Orissa, the Lost Footsteps

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Vision Publications, 2001 - Odisha (India) - 384 pages
Articles on the political conditions in Orissa in 20th century.

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What could have been
The Lost Footseps
By Kamal K. Mohanty
Publishers: Vision Publications, 117 Karnani Mansion, 25A, Park Street, Kolkata - 700 016.
Price: Rs 200.
IF a book comes from the heart, it will continue to reach other hearts, says Thomas Carlyle. And if it goes to lengths to describe the truth, as perceived by someone who has more than a stake in the subject and has done considerable soul-searching, then it is certainly worthy of a closer look.
Kamal K. Mohanty, in his exhaustive collection of a little over 100 articles which were published in The Economic Times and Orissa Telegraph between 1984 and 1998, and titled Orissa -- The Lost Footsteps pours out his anguish for Orissa (his home state) , for the many things that did not happen in the State, and what could have been achieved if only they had done this or that.
The recurring leitmotif is that the State could have achieved spectacular results if only the politicans had learnt to speak the truth.
The articles are bunched under various sub-heads such as The Slide, Farce, False Push, and The Hope are written in an easy style, for consumption of a much wider audience which may want to know more about the state of Orissa and its rich heritage and cul tural tapestry.
Beginning with an `Unknown Oriya and the History of April', where the author questions whether the State has actually realised the promise of the historic April of 1936 (when Orissa came into being, though in a truncated form), the articles skim through the modern face of ancient `Balijatra', to how the poets have lost out to the prawns in Chilka, the enduring legend of Lord Jagannath of Puri, all the while stressing that the actual lessons have been forgotten.
Even though Mohanty at times betrays a terrible bitterness over things gone wrong, and does not spare the new breed of ministers and bureacrats, some of his pieces make delightful reading, if only for the unusual narrative style -- shooting straight from the shoulder most of the times, and the impermeable truth of Orissa's utter neglect over the years laid thoroughly bare.
Though an economic journalist by profession, which means an eternal optimist dabbling in a dismal science, the author has not forgotten his journalistic lessons, and manages to convey his thoughts precisely and without frills -- as Albert Einstein says, ``if you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor''.
Ending the story of `The Slide' on a dismal note, by describing the 1980s as the saga of the lost decade, he scores a major point by delving deep into the `chequred history of political morality', as such.
Pointing out that `passive morality' became a convention during the Congress rule in Orissa after Independence, when even Biju Patnaik, who set out to start big projects with huge investments in the State, had to face a lot of opposition from his Congres s colleagues who clung to passive morality, the author says the passive approach disappeared in the 1960s, and `a little later, morality itself took a back seat'. Crores and crores of rupees were spent in development projects and leaders added immensely to their private fortunes from those projects, says Mohanty without mincing words.
He fires off his `Hope' series by saying that the 1990s started with an excellent unconcern for the glorious past -- no one remembers the three great men of Orissa -- Fakirmohan (1843-1918), Radhanath (1848-1908) and Madhusudhan (1848-1934) -- who introd uced the spirit of renaissance in the State, helping it to emerge from a long spell of stagnation to a course of dynamism. Oriya literature, says the author, under these men received a big impetus, and patriotism and self-respect a fresh expression.
Mohanty reserves his best for the piece on Bijubabu -- the towering personality who strode the scene like a colossus. He describes the scene at the time immediately after his death, when the State is in mourning.
But which Biju Patnaik are they missing, asks the author. The outspoken politician, ambitious


The Slide
An unknown Oriya and history of April
Straining to reach the same old plateau

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