Pradeep Biswal

In the year 1979, I got admitted to Vanivihar for my post-graduation studies. It was one of my first priorities to meet Shri Santanu Acharya, who was then holding the post of the Assessor of the examination section of the University.

The reason was that he was the first person to convey my honors results to our Principal over the phone. Besides that, I had also a desire to meet the veteran writer in person. By that time I had read his masterpiece: Nara Kinnara, a novel first of its kind in Odia literature. I could not sleep for a few days after reading the novel.

In my first meeting, I found him to be very warm and affectionate. Thereafter we used to meet at least once a week and the sessions were for hours if he had no work in hand. It was always enlightening and entertaining. Subsequently, he became the Controller of Examination and our association grew stronger. In those days he was writing a new novel, titled Sakuntala, and he was narrating me the storyline and the philosophical background of the novel. This came out to be one of his major works of fiction.

As a student of science, it was quite unusual for him to embrace literature. But going by his unusual life experience it was but natural for him to get drawn toward creative writing. At a young age, he got admitted to an MBBS course at SCB Medical College and very soon he realized that it was not his cup of tea. He left the medical college and joined Ravenshaw College to study science. His inquisitive mind was always questioning the fundamentals of science and also the meaning of life. As a result, he got interested in philosophy, religion, and spirituality. From Veda to Marxism, from Upanishads to Einstein, from Darwin to Aurobindo he traveled far and wide in his pursuit of knowledge.

After completing his post-graduation he joined as a lecturer in a government college in south Odisha and here he met his mentor Mahapatra Nilamani Sahu as a colleague. Mahapatra Nilamani Sahu a lecturer in Odia and was already an accomplished short story writer. He introduced him to the world of fiction. Their relationship and bonding lasted for decades till MNS breathed his last few years ago. Both of them constructed houses adjacently in Shahid Nagar, Bhubaneswar to be neighbors for life. Their intimacy was beyond imagination and they shared common interests in literature, philosophy, and spiritualism.

Once both of them were invited as guests to a meeting in the Vani Vihar auditorium in the evening. We were the organizers. The meeting ended around nine o clock at night. Both of them left for their homes. After the meeting was over we proceeded to Sahidnagar for taking dinner and found that both of them were engaged in an animated conversation in Vanivihar square on the side of the national highway. After taking our dinner when we returned they were still there engaged in the discussion. By then it was past ten o clock. God knows when they reached their residences that day.

Shri Acharya was always radical in his thinking and tried to bring a synthesis between the ancient and the modern, science and spirituality, Marxism and Gandhian philosophy. In Sakuntala he had experimented with it. For him, the ultimate truth is one and the same although we tend to present it in different ways. He was an idealist in life and never compromised with the establishment. His novel Mantrinka Share ( Minister’s Share) was a political satire intended to expose the political and bureaucratic system of our time. He is a recipient of both the Central Sahitya Akademi award as well as Sarala Award for his outstanding contributions to literature. He is one of the pioneers of modern fiction in Odia literature.

After his tenure at Utkal University, he moved to Karanjia as Principal of the government college. He then started writing a column in the daily Dharitree titled Karanjia Diary. It was highly popular and earned him a lot of readers of all ages. There he tried to explore the life and philosophy of the tribals of the Mayurbhanj district. He was critical of the politicians and government officials who were exploiting the tribals at the cost of their innocence. There he wrote a piece named Kua Chori (Theft of the Well) to expose how government schemes were being misused and the poor and ignorant people were at the receiving end. I was so moved by his writings in those days that one fine morning I landed in Karanjia to his surprise and had a nice time in his company before boarding the overnight bus to Bhubaneswar.

He finally superannuated as Principal of SVM College, Jagatsinghpur after completing his successful innings as a  teacher and an educational administrator. Besides novels and short stories, he has written children’s literature, particularly science fiction for children. His wife Nirupama Acharya is a reputed writer too and a very affectionate lady.  I am fortunate to have enjoyed his fatherly affection in life. A few years ago he visited Secretariat for some work and obliged me by walking into my office and enjoying a cup of coffee.  When Sir always welcomes me as Pradeep Kumar with rare affection, Mausi is found always ready with some sweets and snacks for me whenever I visit them. Both their daughters are established abroad and they almost every year spend a few months in the company of the grandchildren there. Nonetheless, the couple is still active in their creative world in their eighties with the intention to make life meaningful.

Pray God they keep on moving in a truly meaningful way.

(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)


  1. Very well written piece and a befitting token of love for Sri Santanu Acharya, a veteran writer. Mr Biswal, as a writer has very lucidly collected the missing memories with a personal touch. Best wishes and regards to both

  2. Well etched memory of a successful fiction writer.
    Pre-internet days used to be different for the readers and writers. Missing the bonhomie.

  3. Very nicely articulated. I have deep regards for Santanu Acharaya as a writer and trend setter in Odia literature. Am very attached to his and Mohapatra Nilamani Sahoo’s family. It was like traversing the memory lane. Thank you Pradip babu for this piece. Paramita Satpathy

  4. Such a comprehensive write on the veteran literature Shri Shantanu Acharya. Quite impressive both the personal reminiscence and the description of his life and works. Enjoyed immensely.

  5. Very lucidly narrated about a dazzling star .I m so much impressed by ur nice description style Bhai.🙏🙏

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