Peanut to Padmashri

Saket Sreebhushan Sahu

Kosali poet Haldhar Nag was declared to be awarded with Padmashri on the eve of 67th Republic day for literature. This award means a kit to the people of Western Odisha. Not only the writers and poets are charged, even the common people of Western Odisha have started relating to it. Western Odisha has been neglected by the coastal leadership for decades and it is undeveloped with a gap of high regional disparity.

Haldhar Nag, born at a non-descript Baidpali village but due to spreading of hazardous diarrhea they moved to his aunt's (father's sister) house at Ghess of Bargarh to settle permanently. His childhood was marred due to poverty. He could not attend formal school and studied up to third standard only. To earn a livelihood he worked in the village hotel, assisted cook at the mess of the high school hostel and used to sell peanut, chocolate and eateries to school kids in a wooden cabin. In the evening he used to associate himself with Dand drama. His inborn quality of extempore was noted by village youths and some time in 1990 they published his work in a magazine "Art And Artist". He was felicitated for his poem in the annual function of "Art And Artist". There onwards no looking back for Haldhar. He was around 40 then. He used to dictate and a village boy used to write his poems in paper. Haldhar wrote both epics and short poems. His epics are collected as "Haldhar Granthavali" and short poems as "Surut". He mesmerizes his audience with his unique recitation style blended with acting. Adding to it, the powerful gifted poet can recite his entire epic without seeing any note. He attended meetings of small village to university. He visits places beyond Odisha many a time to recite poems. He has already received more than 330 awards and felicitations including Odisha Sahitya Academy Award in 2014 and many institutions have been named after him.

His familiarity never changed his life style; clad in very ordinary rural dresses he shares dais with ministers, film stars and officers.

At present Kosali language has movements in three parts—drama, poetry and constitutional recognition. Haldhar represents the poetry movement and this writer works for the constitutional recognition of Kosali. When folks of the region get up and have their baasi (stale rice) or tea & parched-rice as breakfast and communicate, they use Kosali. Poetry movement has evolved silently from the desk of the poets of this part without coming down to road with placards. He wrote, recited and inspired young poets. At a time a group of 36 poets known as "Kabi Kutum", epicentring Haldhar, used to travel the region and recite Kosali poems. And they popularized Kosali in every corner in the region. He is truly the "Lok Kavi", the poet of the masses as the title awarded to him depicts. Now Kosali poetry recitation has become an integral part of cultural and literary meetings in this region. And the constitutional recognition movement is also going on vigorously. The political parties have noted the emotion of the masses attached with it and the BJD Government has finally recommended to the Union Home ministry to include Kosali in the Eighth Schedule.

This upsurge of Kosali was noted by coastal Odia lobby and they hatched a conspiracy to bulldoze the move. He was felicitated by Odisha Sahitya Academy and in the felicitation certificate they deliberately mentioned "for the contribution to Odia language and literature" whereas Haldhar never wrote a single piece in Odia. A protest was staged and OSA corrected the certificate.

Now, after declaring the Padmashri to Sri Nag it gives a clear message to Kosali. Perhaps the Union Government has noted the movement and demands of Kosali people. The politicians may fry their breads but it is proven now that Kosali is a rich language and epic and world class literature can be formed. And the young poets can take note of Dr Arjun Purohit’s comment that, "Great literature can come from even the most primitive language or colloquial language. Julius Axelford and Issac Basevis Singer got Noble Prize in literature writing in Yiddish, a dialect spoken in Jewish ghettoes in Poland and Hungary."

Vol. 48, No. 34, Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2016