Translator’s note: This story was written in Odia by Sri Barada Prasanna Mohanty about 55 years back. It was retrieved recently and published in the magazine ‘SATATRU’ in the last Durgapuja Special issue.
am a story writer. I have been writing since long. I don’t remember when I embarked on this pursuit. I have tried hard, still trying; yet I cannot even ponder in my wildest dream how I got involved in it. There was neither any motivation nor was my life afflicted with setbacks or impediments. I have fantasized to stand shoulder to shoulder with the famous and renowned story tellers of the world. If a miracle descended from above I will get a chance. I would then boast that I am one of the front liners. But that wish of mine is now dashed.
In spite of all these my pen continues to move on. I have already experienced 22 hot summers in this town of Baripada. Did I start writing stories in a turbulent moment or a beautiful early morning or a dull evening? Whatever it may be, there is no ebb to this tide in my life. Where is the ebb? Of course it would not be moment of pride for me if I look for it. Nothing happens in this world without a purpose. How can my endeavour be an exception? I write stories for my own pleasure. I don’t have the slightest desire to enrich or refine Odia literature by publishing my stories in magazines or periodicals. I have never dreamt to be counted as an outstanding man in the society. What you say-fame and name- I am far from them. Then you might just be wondering: why do I write stories?
Gaurahari is my friend. We have played in the same play ground, attended the same school and the same college right from our childhood. He dropped out after passing I A due to familial problems and financial difficulties. He is one of the countless job seekers of the country. He toils fruitlessly from morning to evening in trying to find a job. In the evening the tired, despondent and dejected Gaurahari presents himself before me. To avoid listening to his tale of woos, before he starts speaking I blurt out- Gaurahari I have written another story. You are the first to listen to it.
With irritation writ large on his face he puts his bent down face between his palms before saying- leave that alone, my problem now is- how do I survive. What do I get from your stories?
I say, ‘ Hey Gaura, do I hear this from your mouth? How we all were awe struck at your knowledge in literature in school and college! Why do you cringe now when the topic of literature props up? Difficulties do come in one’s life, but should that distract you from your fondness for literature’?
He has no reply. I read my story. While reading I remain engrossed in my story. I finish reading with the hope that my friend must have undergone a change of mood. But what is this? When I raise my head from the paper to look at my friend I find there is no one in the room other than me!
At times my sister comes to my room to fill her pen with ink. Like products coming out continuously from the machine so also story come out of my pen without pause. I urge her to sit down-please listen to a story.
As she fills ink in her pen she sits down to listen to my story just to please me. She is now preparing to sit for the ‘kovid’ examination. She has good knowledge of Hindi literature. Although she has very little knowledge of other literatures, she claims Hindi to be the best among all literatures. She believes all other literature rank below Hindi literature. When I start reading my story she interrupts me to ask, ‘Have you read Premchand? This story, that story? You are writing well as Premchand was writing in his early days. The language and the method of presentation might be wanting but the idea is of high standard.’ With so many questions and interruptions I fail to complete my story. I also question her on Premchand. I criticise the narrow outlook of the Indians. My story is put on the back burner. Such incidents might have taken place a dozen of times.
I do get chance to read my story to bhabiji. She is always busy in household work. Besides, she takes care of Rina and Lulu. After lunch is over she at times drops in to my room. ‘What are you doing Tunu? Have’nt had a moment of respite since morning ‘.
‘If so then sit down; listen to this story. It will rejuvenate you. This story is based on pathos. It will touch your heart.’ When I present the heroine of the story she frets –I know your writing; if this is your story I know how it will develop-only women, women and women. She gets up from the chair. All my entreaties to her to sit till I finish the story fail.
Although I am a little known story writer outside the premises of the house inside it lot of discussion do take place in the family. When my jijaji visits us – may be once a year or so, invariably he drops in to my room. As he enters he says, ‘Hey, Tunu I understand you write stories now a days. Will you read me one or two?’
He stretches himself on my bed. I start my work. When I finish my story, I find him thundering through his nose. I ask him ‘Bhai, how do you like this story?’
‘Not bad’. He opines. ‘You have expressed pathos in the most compelling manner.’ I am surprised. ‘This one is a comedy, where did you find pathos in it?’
He says nothing. I understand. Then I select a sad story. With his consent I start reading. By the time I finish the story I find my jijaji, Sarabhai in his usual condition. I wake him up. ‘How do you like this one?’ I ask.
‘It is o.k., but the manner in which you have criticised the society, I guess, is not right.’ ‘Oh Lord’. Criticism! I keep quiet and allow him to sleep peacefully.
Now you must have sized up the situation. In spite of all these, if someone asks me- why do you write story, my answer will be- I shall continue to write, I shall write sure enough. I shall write for my friend Gaurahari, for my sister Kuni dei, for my sister in law and my brother in law Sarabhai. These people, who never encourage or inspire me to write, never get pleasure in listening to them; nor do they desire to read them- for these aloof down to earth, matter of fact people my creative life is fully dedicated. I shall continue to write for them.
# Originally written in Odia by Sri Barada Prasanna Mohanty and Translated by Sri Rabinarayan Patnaik.