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Manoj Das: Remembering one of the India's most prestigious literary contributor

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 28, Apr 2021, 20:29 pm IST | UPDATED: 28, Apr 2021, 20:38 pm IST

Manoj Das: Remembering one of the India's most prestigious literary contributor New Delhi: The passing of Manoj Das is a huge loss to the world of Odia & English writing. His towering stature as a fiction writer, his simplicity & spirituality gave him a unique identity. A Padma Bhushan, he was given many prestigious awards. My condolences to his family and admirers. The President of India said in a tweet.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled the death of Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan awardee, eminent litterateur Manoj Das from Odisha.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister said that he was pained by Manoj Das death and observed that the latter was a noted educationist, popular columnist, and prolific writer.

"Shri Manoj 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," PM Modi tweeted.

Mr Manoj Das, who breathed his last at a nursing home in Puducherry on Tuesday at the age of 87, was one of the best storytellers of our time. Among the few bilingual writers of the country Das, who was predeceased by his wife Pratigyan Devi, also an author, had equal command over English and Odia. His large body of work comprising short stories and novels reflect his deep humanism and blend human emotions with spiritual and psychic elements with dexterity.

No wonder his work impressed writers like Graham Greene who once said that Das’s books would certainly find a place on his bookshelves besides those by R.K. Narayan. “I imagine Odisha is far from Malgudi, but there is the same quality in his stories with perhaps an added mystery,” remarked the great English novelist in a tribute to both Das and R.K. Narayan.

Earlier, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had paid his condolences and tweeted, "Deeply saddened to know about the passing away of legendary litterateur Manoj Das. Shri Das has left an indelible mark in the field of literature with his vast variety of immortal works and left a void that can never be filled. The demise of the literary doyen is an irreparable loss to the world of Odia and English literature. My thoughts and prayers with the bereaved family members, readers, and followers."

In several tweets, Sahitya Akademi secretary Dr K. Sreenivasarao said, Sad to hear that Dr. Manoj Dasji, distinguished writer, translator and Fellow of Sahitya Akademi is no more. One of the finest minds of modern India, Dr Manoj Das influenced generations of writers and scholars through his writings in English and Odia. May his soul Rest in Peace. Folded hands.

In other tweet, Mr Rao said,Dr Manoj Das was not only a literary personality but also a highly evolved spiritual person. It was my privilege that I got to know and interact with Dr Manoj Das for over two decades. He might have left the mortal coil but his works will live with us forever.

Manoj Das was born in the small coastal village of Shankari in Bhograi, Balasore district of Odisha. His father, Madhusudan Das, worked under the British government. He was active in student politics while studying BA in Cuttack College. He was a youth leader with radical views in his college days, and spent a year in jail for his revolutionary activities. He had started writing early. His first work, a book of poetry in Odia, Satavdira Artanada was published in 1949 when he was in high school. He launched a literary magazine, Diganta in 1950. He graduated high school in 1951. In 1959 he was a delegate to the Afro-Asian students' conference at Bandung, Indonesia. He did not complete his degree in Cuttack. He ultimately finished his graduation from Samanta Chandra Shekhar College, Puri, in 1955.

He was India's foremost bilingual writer whose use of the two languages he wrote in is uniquely original. Even as he wrote in Odia, he started writing in English in 1968 and some of his well-known works are A Tiger at Twilight, The Submerged Valley, The Bridge in the Moonlit Night, Cyclones, Mystery of the Missing Cap, Myths, Legends, Concepts and Literary Antiquities of India. While some of his Odia works are 'Tandralokara Prahari’, ‘Aakashra Isara’, ‘Amruta Phala’. His first collection of short stories Samudrara Kshudha (Hungry Sea) was in that year. During his college years, he kept on writing and he published a novel Jeebanara Swada, a collection of short stories Vishakanyar Kahani and a collection of poems Padadhawani.

His deeper quest, however, led him to mysticism and he has been an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, since 1963 where he taught English Literature and the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. A bilingual writer with almost an equal number of books in Odia and English, he has been translated into several major languages of India as well as of the world.

Manoj Das made Puducherry his home for several decades as he moved to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1963. Most of his writings were penned in Puducherry. His writings in Odiya and English are noted for magnificent style and coinage of words and choice of subjects. Das was creative writer on whom the Sahitya Akademi (the National Academy of Letters) has bestowed its highest honour, the Fellowship. He was a recipient of Sri Aurobindo Puraskar, Sahitya Akademi Award (1972), Orissa Sahitya Akademi Award, Sarala Award, the Sahitya Bharati Award and BAPASI (Book-sellers And Publishers Association of South India), Saraswati Samman in 2000 and Mystic Kalinga Lifetime Award in the 2020. Same year he was awarded with Padma Bhushan also.