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Gossip in a Tea Stall-7

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My friendship with Chhanda was accidental . Those were the days of struggle way back in 1981 for both of us. I was staying at Chandnichowk and Chhanda near Sishu Bhawan at Cuttack. While I was a sub editor in J Mahapatra & Co , he was an Artist in an organisation assisting the famous Artist Asit Mukherjee. We were having our food in a hotel nearby.

Two years back, two of our civil service exam toppers got married. They became the talk of the town. They thought that theirs could be a life lived happily ever after.

But,life is different.Often it is the stubbornness of accepting that you could make the wrong decision. There is hardly any extra power in love to predict a great partnership. Love is what it is.My wife and I were classmates in school and college and got married after a decade long courtship. We have been living together for the last almost four decades.
We adjust with each other though we have a lot of differences . We are not stupid. We are not afraid. We know that we are the sole owner of our body, mind and life. But, on the top , it is our love that keeps our boat floating though there is always fear of sinking untimely.

In this case that divine understanding did not work . Today’s news is, they have mutually separated.This happened in the case of my friend Chhanda Charan Acharya, poet and painter over two decades ago.

I am thinking of writing about Chhanda Charan today.

My friendship with Chhanda was accidental . Those were the days of struggle way back in 1981 for both of us. I was staying at Chandnichowk and Chhanda near Sishu Bhawan at Cuttack. While I was a sub editor in J Mahapatra & Co , he was an Artist in an organisation assisting the famous Artist Asit Mukherjee. We were having our food in a hotel nearby.

One day Saroj Ranjan Mohanty , then Editor, Jhankar, the most prominent literary magazine of that time discovered both of us. We did not know each other, but my poems were by that time published in Jhankar. He introduced both of us. Chhanda used to compose lyrical poetry .We became friends.

Later, I found out that Chhanda has shifted to the capital city Bhubaneswar and has a rented accommodation in Babuji Nagar .

I joined NCERT after serving 3 years as a School Headmaster in Odisha and was posted at Lucknow in 1987 at ETV Studio. We were hosting a Training in Educational Television and all ETV Studios were participating. I found Chhanda there as the Graphic Artist of ETV Studio Bhubaneswar.So happy I was that I invited him for dinner at my place in Indira Nagar.There he told me his love story. He was in a relationship with his maternal uncle’s daughter.He recited some love poems that he composed in the meantime under a series  ‘Lalita ‘.

The training ended in three weeks . Chhanda returned to Bhubaneswar. In 1989 I was transferred to ETV Studio, Bhubaneswar. I used to commute from Puri.

I had established a literary organisation ‘ Sanibar Sahitya Sandhya’ with my friends in my college days. By that time the organisation was an established one. I invited Chhanda for poetry reading on one Saturday. My daughter and son were kids by then . He was so happy to meet them that he began telling them stories to arouse their interest in drawing.

I applied for the post of Odia Editor of National Book Trust in 1990 . I was going for an interview in the largest publishing house of India and so , planned to bring out my poetry book to show the interviewers. Lark Books, the largest publishing house of Odisha agreed to publish and I approached Chhanda to prepare its Cover Design.

But, the design prepared by Chhanda was not liked by Mahendra Mishra,proprietor of the organisation . I requested Chhanda for a new design. But, Chhanda didn’t agree. I offered him Rs 100/- , fee for a cover design those days. ‘ Don’t show me your money. I will not do,’ he said.

Chhanda was a moody artist. Sumant Mishra, son of Mahendra Mishra was a common friend of both of us. One day he told me and Sumant to come to his place for dinner and told me to come with a bottle of whiskey.We came . The next morning Chhanda gave me a new design that he prepared that night. It was liked so much by Mahendramausa that he immediately took it for printing at Jagannath Process, Cuttack .

Chhanda finally married his maternal cousin and they were blessed with a child.One day I got a shocking news that he has committed suicide. He had a quarrel with his wife and she left for her parent’s place in Bolangir. Chhanda got news of death of his wife when she was cleaning the ceiling fan . So upset he became that he committed suicide after remaining drunken for two days.

What happened to their child ? Thank God that in the present case of the estranged civil servants ,they don’t have children as they are the worst sufferers in the event of separation of their parents.
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Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam , our former President, released the book ‘Aspects of Indian Children’s Literature’ edited by me over two decades ago. He died at IIM , Shillong while teaching in a class.

This is from his writings…

When I was a kid, my Mother cooked food for us. One night she had made dinner after a long hard day's work, she placed a plate of 'sabzi' and extremely burnt roti in front of my father .

I was waiting to see if anyone noticed the burnt roti. But my father just ate his roti and asked me how my day was at school.

I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember I heard my mother apologizing to father for the burnt roti.

And I'll never forget what he said: ‘Honey, I love burnt roti.’

Later that night, I asked my father if he really liked his roti burnt. He wrapped me in his arms and ,’our mother put in a long hard day at work today and she was really tired.’

He added,’A burnt roti never hurts anyone but HARSH WORDS DO ! Our life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people...’

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