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Father of Oriya literature, all but forgotten

Though fêted as the father of modern Oriya literature, Fakir Mohan Senapati's relics now lie neglected, his contributions forgotten.

books Updated: Sep 14, 2007 16:58 IST

He is the man credited with fanning the resurgence that led to the formation of India's first linguistic state, the man fêted as the father of modern Oriya literature. Yet, Fakir Mohan Senapati's home here lies neglected, and the garden he so lovingly tended has been vandalised.

His legacy is being whittled away, lament researchers, remembering the contribution of Fakir Mohan, or Vyasakabi as he was known to modern-day Orissa society.

"Mo matrubhasa mote shrestha" (My mother tongue is best for me), wrote Vyasakabi, who lived from 1843 till 1918. The words were the stepping stones to Orissa becoming India's first linguistic state in 1936 and Vyasakabi one of the architects of Oriya renaissance.

But if his house in Mallikashpur village of Balasore district, 200 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, is anything to go by, the sense of pride he instilled has long been forgotten.

In a bitter irony, his home had been lying in a dilapidated condition for long before it was reconstructed and converted some years ago into a library and a museum - but not in his memory. It has changed beyond recognition and houses a few statues of some gods but nothing to indicate that it is Vyasakabi's house.

"The renovation of the house, which comes under the culture department, itself speaks about incompetence. Those who have little knowledge about conservation changed its original characteristics and the design of its roof, doors and the façade," pointed out heritage researcher Prasanta Kumar Padhi.

"The central courtyard has Cuddapah tiles that were never used in Fakir Mohan's time. Water seepage is visible in many places," he added.

Literature lovers have demanded that the house be converted into a museum in his memory by collecting memorabilia associated with Vyasakabi, similar to the work being carried out to conserve Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's house in Oriya Bazar, Cuttack.

The garden tells a similar tale of neglect.

Shantikanan, the garden he built and in which he penned some of his works, has been vandalised. The original engravings are gone and in its place are written graffiti.

The Balasore civic authorities had acquired three acres of land from Fakir Mohan's granddaughter with financial assistances from the Fakir Mohan Smruti Committee and Fakir Mohan Sahitya Parishad.

"But leaving only one acre for Fakir Mohan's memory, a primary school and a housing colony have been constructed by the municipality. All the while the Fakir Mohan Sahitya Parishad has been searching for a piece of land to do something for his memory," Harischandra Behera, president of the Parishad, told IANS.

"Though a gardener was appointed to take care of the garden, none is present to take care of it. It is only a safe place for anti-social elements now," he alleged.

Noted poet Brajanath Rath said there had been a longstanding demand to declare Shantikanan and the house as tourist spots but the state tourism department has shown no willingness for that.

"Though discussions in this regard with the tourism director have reached a final stage, it is yet to be implemented," said Rath.

Balasore Collector Alekh Chandra Padhiary said a proposal to declare Shantikanan a tourist place was underway.