Eminent Odia and English writer Manoj Das dead
A prolific bilingual writer, Manoj Das was known for his dramatic expression as well as satire. A philosopher, his writings drew social and psychological sketches of common people, the frailties of political leaders and the quirks of human nature.
A Padma awardee and an eminent 20th century Odia and English writer, Manoj Das, died at a nursing home in Puducherry on Tuesday evening following prolonged sickness. He was 87. He was under treatment for old-age related ailments at the nursing home at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry, his home for several decades.
For his work in Odia, Das is best known for ‘Shesha Basantara Chithi’, ‘Manoj Dasanka Katha o Kahani’, ‘Dhumabha Diganta’, ‘Manojpancabimsati’ (short stories), ‘Tuma Gam o Anyanya Kabita’ (poetry). His notable English works include, The crocodiles lady: A collection of stories, The submerged valley and other stories, Farewell to a ghost: Short stories and a novelette, Cyclones, A tiger at twilight, Mystery of the Missing Cap and other short stories.
In 2004, he wrote his memoir Chasing the Rainbow: Growing up in an Indian Village.
A number of his short stories were translated into major Indian and foreign languages. He received numerous national awards, including the Padma Bhushan last year. He was also awarded with the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi Award, Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award, Sarala Award, Sahitya Bharati Award, Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad (Kolkata) Award, Sri Aurobindo Puraskar (Kolkata) and BAPASI (Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India) Award as the best writer in English in the South.
A prolific bilingual writer, Das was known for his dramatic expression as well as satire. Das’ writings dealt with various social and psychological problems, such as the problems of displaced people, natural calamities such as floods, people’s belief in ghosts and spirits, double dealing politicians, psychological disorders etc. In his writings, he mainly focussed on the rural life.
Paying tribute to Das, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Das distinguished himself as a noted educationist, popular columnist and prolific writer. “He made rich contributions to English and Odia literature. He was a leading exponent of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family. Om Shanti,” he tweeted.
Odisha governor professor Ganeshi Lal said he would continue to inspire generations through his timeless literary works. State chief minister Naveen Patnaik said Das not only left an indelible mark in the field of literature but also a void which may never be filled.
Born in sea-side village of Shankari in Balasore district of Odisha, the literary genius of Das was first known when his collection of poetry, Satavdira Artanada was published in 1949, when he was in class 10. His first collection of short stories came out a year later, when he was in class 11. The title story, Samudrara Kshudha (The Hunger of the Sea) is considered a classic in Odia literature for its content and narrative style.
He was ideologically a Marxist and played a very important role in students’ movements during his college days, when he also published three books, several collections of short stories and a collection of poems. Later, Das taught English along with his wife, Pratijna Devi, a scion of the Kujang zamindars. In 1963, he joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Puducherry and stayed there permanently.
Das started as English writer in 1967 with his first collection of short stories-- A Song for Sunday and Other Stories.
Graham Greene, the great British novelist, once said, “I have now read the stories of Manoj Das, with very great pleasure. He will certainly take a place on my shelves beside the stories of Narayan (R K Narayan). I imagine Odisha is far from Malgudi but there is the same quality in his stories with perhaps an added mystery”.