Manas Ranjan Mohapatra

Whenever I think of Bangalore, Dr. Sumatheendra Nadig comes to my mind. I wrote on Facebook three years ago about my days with author and critic Dr. Sumatheendra Nadig. Immediately the post was liked by no other than my teacher Subhendu Mund, who passed away last year.

Much before he became Chairman of the National Book Trust (NBT) we met each other in a meeting at the regional office of Sahitya Akademi in Bangalore. I was invited for an interactive session with local writers and he was one of the local writers present in the meeting. Sailabala and I were on a visit to Karnataka as young authors three decades ago.

Thus, it was obvious that after taking over as Chairman, NBT, our bond became stronger. It was a bad period in NBT, we were fighting against the unlawful activities of the then Director, NBT Arvind Kumar and he stood by us. We won.

Later, after seeing many substandard people on the chair of Director, NBT, and seeing the good work done by Arvind Kumar after leaving NBT I wrote a few words of appreciation and my friends disliked it. If any person stood by me, it was Dr. Nadig, I had been to his new residence at Ramya Indraprastha and we had drinks together, Dr. Nadig somehow made Madam agree to the plea that ‘Manas is here after a long time.’ He was always of the view that good work should always be considered on its own merit without any bias and there should not be any reference to the past.

Dr. Nadig and I were like two old friends though we had an age gap of almost 30 years. Many evenings we were together at IIC. So, we became good friends. Dr. Nadig was a writer for all age groups. He was obsessed with his epic ‘Dampatya Geeta’, it was the pleasure of his married life. I was instrumental in getting it translated into Assamese and Odia by Anupam Kumar and Dr. Basanta Kumar Panda respectively. But those translations could not see the light of the day as no publisher agreed to publish it on the plea that the book may not have a market in their languages.

We were partners in crime on many occasions. He went with me to a number of places like Gopalpur, Rourkela, Cuttack, Puri, Bhubaneswar, and Kolkata for many literary meetings. He learned the Bengali language to translate Shakti Chattopadhyay. Well known in the literary circle of Kolkata, he was a fluent speaker of the language. So friendly was he that on one visit to Odisha, he insisted to meet some well-known writers and I took him to Dr. Sitakanta Mahapatra, Indian English poet Jayanta Mahapatra, Publisher Mahendra Mishra, and Prof Rajkishore Ray. But, he was happy visiting my place in Puri to meet my family members.

When you work in the same organization at various levels, one being the boss and the other a few steps below, it is obvious that at times your relationship may soar. We had at times, but we mended it and continued our journey till he passed away. Once, after he left NBT, he visited the organization and met us. The then Director who was chosen by him did not bother to provide him with a vehicle and I arranged it from my sources in spite of Dr. Nadig’s unwillingness. We spent that evening together at Essex Farm, South Delhi.

He was a great scholar, a Professor of English. His knowledge in the field of Comparative Literature was superb. He was an authority on Gopalkrishna Adiga whom he always considered the first post-modern poet in Kannada. We used to joke among ourselves’ Kuvempu-Adiga -Nadiga …’ to show the growth of Kannada Literature. He was capable of taking on UR Ananthamurthy in literary meetings. And, he had friends and followers all over India.

There are many occasions to remember, he was a people’s chairman in NBT. Once his driver Rajendra invited him for lunch at his residence on the office campus in Green Park and he accepted it. He had been to my residence in Katwaria Sarai, Shalimar Garden, and Puri. Many of my colleagues had him at their residences for dinner and the experience was superb, he was a scholar on many literary issues.

The author of ‘Dampatya Geeta’ had not seen Tajmahal. He wanted three of his favorites Prithviraj Monga, Pankaj Chaturvedi, and I to accompany him. But finally, it was I who agreed and accompanied him. At Tajmahal, the driver wanted to have a photograph with him and me. It was agreed to immediately by him. We came back to IIC and had a nice session of good food, and drink together. The other person with us that evening was Dr. Ganga Prasad Vimal.

He was a different man. A few years back when I was in Bangalore on a teaching assignment at CMR University, I called him. He was not well and his daughter insisted that I can come only the next evening, but I had to catch my return flight to Guwahati. Alas, had I known that he will go back soon, I would have insisted on our meeting the same evening. He was always saying,’ I will score a century….’

Sadly, Dr. Sumatheendra Nadig passed away on 7th August 2018.

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

Tags: #SumatheendraNadig #DampatyaGeeta #CMRUniversity #KannadaWriter #NationalBookTrust

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