Has Odisha Failed Fakir Mohan Senapati?

Bhubaneswar: The father of modern Odia literature has so far been neglected both by his people and the state. Nothing has been done to keep his memory alive. “Fakira Mohan Senapati, perhaps, had this premonition and that is why he built an idol of his own at Mallikashapur village square when he was still alive,” said noted writer Gourahari Das at one of the sessions of Tata Steel Bhubaneswar Literary Meet here on Sunday.

The discussion rightly coincided with the 176th birth anniversary of Byasa Kabi Fakir Mohan Senapati. He was born on the day of Makar Sankranti in the year 1843. Makar Sankranti on his birth year was January 13. His birthday since long is being celebrated on Makar Sankranti.

“We have made an university in his name and installed a statue in Utkal University. Except for that, nothing has been done in memory of the writer,” said Das, referring to the golden books published on the 100th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

If his stories do not find place in the school textbooks, he would soon be out of everybody’s mind, he added.

The 150th birth anniversary of Tagore was celebrated with much grandeur. Prof Tagore Centre has been established in Germany. Different committees have also been formed for him, said educationist and writer Jatindra Nayak while moderating the session.

“The 100th birth anniversary of Sarat Chandra and Prema Chand were also celebrated. In comparison to those celebrations, we have done nothing for Fakir Mohan, though he changed the direction of literature in Odisha,” he said.

“Recently, stories of Prem Chand translated into English were released. Lesser-known stories of Tagore have also been translated. So, what steps have been taken to allow readers to access Fakir Mohan’s writings in the world of literature?” asked Nayak.

Educationist Abhiram Biswal stressed institutional preservation of his writings.

“He was a multi-tasker. Fakir Mohan worked as a child labourer. He ventured into wood and paper business. He worked in press and also as an editor. He was a teacher and served as a diwan. He had experience and expertise in many fields, those reflected in his writings. That’s why preservation of his writings is all-so important,” said Biswal.

Except play, he had touched all other forms of literary writings such as short stories, novel, poetry, travelogues and essays.

Another panelist, Paramita Satpathy said Fakir Mohan had written 20 stories and four novels, but his literary works have not been properly evaluated.

Fakir Mohan will always be remembered for penning masterpieces like ‘Chha Maana Atha Guntha’ and ‘Lachhama’ (novels), and ‘Rebati’  and ‘Daka Munshi’ (short stories).

“The state government has spent crores of rupees to host international hockey world cup. The state can also spend Rs 1 crore on promotion of Fakir Mohan Senapati’s literary works,” said Das.

His work should be translated into other languages to be known in the literary world, the speakers expressed.

Though the works of Fakir Mohan Senapati have been translated into other languages, these have not been promoted like that of Tagore, Bankim Chandra and Premchand’s, said Biswal.

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