Indomitable Spirit- The Odia Way

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By Nabajyoti Das

Recently “Odisha Parba”, a three days festival featuring the best of Odisha’s Culture, Cuisine, Craft and Colours of Odia lives concluded at India Gate Lawns. The grandness of the celebration in Lutyens’ Delhi caught attention of many. The fast moving citizens of Delhi encircling the India Gate with a race in their car slowed down to see a visual treat of glittering lights hanging in the tree line made of colouful appliques and listen to the medlay of sounds ranging from soulful Odishi to vigours of tribal drums. There are curious onlookers, cultural connoisseurs, casual visitors to India Gate, visiting foreign tourists and Odias among the more than lakh foot falls that the ‘Parba’ received during the three days grand event.

But Odisha and Odias are not known to celebrate their identity with such pomp and show. Atleast that’s how the perception goes. The eastern state that gives 21 Member of Parliaments to 547 strong lower house of the Parliament is not known as a significant player in national politics. The people’s representatives from the state are not known for making speeches or comments that ever created chaos or chorus in parliament. The Odia people working outside the states are known mostly for their docile nature and excellent quality of adopting to new culture they live-in. This is true for people working at all levels be it politics, bureaucracy, executives or workmen. To many outside the state, Odisha does not reflect a great entrepreneurial spirit and adventure, but surely enough they are always credited with good service records, disciplined behaviour and loyal character. Odias are known to show their affirmation to their race and culture mostly in a subdued manner and never over played their community pride loudly at the national stage.

But, this “Parba” raised the decibles a notch higher. As if it is making a statement “Turn your eyes- Odias are the one to look out for”. The capability statement was there to see in organising and showing the talents at a scale that was not seen before. ‘Parba’ simply means festival. Every festival has got a story to tell and a legacy to follow. But this one has no background story or legacy. It’s just an exuberant expression of the spirit of the race. Celebrating the very Odia identity and roots. From food, culture, history to language, it bares it’s richness to one and all in a three days festival. The ‘Parba’ attempted to awaken the ‘Odia Pride’ that appears to be in a slumber for soemtime now.

The Odia gatherings, festivities and meetings often reiterate the lost glory, valour and business acumen of the Odia race, it’s legacy before few thousand years. Starting from emporer Kharavela to Maritime businesses and fight for country’s independence, the speakers on the occasions often dig out a bit of the past glory, serving them as a ‘self-booster’ to raise Odia conciousness. But the “Feel Good” factor of mutual admiration ends after a hearty meal before heading for home. The next morning starts with the usual conundrums of life. As a race, this has been accepted and imbibed for an entire generation. Inertia has crept into the conciousness and the inspiration from glorious past is no helper for creating a glorious future.

Excellence gives an identity to a race. Creating excellence always needs an inspiration. Inspiration comes from the leadership. Leadership is established with a grand visualisation or dream for a race, society or nation which all can see and participate. Leadership is sustained with examplary consistency of character and walking with the followers to chase the dream. There the Odias have scored a low, particularly in the post independence era and slowly setelled in to their ‘Chalta Hai’ life with no inspiration to follow and no dreams to fulfill. It further slipped with the larger share of population depending more on the free aids from Government’s popular schemes for sustainance rather than scripting their own story of success. More than the capability it’s the will that was compromised. But the festival did present a story contrary to such belief and narration. It showed an allround strength of the race that can win hearts and minds of the people.

A festival has the power to rekindle the spirit in a mass scale. It has the power to create a mass upsurge of energy to achieve a goal and to inspire hope and confidence. History teaches us how festivals are used to achieve specific goals like Ganesh Puja by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in a most effective way. It’s the quickest and most effective communication model which without being specific in words can galvanise people for action. There is a soft power that propels and create mass inspiration and pride. If one is proud with his identity, he is sure to take care of that element in his thoughts and deeds. This is how societies have nurtured skills and habits in their folks. Odisha Parba in its design has no specific purpose to achieve. It’s basic purpose is to create a sense of joy and pride among Odia people and treat others to their glory. However, it could ignite that sense of pride in the Odia identity especially among those living outside the state.

The amalgamation of dying art forms with the fusion of contemporary dances and music, the enticing spread of food varieties, many of them are known street side veterans, have created an atmosphere of joy in the India Gate lawn. The joy was infectious. When I saw the long line of people quing up patiently for a glass of ‘Lassi’ or ‘Dahi-Bara’ of old city Cuttack, it gave an understanding what root means to human beings. Its more a emotional connect with the roots than the food on the plate. The simple joy of feeling yourself as an Odia. The ‘my moment’ feeling and to have the pride reinforced. Reinforcement and reawakening is the need when people start getting disillusioned with their identity and roots. Because the action reflects your perception. This festival created a perception about the Odia race.

The very concept of creating a festival of this scale celebrating the spirit of Odisha is inspired and envisioned by Sh. Dharmendra Pradhan, himself a youth icon in the state politics and central minister. This was meticulously executed by Odia Samaj, a newly formed civil society. The team that conceived and delivered the programme has started a new thinking process. Think ‘Big’ and thinking ‘Excellence’. The cultural programmes were breathtaking, and were a statement of excellence in any standard. The grand finale programme on the closing day showcasing all the cultural vibrance of the state in one song with magical performance of over 100 artistes kept the audience spell bound. It showed the mettle of the artistes and the richness of culture in Odisha.

The take aways are many. The ‘Parba’ left a taste in the mind of the people. It instilled a sense of pride. That will leave trail of cascading effect if it sustains through other community activities. The sense of pride in Odias all over the globe is seraching for affirmation through demonstration of excellence anywhere and of any kind. It’s a sublime happy feeling for Odias, when the world stand up in admiration of Odisha’s Art, Culture, Craft and Cuisine. The ‘Odisha Parba’ did provide an occasion to carry this feeling. Its also inspire to think of a resurgence that Odisha is long waiting for. The resurgence just by believing “We Can”.

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