Manas Ranjan Mahapatra
I have been thinking for the last three years after my retirement to write on my living friends. Today I have an urge to write on my friend Mrinal Chatterjee who has just got D. Litt from Brahmapur University. It will take me a day to write this memoir. Incidentally, my second anthology of short stories is due in a month. Mrinal and I befriended after publication of my story in Galpajhar, which was published from Bhadrak half a century ago and was edited by Balaram Sahu.
Bhadrak College was a major college in 1970s when I was a student in SCS College, Puri. Mrinal was a student in that college. He was my batchmate. The other noted friend in that college was Bijoy Nayak. We were young fiction writers those days and our stories were regularly published in Galpajhar.In 1981 I left my college studies and joined J. Mohapatra and Co as a subeditor in their English daily News of the World and monthly digest Alok as its Editor. I was staying with a friend at New PG Hostel as a paying guest. Suddenly I met Mrinal there as a boarder. He was the student editor of the English department’s mouthpiece.
My days at Cuttack were not pleasant. Nabakishore Mohapatra, proprietor of J. Mohapatra and Co was a nice person. But his Manager was not a goodman. I was invited by a Press Owner of Puri to join the press as its manager. Chittaranjan Mishra was planning to bring his newspaper Kurukshetra from Cuttack to Puri. The press owner Balakrushna Pratihari was his classmate. Since it was running on loss, Balakrushna Pratihari rented it out to Chittaranjan Mishra for publication of Kurukshetra.One fine morning, I was offered the job of Managing Editor of Kurukshetra with the work of Manager of the press Kalinga Industries. I was comfortable in the new assignment, but my happiness didn’t last long. A full-page advertisement was to be published in Kurukshetra. Raghunath Mishra, a friend of Chittaranjan Mishra was looking after the accounting job of the newspaper. He was interested in bringing his brother to my post. Our newspaper was printed in letterpress those days. The advertisement text could not be adjusted in half a page. I slightly reduced the size. Ragunathan Mishra reported this lapse in such a manner that Chittaranjan Mishra got angry. In the evening Raghunath Mishra came and paid me a month’s salary with the notice of my dismissal from the job. I was on the road. My family was struggling with poverty. My elder sister was in a private college and her salary was just hand to mouth. My beloved Sailabala was in a private school. We were not in a position to marry. I took loan from a bank to support my family and went on applying for jobs, both private and government. I also took some odd assignments. An organization Management Advisory Services then advertised some editorial posts and conducted an examination. I saw Mrinal there in the examination as a candidate like me. He was by that time working in a private college at Bhubaneswar as a lecturer. But, my interest in returning to my original passion Journalism in a newspaper had to wait for some time. I had to marry my beloved as her father was worried. I could not take the risk of joining the private sector. I had appeared in several competitive exams and got three offers out of which I accepted one and join School Education Department as a Headmaster. From there I switched over to NCERT as an Educational Media Researcher.
A job of Language Editor in Odia was advertised in newspapers in 1990. I applied for it and got a call to appear in an interview. There I met Mrinal Chatterjee again as a candidate.The interview board led by famous author and translator Jeevan Pani appreciated my earlier experience in a publishing house. The result was to be declared after a day. The candidates included Gaurahari Das, Satyapriya Mahalik,Chitrasen Pasayat and Soudamini Bhuyan apart from Mrinal. I jokingly said while we were served tea,’ One of us will get the job, but s/he has to offer works to others.’ All of us laughed. The result was out after a day. I was selected. Mrinal was only waitlisted. I offered translation works to the rest as I proposed. Mrinal and Gaurahari got the major assignments. Those days, NBT was offering the best translation fee. Time is very powerful. A bigger opportunity was waiting for Mrinal. He got the job of Associate Professor in Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal. He offered me guest teaching assignments, annually once at his institute. Prior to it I was teaching as a visiting faculty in DU, STI for Prasar Bharti, BHU and a few others, but IIMC assignment was special. Inspired by it I did another MA in Journalism and Mass Communication. I registered for PhD in the same university from which Mrinal did his D. Litt now, but sadly my guide died in an accident. I was Director, Information and PR of North Eastern Region for three years at Shillong. In one of our meetings, I met the then VC, Guwahati University and he was happy to know about my credential as a Media Educator. The next day I was invited to teach in their Journalism and Mass Communication Department as a visiting faculty. Much before the term Professor of Practice was introduced by UGC, CMR University, Bangalore invited me to teach Development Communication there as a Professor of Practice. Covid has suddenly brought an abrupt halt to my teaching assignments. I have now retired from my government job of an Editor and relocated to Odisha, have not met Mrinal for almost four years, don’t know when we will meet again and where. Mrinal is Regional Director now at Dhenkanal and IIMC has almost forgotten me.
(The Author is a former editor of National Book Trust, New Delhi. Views are personal)