14 June, 2016

#GuestPost on Padma Shri Haldhar Nag by Surendra Nath

About the Author:
Surendra tries his hand at writing fiction off and on. A few of his short stories have been published in books and magazines. 'Karna’s Alter Ego' is his first attempt at writing a full length novel. Earlier he wrote a novella that sank without a trace.

For a living, at 58, he runs after children in KiiT International School, and the strength needed for all this chasing, he draws from his previous experience in the defence forces. He also publishes a children’s magazine – 'Kloud 9'. He is the architect of a Children’s Lit Fest, that is into its third year now in 2015. 

Yes, he is married and lives happily with his wife and daughter at Cuttack. He has distant dreams of retiring as an author.

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Padma Shri Haldhar Nag

I saw Mr. Haldhar Nag being interviewed on the TV and was impressed with his down-to-earth talk. He is a poet, who rose to recognition when he received the Padma Shri Award (the fourth highest decoration in India), in the field of literature on Republic Day of 2016. Until a couple of years, he was an obscure villager, in a less known village named Ghens in the less developed state of Odisha. 
I visited him in his village-home last month and returned with mixed feelings of gratitude, humility and sadness at seeing his living condition. Don’t get me wrong, he is not rueing his misfortune, indeed a man more content than he, I am yet to find. He is very happy with what god has given him and welcomed me warmly to his cottage.

The cottage or house, whatever we may choose to call it, has been built with grant from Indira Awaas Yojana (PMGAY). We sat in a room that could only accommodate one cot and two chairs, tight-fit. He showed me his other little room with great pleasure, for it was filled with awards and certificates he has received. Almost all of them have come in the last one year when his poems came to be noticed in literary circles. Alas, the awards are mostly stacked on the floor, some kept upon a steel trunk, and one of them is the Padma Shri!

At 66 he is hale and hearty, for he is a villager who earns his bread through hard work. For him it doesn’t matter that he lives hand to mouth. (Padma awards carry no cash prize.) Haldhar Nag is a paragon of simplicity and of contentment.

He has studied only up to class 3. In the 50’s that’s how much education poor folks could get before starting to labour on someone else’s field. He has been writing poems ever since he attained youth, and must have written about a thousand poems, and knows by heart every single one of them; what a colossal memory! He writes in the Kosali language (also called Sambalpuri language) that lies unrecognised in the directory of unofficial dialects. 

Off late, Kosali language has shot into prominence, due to litterateurs like Haldhar Nag. He has created a circle of likeminded people who are working to revive the Kosali language. Sambalpur University has taken up the task of publishing his works into volumes titled Haldhar Granthabali. 

I was lucky to get his permission to translate his works into English. I have already started the work, but progress is slow. It’s so difficult to understand words of a language that flourishes only in the interior tribal regions of Odisha. I hope to publish the first translation in the next three months. 
I have assured him that any money that comes out of it, I shall pass on to him. He says he doesn’t need the money, for he manages to get his daily meal. He will however use that money to educate poor tribal children of that region. He is already running a makeshift school in two rooms provided by the villagers. Mind you, no books and notebooks; it’s chalk and slate instructions, everything verbal. He is inspiration personified.

I need your support in this project of mine, and bro Haldhar’s. When you buy a copy, you not only benefit from reading a great poet, but also help improving someone’s life. Please don’t do it out of pity, do it for a cause. Someone amongst you could design the cover, and someone could suggest a title. For now I have thought of the title Selected Poems of Padmashri Haldhar Nag (Translated into English) Volume I. It will be a bilingual publication – every odd page Kosali and the facing even page its English translation. What do you think of the idea?

About the Book:

Karna, the ill-fated hero of Mahabharata. Many feel he deserved to win. If only luck had favoured him...

5000 years later, we have a man named Vasu, who is much like Karna – illegitimate birth, very talented but denied all credits in life, rejected in love, misses a medal in the Asian games, gets caught for telling an innocent lie, overlooked for promotion. He begins to identify himself with Karna, and interestingly Karna appears to him after every debacle to assuage and encourage him. 

It seems Vasu is Karna’s alter ego.

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