my mentors in the field of creative arts. I decided to bring out a little magazine. I was those days highly inspired by Rabi Singh and so, had the title ‘Dunduvi’ in mind. Debadatta Bhai suggested I call a meeting of local writers to discuss. He offered to offer tea to the participants.

In that meeting, I met Tarun Tapan Mohanty and Nirmal Mishra. Nirmal Bhaina suggested that the proposed magazine may be named ‘Badadanda’. I continued publishing Badadanda till I left Odisha for joining NCERT in 1987. My wife Sailabala continued publishing it even when I left Puri in 1984 for the next few years. A friend and brother Umakanta Mohanty took the responsibility on his own and the magazine died.

Thus I became close to Tarun Tapan Mohanty and Nirmal Mishra. Soon I started going to their residence at Pokharia. There I discovered a small anthology of poems edited by Manu Dash.

I was eager to meet Manu Dash. He was in Patharpuri Hostel. But I did not have to wait long. I met him in 1977 in the company of Kumar Mohanty, the founder of the Anam Movement at Bishuba Milana of Prajatantra. Manu Dash possibly shifted to Nimapara College after his intermediate. He did one Anam Melana (Meet) at Nayahat.

Manu Dash and I continued to meet occasionally, more often on the literary pages of journals. In 1979 I discovered him in Vani Vihar, he was admitted to Odia MA. My elder sister got admitted to the same class and I was there to get her admitted. Manu Bhaina and I continued to meet and interact.

I got a piece of news in 1981 that Manu Dash joined Sewa Paper Mills at Jeypore, Koraput as its Personnel Officer. I joined the School Branch of Odisha Education Service in a School at Umerkote, 100 Kms away from Jeypore, and came to meet him. I, Manu Dash along with Ashok Mishra used to meet at All India Radio. We spent 3 days together in gossipping. He took leave for a day only to talk to me on unspecified topics.

I got a job in NCERT in 1987 and left Koraput for Lucknow. In between Manu Dash and I met a few times. 20 years passed. In between, I joined NBT and shifted to Delhi in 1990. One day Artist Sanjay Bhatt gave me news, Manu Dash is in Delhi……

Manu Dash was possibly in Emami Paper Mills as its Personnel Manager. He was in a Hotel at Karol Bagh. We spent a full afternoon and evening with Vodka and gossip. There we revived our old contact.

I met Manu Dash at Kalinga Literature Festival in 2016. There he told me that he has left his job and started a publishing house and a Literature Festival with a difference. Then, we discovered each other on Facebook. He liked one of my write-ups on Anam. We came together to hold the first-ever North East Show in Odisha Arts and Literature Festival 2018 and 2019 funded by my organization North Eastern Council.

How wonderful the time was … from discovering Manu Dash as a compiler of a small anthology of poems in college to my days as an emerging poet /young school headmaster at Jeypore to meeting at Delhi to working together for a Literature Festival? Rest is history.

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

Tags: #OdishaArtsandLiterature #LiteratureFestival #OdishaEducation #OdiaLiterature #OdiaMagazines #OdishaArtsandCulture