Saaransh Mishra

A tribute to Sonepur born artist & painter Padmanava Mishra. He was a leading figure in fine arts especially in the western Odisha region and had pursued 4-year Diploma in Arts and Crafts from Visva Bharati University, Shantiniketan back in 1966. Through this article, the author recalls & celebrates his grandfather Padmanava Mishra.  

The peculiarity with the grief of losing someone is that it always hits you in waves right when you think that you’re doing a great job at distracting yourself. You’re getting on about your life normally and suddenly you’re not.

Every single moment, memory and feeling that they made you feel comes gushing in  rapidly and you’re left feeling depleted and debilitated. While there’s nothing we can do to fight this, it is in these moments that we find solace in the larger than life existence that someone had and the ways in which they touched peoples’ lives.

Although I recently had the misfortune of losing my grandfather, Padmanava Mishra, a renowned, veteran painter of our state, I consider myself inexplicably fortunate to have spent 24 years of my life around a man who possessed immeasurable greatness in more ways than one.

Baba, as I fondly call him, was surely a brilliant artist and received numerous prestigious accolades throughout the course of his life to show for it, but to me, that is not the essence of the life he lived.

To me, the impact he had on thousands quietly while doing what he loved, which has adequately been symbolised through the downpour of media attention, independent condolences and prayer meetings organised by people and socio-cultural groups for his demise, is what stands out and makes me look back with immense pride.

Hailing from an extremely humble background, the ladder to success was bound to be steep for him. Being self-made was the only option that he had. His journey to being one of the most influential artists of the state began with him becoming the second ever student from Odisha to go to Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan to study fine arts.

A gentleman named M.K. Kukreja, the then District collector of Sonepur, turned messiah by awarding Baba a scholarship to pursue his training in fine arts when he saw an immaculate charcoal sketch that he had drawn while passing time near the Sonepur court premises.

Life handed him an opportunity and might I say, I have seldom witnessed people using opportunities like he did. He dedicated the rest of his life to promoting fine arts and imparting his skills to thousands of students across western Odisha tirelessly.

Baba was undoubtedly a pioneer for the growth of fine arts across the state, founding fine arts academies across Western Odisha, may it be the Sunday School of Art, the Department of Fine Arts at Gangadhar Meher College in Sambalpur or even his own brainchild “Chitrabhumi”, which has been running for the last 32 years, now through his able disciples’ efforts.

The legacy that he has created shines bright today as most of the independent fine arts schools in Western Odisha have been founded by his students, some of whom he taught more than 55 years back. Many of his students now head fine arts departments across reputable colleges and universities, while many have also established themselves as prominent names in leading advertising agencies.

Losing him has clearly impacted not just his own family members, but the family of thousands he had painstakingly crafted over a rewarding journey spanning many decades. But, along with this loss also comes a win for everyone that had the honour of knowing and spending time with him, in the form of all the beautiful memories they made and the invaluable lessons he disseminated to everyone.

He might not be physically present anymore, but everything that he taught us, stood for and was himself, remains a testament to his eminence that is going to outlive all of us and inspire generations.

(Saaransh Mishra is an independent consultant dealing in HR, Media & Communication. Views are Personal)