Oriya poet Bishnu N. Mohapatra on Tuesday observed that the time had come to think about the pattern of development being practised and correct the mistakes committed by the State to make the country “developed”.

Mr. Mohapatra, a social scientist and a well-known poet is currently working on themes related to civil society, democracy and social indignities, and coordinating a project on “Dialogue on democracy and pluralism in south Asia”, at the Centre for Political Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

A Fragile World, his collection of poetry translated into English, was published in 2008. His translation of Pablo Neruda's The Book of Questions has received critical appreciation. Mr. Mohapatra was in Mysore to render some of his poems at Rangayana. The poetry recital was possible owing to the initiative taken by S. Manjunath, a name to reckon with in Kannada poetry. Of the poems Mr. Mohapatra rendered, Postcard from Haridwar and Baguri struck a chord with poetry lovers. His poems are refreshingly lyrical without losing a sense of emotional purpose.

Describing his poetry as “poetry of re-enchantment, he said; “A Fragile World is about re-enchanting lives through my words, the journeys, my conversation with self and others. I live in traces of my poetry and also in the fragments of my love,” he said.


Mr. Mohapatra spoke about his inspirations before rendering his poems. “It is my mother Sharadamani Mohapatra, a poet in her own capacity, who is responsible,” he said.

He admits that it was the people he came across who shaped him. He lived like a nomad, as his father worked mostly in rural areas, especially in the coastal and tribal parts of Orissa. “I learnt the local lingo, even abuses from tribal boys. It is rural Orissa that shaped my sensibilities,” he said.

After completing his schooling in Cuttack, he went to Delhi to do his M.A. at Delhi University and did his M.Phil in Jawaharlal Nehru University. He also taught at Delhi University and held the visiting teaching position at the University of Kyoto.

Mr. Mohapatra spoke to The Hindu on the socio-political atmosphere in the country and said that 20 per cent of the total population of Orissa consisted of tribal people and the so-called economic development being claimed by the State had not reached them. Rampant mining, which was considered a tool of development had pushed them to the brink of death, he noted.

“It is now the time for the State to think about the pattern of development being practised and take corrective steps to set right the wrongs to avert further conflict,” he said.

‘Need for change'

Underscoring the need for a change in the paradigm of development, Mr. Mohapatra said that economic development should protect everybody, not just one section of society.

On whether the State should hold a dialogue with Maoists, he said that though it was important to put a stop to the killing of innocent people, having a dialogue with tribal people and understanding their problems and addressing them should be the priority of the State.

He said that poets and intellectuals in Orissa were consistently writing about the injustice being heaped on depressed class, communal intolerance and other issues. “But the reality is overpowering poetry,” he lamented.

Keywords: Social views

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