I am a nobody But I am an Odia – Article by a #NRO SUDIPTA SOUMYADARSHAN #Odia #Odisha #MotherLandLover
Welcome to Odisha, an obscure state of India no one knows about. After all, what should it be known for? What has it contributed to the nation? Is this in Bihar? Or West Bengal? Oh, that poor state in the East which is known for cyclones and floods? Your capital is Bhubaneswar? Never heard of this place!!!
This friends, is what we have been putting up with throughout our life. I don’t quite know whether our Education system is to blame for this rabid disease of ignorance widely found all over or is it a failure of us Odias to actually care about how we are perceived as a state. So here I am, giving a reply to everyone who had asked me about my state, Odisha, or Utkal-the land of fine art.
Fine arts, seriously? It is no Khajuraho, Mohen-jo-Daro, Aurangabad, Golconda or Mahabalipuram, right? Do you even have a famous folk dance? Well, you clearly missed out on the Jagannath temple in Puri and the Sun temple in Konark. The capital city, for instance is known as the temple city. There are numerous Jain temples and Buddhist monuments around too. The applique work, silver filigree work, horns, lacquer, stone and brass work are famous all over the world. The Odissi and other tribal handlooms are second to none. The famous folk dances are way too many to name, so I would name just the most famous one, the Odissi dance, which is among the eight classical dances of India.
But what about tourist spots? Do you people have to move outside of your state to visit places apart from the temples? Well, we have a long coastline, and a few awesome beaches. The Puri beach is thronged by millions of tourists each year. Tired of beaches, game for some wildlife? Go to Western Odisha forests and enjoy the lap of nature. Hill-stations? There is Daringbadi for you to feel the chill. An aviary treat? Visit the Chilika Lake, India’s largest salt water lake and home to migratory birds from all over. National parks? Bhitarkanika stands home to many species of crocodiles and snakes. Also a host of other sanctuaries. Then there are waterfalls, hot water springs and a host of other attractions.
But do you have any recreation? Something called culture? A special culinary delight? Surprise surprise!! Odia is among the six classical languages in India. Heck, we are among the most feminist of all people, we have a special festival called ‘Raja’ that celebrates womanhood i.e. periods. And the Bengali Rasgulla you all crave, that’s Odia after all. So are most curd-cheese(chhena) based sweets. Have you tried the dried fish recipes, crab curry, bamboo-cooked mutton, coconut-based curries and mustard based preparations? All here fellas. The Anand Bazaar, part of Jagannath temple, is said to be the largest restaurant in the world, feeding thousands daily. The singer Sona Mohapatra that you are all ga-ga about? She is from Odisha. Ever seen the 1999 cricket World cup’s logo? Their logo is of Debashis Mohanty’s delivery stride, an Odia.The recent Indian Idol junior winner? Odia my friends.
But then, you are a poor state. Fine arts, culture, recreation and tourism are, after all, the indulgence of the rich. Let’s talk money. You depend on the generous Centre with a begging bowl. Do you even have any industries? Haha. Odisha manufactures about 10% of India’s steel, most of its aluminium and a host of other minerals. The IT sector thrives here unnoticed, though admittedly a baby in comparison to Mumbai, Bengaluru and the likes. Then you have the IOCL, a thriving port, a fertilizer plant that was once the biggest in Asia, and I guess we are sorted with the industries? And about that begging bowl, Odisha contributes much more to the exchequer than it gets back. A case in point, Indian railways constantly receives a revenue upwards of Rs. 14000 crores from the state, and gives back about 5-10% of that(this Govt. gave close to Rs. 2300 crores, the highest ever).
But clearly this is all eyewash? Why is Odisha poor then? It should have been among the richest states in India. But in fact it is among the poorest. Why is that? Well, it is all because of me, because I have been a Nobody. I have been the person who didn’t give a Geography lesson to anyone who didn’t know about Odisha. I have been the person who didn’t really care if Rasagulla is Bengali or Odia as long it was tasty. I didn’t care when people expected me to speak in XYZ language as they didn’t speak the language, but never got the same treatment elsewhere. I didn’t care to be assertive when other states were rewarded for flouting population explosion norms (read: more parliament seats) when I adhered to them. I lacked self-confidence and respect for my language and state when I should have been championing its cause. I didn’t rap the politicians who were never assertive at the center and were happy with the Central Govt. handing us begging bowls and some food in exchange for our mineral-rich exports. And I certainly chose to be the goody-goody person and let others trounce over me rather than stand up for myself just to avoid unpleasantness. Clearly the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik complex, who is too happy and satisfied with his clean image to do something good for the state.
Let me be very honest, I never really did mind when people didn’t know much about Odisha. In fact, I was in a strange way at peace with it. Away from the limelight, my state would have an organic growth. No huge population influx and strain on housing infrastructure to make them unaffordable like Mumbai. No huge pollution and bizarre traffic to ruin the city like Bangalore/Delhi. And more importantly, a better quality of life far from the maddening crowd. But then one of my best friends’ rants on fb about this ignorance really got me thinking.
In fact, I realized my state of comatose about this was a major disservice to my state. Its time I turn from a nobody to an Odia. As our famous writer Gangadhar Meher (oh yes, I forgot, we have great authors and poets too) says, “Matrubhumi Matrubhasa re mamata ja hrude janami nahin(The one who doesn’t love his motherland and mother tongue)….. Taku jadi gyani ganare ganiba agyani rahibe kahin( is the most ignorant of all)”. We must speak out and be proud of our identity, yes as an Indian, but also as an Odia, for if I am not a proud Odia, I am Nobody.