My English Writings @ Talcher

Jagdish Mohanty and me

Published On 12-03-2019

Jagdish Mohanty and me

While translating the stories and novels of Jagdish Mohanty, I became quite acquainted with his writing style as well as process of his creativity. It was also easy to me for translation work. Although, since a decade I was his neighbour, but I could not know about his literary works at that time. In the beginning of the second decade of my job at Hingir Rampur Colliery, Brajrajnagar, Mahanadi Coalields Limited, I came into his contact and started to feel deeply about his writings, lifestyle, his ideology and commitment to literature.

I have tried to categorise his stories into five parts: -

1. Familial and Regional Stories: -

His observation was very subtle and sensitive. Basically, he used to search plot for his stories from families, surroundings and different segments of society. His famous stories "Antim Pankti ka Insan", "Digvalyla", "Maan ke lie ghar" emerged from the family background, whereas "Kalahandi ka naksha aur Banjha samay", "Raigara-Raigara" show some typical regional and geological surroundings of Odisha. In the story "Antim Pankti ka Insan", two friends of different personalities,one extrovert and fast-paced becomes a politician, whereas God fearing talented introvert Chander could not achieve anything in his life due to his intuitive and naïve nature. While his cousin becomes a sycophant of politicians and he earns very soon the status of success. People start to give example of his achievement. Here, the author focuses towards his real life and counts himself as a 'person of the last line', that he can not even talk with his collegemate turned leader friend, with whom he lived for a long period of four years in Ravensha College Hostel,Cuttack.

Similarly, 'Digvalay' is also familial story, in which the elder brother's hard work, dedication and devotion to his family makes younger brother Prakash successful in IAS examination, but he never takes any load or responsibility for family. Even on the death of father, he does not reach home in Kesh-Mundan ceremony. The elder brother was a teacher by profession. His financial status was not so good. He thought if younger IAS brother would leave the paternal land of his share, he could easily arrange the marriage of his daughter. Therefore, at the time of returning from Hazrat Nizamuddin station, he wanted to request him about it, but before his opening of mouth, Praksh said, "Brother,I need money. I want to buy a flat in Bhubaneswar.Till date, I could not arrange money. Rather, you sell my share of land in the village and give me money." In this way, the author highlighted 'Kabir's Doha’

“ Bada bhaya to kya bhaya jaise ped khajoor,

panthi ko chhaya nahin fal lage ati door’.

The author expressed in this story about individual selfish attitude, distorted family relationship and bitter social maladies in front of the readers.

The third story 'Maan ke lie Ghar' reminds us famous Hindi story ‘chief ki Daavat’ of the legendary Hindi writer ‘Bhishma Sahani’, who was one pillar of the new story movement of Hindi literature in 70s. The epicentre of both stories is mother. In first story, a mother is not properly treated in her son's house. Not only, she is afraid of her daughter-in-law, but also she suppresses her inner feelings. Neither did she use pooja-room for her prayer, nor did she use bed for her rest, even in her absence. As this bed was kept for use of her pet cat. The cat had already slept on this bed. At last, Mother kept her bag in a corner and sat down there with empty stomach. Despite her intense thirst and hunger, she did not even touch their fridge. In another story "Chief ki Davat", the son invites his boss to his house on feast so that he may get his promotion. In this party, there was no problem except the old mother. Crookedly, he managed to keep her mother aloof. She was told to sit silently on a chair in the veranda without making any noise or fuss. .

Jagdish Mohanty was a writer of poor person. He raised the Marxist problems related to Gramyanchal such as acute poverty, starvation death and Naxalism etc. All these themes had been presented in his story 'Raigadha-Raigadha'. Similarly, ‘Kalahandi’ is his biting sarcastic story. Ironically, he had given the names of various stalls such as "All the leaders of the world will unite", "Photography studio for snaps of Kalahandi", "Bachha Mahila Bikri Sahakari Samiti" "Lal fitashahi Zindabad" etc.Through these exhibition stalls, he wanted to expose real faces of Leaders, Journalists and NGOs, who were taking advantage in name of poverty of "Kalahandi". His style of satire was so sharp, biting, antidote and impressive that Hindi readers could easily recapitulate the story "Bhola Ram ka jeev " written by renowned Hindi writer Harishankar Parsai.

"Raigadha-Raigadha" is his another famous story, highlighting the basic causes of the rise of Naxalism in Odisha which reminds us famous Hindi Novel "Mailla Aanchal" of Phanishewar Nath Renu based on the village Purnia of Bengal and hindi story " Karmnasa ki haar" of Shiv Prasad , Jagdish writes in his story:-

".... You atleast come once in Raigadha. I will take you to a village leeward side of Nakua Mountain.There you will see, what hunger is! If you come here, I will show you what exploitation is! You will see, in Raigadha, you will get ten bananas in the five rupees, then how the aged mother of Kandha Mangeji became a victim of starvation death and how the government manipulated this death resulted due to malnutrition. You come here, I will show you another Odisha."

By analyzing these stories of Jagdish Mohanty, it established that Jagdish Mohanty had raised the problems of Naxalism in Koraput, Bolangir and Kendujhar districts of Odisha in same manner as it was done by Munshi Premchand in his masterpiece Hindi novel ‘Godan’ about the farmers of the villages like Semari and Belari villages. of Uttar Pradesh.

2 - Stories based on ideologies of Marxism/Freudian/ Existentialism: -

Jagadish Mohanty had always reflected his sympathetic views towards the down trodden,the poor and the labour class. The use of accurate pinching words, effective language style, spoken communication by characters in his stories is so intuitive and impressive that an image of real scene automatically emerges in front of any reader as if a 360 degree CCTV camera were fitted there. It can be easily experienced in his story ‘Bagh’. First time, reader can feel roaring of a tiger before him. The linguistic style of this story is totally different! Second time, the camera engrosses you in scene of stone hearted father selling his child for some money, then third time it recapitulates readers about the crying scene of mother Surwani and her poignant sensitivity. That tiger was nothing else, but his stone-hearted father.

"Papa, I was demanding for food, so are you selling me? I will not ask for food anymore. Please do not sell me." The eyes of the reader will automatically moisten by this episode. The innocent face and soft palms of the child will make sensitive reader to weep.

As the famous Hindi author, Sachchidanand Hiranand Vatsyan, had made various experiments with language in his stories; Similarly, Jagdish Mohanty has experimented with language many times in his writings.

One different story ‘Daridraya’, writer, through perhaps his own story, puts a question mark inside you, who sympathize with the poor in real sense ? During pilgrimage, a couple visited colony of the poor weavers and decided to buy of sari of Rs 1000. They bargained it in Rs 250 including postal expenses. But when the packet of sari reached their residence by post, the spouse had not paid the charges of the VPP. Actually her sympathy was nothing, but crocodile tears. Hindi story 'Kuttte kii poonchh' (Writer:-Yashpal) is also similiar in nature.

The third story of this class 'Hrudaya Sinhasan' leads beyond Marxism to touch existentialism. The story raises a question whether love is more important or hunger of stomach? The main protagonist of the story left Koraput district of Odisha and went Surat of Gujarat state in search of daily wages job. His mind was boggling with a dream to fulfil the demand of his girlfriend. But in Surat, the factory was on the brink of closure, so he had to return with empty hands. Despite, he purchased some cosmetic materials for her. On returning home, he found that the heart of his beloved was captured by another man, he immediately went away. When the second lover insisted to marry Paro, she took him in a room and stripped herself before him,saying, "Look well! This is my body. This thin bony structure is the result of malnutrition. No flesh on my bones, dark skin, black hair. Come near to my mouth, you will smell Pyria odor from my mouth. Can anyone be happy with such body?

Through her statement, the author reminds us about "Vairagya Shatak" of Raja Bhatrari, a master piece poetry in Indian Philosophy. According to which, this body is nothing but a bag of urine and faeces. It is nothing but a convertor Machine. Even you drink nectar or eat the most delicious foods of the world, but they automatically converted into urine and faeces. The level of consciousness of writer is beyond realism! Raja Bharathari told this reality of world to his younger brother Vikramaditya before taking Sannyas, "My mind was on Pingala, Pingala's mind was on the watchman, the watchman's mind was on Prostitute and Prostitute's mind was on me. This is the endless craving.I should leave the world."

Similarly Paro, the main character of the story, said to her second boyfriend," Tomorrow my mind was on another person, today on you and tomorrow, there is not guarantee, it will be with you anymore. The circumstances made someone Goddess and another Rakshsi. Both Sita and Supanankha are two sides of the same coin."

In this story, three ideologies of Jagdish Mohanty were fused together. In this story , at some places, reflection of Marxism in term of exploitation and poor wages, at some places, the influence of Freud related to sexuality of Paro, at some places, writer is confused about his conceptions whether feeling of love is more important or appetite. This question threw some nascent spark about existentialism.

3- Stories based on parameters of sin and virtue: -

In Indian philosophy, the matter of reincarnation and sin-virtue are assessed on the basis of individual’s karma and prarabdh. Even someone becomes ill, he tries to comfort himself by thinking it resulted due to his bad deeds of previous birth. But writer does not agree with this ideology.

In his story ‘Sundartam Paap’, the protagonists Sunanda and Mechanic Pahali, abandoned by their relatives, think their leprosy disease was resulted due to their sin. The writer wants to ask readers a question whether thieves, robbers, terrorists, smugglers who sell drugs are not sinners. If this is true, then their livelihoods should also be a sin. Diametrically opposite side, those who worship God everyday, who live very far away from carnivorous life, should not die from diseases such as cancer. But again this is a true fact.

If tables of sin-virtue based on karma, Akarm and Vikarma in the scriptures are reversed and if someone has to make compromise at boundary level of sin and virtue to live his life, will it also be included in the category of 'sin'? If this is 'sin' and the person is sinner, then the author says that it is ‘the best sin’ in his sight. Although the writer appreciates the popular classical beliefs of the old generations, but he rejects to accept the parameter of sin and virtue based on mythological tradition. He praised the steps taken by Pahali and Sunanda for their lives. Such stories are very rare elsewhere in Indian Literature.

4. stories criticising worldly politics and perverted journalism: -

The author has minutely observed continuous deterioration in world politics and their ill impacts on modern society. His story 'Kalahandi ka naksha aur Banjh Samay' is highlighting the strategies for personal gain by wealthy journalists. Similarly, his another story ‘Pradhan Mantri aur Swapan Darshi Ladka’ is full of rhetoric,nepotism,corruption,self-centred politics and journalism. In these stories, the two realistic aspects of modern society are reflected the background of exploitation and self centeredness.

On one side, a poor boy, Kalia was lying on the ground as if he were dreaming. His master was screaming, 'Alas! My son is dead due to chronic sickness.’ and he was begging for money. On the other hand, Prime Minister's visit was scheduled to Bhubaneswar. For this purpose, a huge crowd was gathered from different villages. In modern time, flattering behaviour is necessary to save one’s job. The legislators were puppets in hands of Ministers. The editors, journalists and their team of various newspapers, were busy in taking photographs. They were pulling and pushing each-other.

The author had highlighted in this story about the hidden politics behind the curtain such as backbiting, push-punching, casteist riots etc. Indirectly, he had exposed the flaws in democracy. Needless to say, there is no way to reveal the miserable state of the poor in our democracy. Suddenly there caused a nuisance in the crowd for seeing the Prime Minister. The dreamer Kalia died after being trampled under the feet of crowd. As a repentance, his father was numbly peeking into zero near his corpse under a dried tree. This photograph was captured by a insensitive photographer. In this situation, nobody will take this photo. If you do this, then tell me where a staunch of humanity is prevailing in this civil society.

5. Psychological stories exploring inner voice of readers : -

Psychological stories of Jagdish Mohanty will touch your heart. In these stories, 'Son-Machhali ' and 'Stabddh-Maharathi' are important. The First story exposes curiosity based on child psychology. If the curiosity of a child is not properly calmed, then it may gradually lead him frustrated and rebellious. Despite, cooperative attitude of father, the flame of inquisitive tendency about asking variety of questions on the beach of Chandipur by his son could not be quenched properly. The fear of Crab could not be removed from his mind as it was his perception that the Crab is carnivorous animal, so it could eat him. On the other hand, even after the father stopped him from fear of 'Chorabalu', but Papun, he kid ran away towards increasing deep water in search of golden fish. In this way the author has left unanswered questions for readers about right judgement of the psychological level of children.

His 'stabdh Maharathi' story is also an unique presentation of the conflict of thoughts arising in the mind spiritual person. Influenced by Swami Sivananda's book "Practical Lesson in Yoga", the main character of the story, Arunabh, composes a poem "Adopt,Adjust, Accommodate, bear insult, bear injury, this is the highest sadhna" to lead his life. The conflict arises when his friend Divyendu comes to live with him and gradually takes advantage of his shy and spiritual nature. Even he throws his luggage from outside of his dining room. But when he could not resist, then bullying of Divyendu increased further. Once he locked his room, Arunabh had to sleep on the roof. Sivananda's philosophy prevented him from protesting at all times: - "Man can increase his consciousness by thinking that the world is pseudo." The climax of the story is that when Divyendu wanted to keep his girlfriend there and told him to sleep on the terrace. But still he is abiding the desire of the Maharshi. This story has put various questions in my mind :-

1- Can spiritual philosophy weaken a man upto some extent that he tries to prevent himself from struggling for his rights?

2 - Was Shivanand and Gandhi philosophy same?

3- Can spiritual attachments be avoided by defying material needs?

4- Maharishi Arvind,who envisages the philosophy of 'Man to Superman', opposes the philosophy of Sivananda Swami ?

5 – Is a spiritual follower not suppressing his inner desires ?

Needless to say , this story is a very powerful psychological story.

Artistic, linguistic and plot diversity: -

Jagdish Mohanty is famous in Oriya literature for his linguistic skills. Hindi translation of his stories has also given a unique identity in Hindi literature.

He had adroit skill in use of colloquial language as well as local idioms. Jagdish Mohanty is renowned as a 'Trend Setter' writer. Use of traditional symbol , imagery, subtle perceptions, fluent language in his stories established the author in front line of Odiya Literature. Due to wonderful diversification in his stories and his broad vision, he became very popular in the Hindi world,too. The ‘Utpal’, Hindi magazine of Bodhi publication, Jaipur, had published a special issue on his sudden and unfortunate demise.

In this issue, I also wrote an article 'Jagdish Mohanty:An Immortal Odiya Writer'. For this purpose, I translated various condolence messages in Hindi. The Renowned Odiya poet, Rajendra Kishor Panda, called him 'Incomparable writer', whereas Shyama Prasad Chaudhary told him 'God of the Odia stories'. Apart from this, other typical literatures also offered their infinite reverence for his great contribution for odiya literature.

Blogs By Dinesh Kumar Mali


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