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The Lost Light from Chilka Lake

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There are many interesting moments to remember so far as Arakhita Pradhan is concerned.He used to wear a Silk Punjabi (Shirt ) and was looking like King of a traditional verse drama.He was good looking indeed .

My in-laws are from an area near Chilka Lake.A few days ago I visited their village.On the way we stopped at Sunamuhin. There I found a statue of poet Arakshita Pradhan,who passed away a decade ago.I have written on many people with whom I have interacted over the years.One name I have missed is Arakhita Pradhan.He was a distant cousin of my late father in law.

I met Arakhita Pradhan in 1976.That was the year I entered to College and started identifying myself with the bigger literary circle of my small town 'Puri'.One day in a meeting I found a person reciting from many great works from his mind.He had great eloquence ,I was amazed.Soon we became known to each other.He was Arakhita Pradhan from Hasinipur,Brahmagiri.But he used to stay in Goenka Dharmashala,Puri.

I was growing those days at Puri as a Cultural Organiser .He was already known as a cultural organiser in his area.My uncle Shri Sarat Chandra Mahapatra started an organisation Jai Jagannath Mission in 1977.We organised a function near Gundicha Temple at Puri during the famous Chariot Festival.Suddenly Arakhita Pradhan appeared there and my uncle requested him to speak.So enticing was Arakhita Pradhan's speech that people gathered to listen.He became a regular speaker in our meetings.

Narayan Chandra Jena started a literary magazine from Puri in 1978.He organised a literary magazine at S C S College.To my utter surprise I found Arakhita Pradhan in that meeting with my mentor editor Bhagban Nayakburma.There during interaction I understood that he is a distant cousin of my then fiancée Sailabala's father.Both Sailabala and I were emerging writers at that time in Odisha and published in Dharitri Saptahiki edited by Shri Nayakburma .Arakhita Pradhan used to encourage young writers.

I was editing a literary magazine 'Badadanda' from Puri.Its first issue was published with devotional poems on or dedicated to Lord Jagannath.Arakhita Pradhan used the entire issue's contents as quotes in his book 'Jagata o Jagannatha' .We published only 500 copies of the magazine,but through his book that issue became very popular and many people asked me for a copy.Arakshita Pradhan himself bought ten copies of the magazine.

Arakhita Pradhan used to organise literary meetings in his area.Once he invited Prof Rajkishore Ray,the most eminent writer from Puri at that time.He arranged a jeep to carry Prof Ray and gave me responsibility to accompany him.Prof Ray was popular for his eating habits,he was capable of eating 50 Rasogullas at a time.Arakhita Pradhan arranged good quality food for Prof Ray at the place of the meeting,it was possibly Bali Harachandi , a river bank about 20 kilometres from Puri. But he never imagined that Prof Ray will feel hungry on the way.

Prof Ray felt hungry. Arakhita Pradhan was not there.He told the jeep driver to stop.It was Varandah of an office,the office was closed as it was a Sunday.There was no shop nearby,but a coconut tree was seen.Its height was not much,I had to climb the tree and pluck some coconuts for Prof Ray.With the help of a villager we broke it .Prof Ray drank its water and ate the contents,he became cheerful. Arakhita Pradhan came to know about this happening and thanked me for my sense of responsibility.He did not know that had I not done it,Prof Ray would have gone mad and may have eaten anything,his hunger was terrible.

Soon I found Arakhita Pradhan shifting his place of residence from Goenka Dharmashala to Sreemanta Sankardeva Ashram,Lokanath Ghat .He learnt Assamese to read the works of Sreemanta Sankardeva and other great Bhakti Poets of Assam and started speaking in that language.Of course,his sense of grammar was full of mistakes,be it Assamese,Hindi,Bengali or Sanskrit .But fluency was superb !

I had an intercaste marriage.Being close to both my father in law and father,Arakhita Pradhan organised a meeting between the two at Goenka Dharmashala for a smooth understanding.

There are many interesting moments to remember so far as Arakhita Pradhan is concerned.He used to wear a Silk Punjabi (Shirt ) and was looking like King of a traditional verse drama.He was good looking indeed .

I left Puri to join a Govt job at Umerkote in 1984 and Odisha in 1987.My meeting with Arakhita Pradhan became rare.A few years back I came to know about his death.His wife and children always remained in their village,we never met them.I came to know that towards the later part of his life,Arakhita Pradhan became so poor that he or his family could not bear the cost of his treatment.His wife also passed away a year ago as I understood from Pramod Acharya, his disciple a few days ago.

In my life,I must have come across thousands of people.But I don't know ,why I always fondly remember people like Arakhita Pradhan ,the lost light of Chilka Lake !

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