India made a valiant attempt to establish its presence on the moon. We almost reached there, but failed. And that failure caused a national heartbreak. A sense of deep sorrow that grips you when you have what you cherish in your sights, and slowly it slips away. Becomes distant. Becomes unachievable. And once again the focus is on the faraway.
In Odisha, the faraway in the form of sun was worshipped at Konark, the ancient temple that sits by the sea. The sun signifies distance, and the sea denotes challenges. Together they become a potent symbol of ambition. Tall, almost unrealisable ambition.
Let’s capture the sun in a grand edifice, and let’s set it by the sea so that its choppiness and immensity and endlessness make us aware of the arduous journey we have to undertake to reach the sun. Between us and our ambition lies an amazing vastness. Between us and our dream lies a gargantuan gap. Many centuries ago, the rulers of Odisha knew this, and that’s why they strove to build that imposing structure by the sea. Their ambition, their courage, their guts and gumption are visible on each stone of the temple at Konark.
The Odisha now is very different from the Odisha then. What has disappeared in these long years of history is ambition and the ability to break the inertia. As India hurtles at breakneck speed to its superpower status, Odisha, on its eastern flank, lags. It occasionally sizzles, but mostly sputters. Somehow it seems Odisha is the last, wobbly car in the bullet train that India is fast becoming. It is tied to the train, but is reluctant to be dragged along. It wants to journey but at its own speed. So it jerks and wobbles and complains screechingly.
Why? Why does Odisha not travel alongside the other big Indian states? Why has our ambition vanished? Why has our drive vamoosed into a deep ditch? Why does our soft power not stir the national cauldron? Why don’t we birth charismatic leaders anymore? Why does our economy seem like a sulking child? Why do our businesses fail to make a national mark? Why do our children not have fire in their well-fed bellies? Why does our poetry not have any passion? Why do our stories seem stale? Why, for god’s sake, don’t we think of the moon when we have the sun in our midst?
There are many questions, but hardly any cogent answers. As a community we have to strive — to thrive. We have to pick ourselves up by our muddied bootstraps and rise. And shine. We have to think deep and hard about these questions and find lasting solutions. We have to shed our deep-seated inertia and show our industry. We always have to remember that we have been a seafaring people, and the churning, roiling ocean is a hard taskmaster and teaches us many things: on sacrifice, on surfing, on survival, on success, on sacredness, on sagacity. These are traits that have been bequeathed to us by our courageous forebears, and we should put them to good use in these turbocharged times.
These are also parlous times when history changes its course every day, if not every minute. The onward march of globalization is growing stronger; the loud drumbeat of neon-lit capitalism is only getting more cacophonous; the marvels of technology are turning more glittery by the year. Amid this relentless surge of Indian and global creativity, Odisha stands a tad isolated, secluded in its own shell. We have been in a cocoon for a long time and this is the time to emerge out of it. This is the time to shed the sullen carapace, this is the moment to unshackle ourselves, and propel Odisha into the forefront of industry, technology and culture.
Our ambitions should have dream and magic and power rolled into them. We should stop at nothing. The entire world is our frontier. We should go ahead and conquer; we should vanquish our self-doubts and emerge victorious in this battle with ourselves and with our long-stuck destinies. Yes, the battle will be long and hard and arduous, but it’s a war we cannot run away from. We have to slay our demons and take to the battlefield, our adrenaline jumping and our ardour at boiling point.
Lastly, we have to keep in mind always that we have the Konark in us, right in our sinews and muscle. And its magnificence still beckons the world to our shores. To keep and capture the sun inside us, we have to be a fireball of energy. We have to dispel the darkness inside us and covet brightness, always. If through our endeavours and encounters we achieve that we will be true to the indomitable spirit of Konark. We will have the sun without and, most important, within.