By Kasturika Mishra
The context of historiography in literature is seldom questioned and dwell upon by literary minds. They are so often absorbed in evaluating the works of classical writers verses modern writers that it all seems an useless exercise to argue on anything worthy on what a common reader is giving or looking forward to in a congregation of academics, social reformers, agricultural path finders and naturalists. Not to forget the student’s community that looks for guidance with their teachers.
So it was with a natural anticipated eagerness that I met a Koraputia population that shapes our natural bounty so well that I wondered what better we are doing in the city? The scholarly pursuit that we call our jobs and high end vocations are the influence of English in our lives. We in fact have become neither here nor there as we rotate our thoughts in Oriya but express in English. If I tell you what scholars have achieved in terms of knowledge on Koraput it is all a borrowed knowledge on things that don’t belong to them in real terms but to the people who inhabit Koraput.
Kalinga Literary Festival in Koraput https://www.facebook.com/events/290487024808559/ touched upon these chords of this real and virtual spaces of city bred scholars and country men or adivasis of Koraput with a revolving crowd of educated salaried class of educators of college and school level. We till date have disowned our responsibility to a larger extent to mingle and live the harsh lives that these people live in this side of Odisha. Sessions were divided on themes so that thoughts would wander on topics not known before or heard in sahitya sabhas. Some sessions in KLF dealt on different sensibilities of speakers who have shaped their understanding of the place and the context of space that Koraput occupies in their psyche. There was a problem of mindset as a young poet Like Debapriya Chakra felt while Matrudutta Mohanty felt there is lack of proper marketing of young writings in Oriya. The barriers of the language that divides us in multiple polarization of spaces that have similarities as well as diversity was voiced by Surya Mishra. He said if we want language to stay on and be heard we need older writers in Koraput to promote and publish only adivasis writings in their own languages. Patrons cannot sit at Cuttack and Bhubaneswar and get a manuscript from a local writer. Patrons has to be at Koraput and consistent in his approach to publishing the works.
While Mahendra Mishra, folklorist said, linguistic peculiarities are due to the distance and various ecological factors, migration of the ancient population from places that were inhabited by people of African origins. Language needs to be recorded and made part of the school and college curriculum to continue propagating for the future generation. Sadly his colleagues said the primers are lying in the racks of schools but not studied in schools. In such scenario it is not reaching its propagators. Activist Sumani Jhodia who has shaken the Odisha state government machinery for community development said she needs nothing for herself but for her community. Achyut Das her mentor was present at the occasion and opined the government interventions and measures are not adequate or equivalent to support many livelihood factors that are the essential need. It therefore results in dependence on many natural products as the primary source of sustenance. What we know as “jhati, mati aau luga” is all that one is struggling to achieve each day. There is a constant tussle to be the best in this limited scope of resources. Therefore it is but natural that “janajati depends here on jangla, janawar, and jamibadi” Jahara jete jami tara sete mulaka aau manisha. This must have given rise to a loss of contact with the social movement that life also needed and that’s education and enterprise brings in to cross the cultural barriers. The difficult natural terrain created a gap in exploring the outside world.
Raconteur Kedar Mishra stated how social movements have influenced the preservation of indigenous cultural richness and why these facts are essential in the context of discussion to rethink the course of development in literature and society.
This in fact is the best part of the growth and preservations of the indigenous elements in the adivasis traditions of this area. If Cuttack and Bhubaneswar was thriving on the influence of English education and developed educational institutions like the much coveted Ravenshaw College, Stewart school, convents in various areas on the patterns of the British empire the mountainous regions conserved it within their own elements to be nurtured and developed to the same level. Tribal children and city bred children were different in attitude and approach to education and culture. While we learnt English rhymes and nationalist Hindi poems, film and motion picture advanced our thoughts to a world that only demanded awe. We loved and dared to dream to become highest officials in government offices whereas our parents toiled with the daily struggle of big joint families, marriages at early age and becoming the ideal prodigal sons and daughters.
To quote personal anecdotes my mother Smt. Bhubaneswari Misra, would travel to sing with her musical troupe her famous songs at Upper colab or Sunabeda and achieved fame where as many girls who performed in local dialects and tribal songs were not promoted in this region. In makeshift houses and dilapidated living conditions girls would dream to be Bhubaneswari Misra yet strictly learnt to sing and dance in their own community and dance festivals. Tribal women were wiser in upholding the traditions within their community and would work and toil in agricultural fields, drink their local liquor “Halapa” or mahuli and enjoyed multiple open conjugal alliances much to the chagrin of the rich and wealthy Cuttackiya and Bhubaneswariya loka. Koraput Literary Festival also debated that this juxtaposition saw us through the politico-cultural arena as well, as a Giridhar Gomango emerged in Koraput politics as a senior tribal leader with strong connection with Odisha congress party. Jyoti Nanda, an academic who spent his working years in Koraput says the culture is unique of it remains unpolluted. And Koraput in context of history and literature belongs to a supreme quality of manifestation of both. Tribal have two best qualities they never beg and never allow interventions. So they had no option but to raise the Maoist band to fight for their rights, said Husen Rabi Gandhi known for his maverick Maoist activities and his revolutionary poetry.
There has to be a proper participation of political will along with a social cause. The state and richness of the region was not encouraged nor executed as the required motive for change was not matching the government initiatives. For politicians this land was a land for merry making away from the maddening pace of corruption and muscle power. The common man and its growth was and still is at the mercy of political clout, bribes and hooligans or middlemen. I remember the Odisha of our times being open to lot of social pressures against public delivery of systemic resources. For example, my father served at Malkangiri, Berhampur and Kalahandi jilla KBK district in his tenure as a simple state government doctor but his duties were never allowed to be executed in proper manner. If his aim was to support a poor and down trodden society his superiors were more interested in getting government funds allocated to their advantage. Public health awareness camps were treated as places to assemble eat and go away. Nothing changed on the ground reality for the teeming population of this region. Plans and only plans were decided and written as government documents and dispatched to state government health department records. No amount political or social change changed the ways of working. Administrative functionaries were busy taking measures to please their bosses in politics gladly forgetting that the government of India appointed them to serve the real bosses on the streets and bylanes of villages. To a larger extent demographics and total absence of mainstream education made the efforts fruitless. The tiller and the tilled land belonged to the zamindars and since the hunger for power and principles to achieve it was primary, the actual beneficiary was at the mercy of nature. In such scenario I don’t think he had the option to work on anything beyond his local circumstances. Mainstreaming the locals is no longer a bothering point as social media and the easy access to glory through media has taken over the social consciousness. The poetry sessions by poets of the region displayed new voices that should be heard in bylanes of the literary corridors of Oriya literature.
Gopinath Mohanty and his paraja was spoken to death and bored a common listener like me. Why to discuss a topic discussed to every length in academic institutions when a new Koraputia writer is waiting in the wings to be promoted?