Manas Ranjan Mahapatra, Puri, 26 November 2023
I have retired from my job in the government, but my journey as a Professor/Media Educator is on…
After teaching in various central universities like DU, BHU, NEHU, IGNOU, IIMC, MZU and several state as well as deemed Universities for almost four decades as a visiting faculty, I was appointed by CMR University, Bangalore as a Professor of Practice some years ago, and my friends and students therefore call me Professor. In fact, Sherry, my colleague in North Eastern Council, began calling me Professor for the first time. But I have always refused to be called a Doctor nor have allowed any university to confer that honour on me without working full time for it in view of my official position.
Authorities, those which are offering honorary Ph.D. (doctorate degree) to so called distinguished persons, and people who are acquiring or arranging such degrees by influence or money, like an ornament from some universities, should learn the lesson from Rahul Dravid, who has refused it, realising the hardship of genuine scholars in his family to get it on merit.
It’s not easy to stick to a principle throughout life. My friends published their books from NBT or gave assignments to their spouses, which I didn’t. My successor in NBT went to the extent of not only giving a translation assignment, but to arrange Sahitya Akademi Translation Award for his wife! Now, my friends say that I have done a mistake. What can I do, for I went by a principle!
Never stop doing good things for others. Sometimes those little things occupy the biggest place in their hearts. But, for God’s sake, don’t do for undeserving people as I did in my life.
Where are my friends these days? Are they, like me, lost in transit ??
I have been thinking for the last three years after my retirement to write on my living friends. Today I have an urge to write on my friend Mrinal Chatterjee who has got D. Litt from Brahmapur University. Incidentally, my second anthology of short stories is due in a month. Mrinal and I befriended after publication of my story in Galpajhar, which was published from Bhadrak half a century ago and was edited by Balaram Sahu.
Bhadrak College was a major college in 1970s when I was a student in S.C.S College, Puri. Mrinal was a student in that college. He was my batchmate. The other noted friend in that college was Bijoy Nayak. We were young fiction writers those days and our stories were regularly published in Galpajhar.
In 1981 I left my college studies and joined J. Mohapatra and Co as a subeditor in their English daily News of the World and monthly digest Alok as its Editor. I was staying with a friend at New PG Hostel as a paying guest. Suddenly I met Mrinal there as a boarder. He was the student editor of the English department’s mouthpiece.
My days at Cuttack were not pleasant. Nabakishore Mohapatra, proprietor of J. Mohapatra and Co was a nice person. But, his Manager Rahman was not a goodman. I was invited by a Press Owner of Puri to join the press as its Manager. Chittaranjan Mishra was planning to bring his newspaper Kurukshetra from Cuttack to Puri. The press owner Balakrushna Pratihari was his classmate. Since it was running on loss, Balakrushna Pratihari rented it out to Chittaranjan Mishra for publication of Kurukshetra.
One fine morning, I was offered the job of Managing Editor of Kurukshetra with the work of Manager of the press Kalinga Industries. I was comfortable in the new assignment, but my happiness didn’t last long.
A full page advertisement was to be published in Kurukshetra. Raghunath Mishra, a friend of Chittaranjan Mishra was looking after the accounting job of the newspaper. He was interested to bring his brother on my post. Our newspaper was printed in letterpress those days. The advertisement text could not be adjusted in half a page. I slightly reduced the size. Ragunathan Mishra reported this lapse in such a manner that Chittaranjan Mishra got angry. In the evening Raghunath Mishra came and paid me a month’s salary with the notice of my dismissal from the job.
I was on the road. My family was struggling with poverty. My elder sister was in a private college and her salary was just hand to mouth. My beloved Sailabala was in a private school. We were not in a position to marry. I took loan from a bank to support my family and went on applying for jobs, both private and government. I also took some odd assignments.
An organisation Management Advisory Services then advertised for some editorial posts and conducted an examination. I saw Mrinal there in the examination as a candidate like me. He was by that time working in a private college at Bhubaneswar as a lecturer.
But, my interest to return to my original passion Journalism in a newspaper had to wait for some time. I had to marry my beloved as her father was worried. I could not take the risk of joining private sector. I had appeared in several competitive exams and got three offers out of which I accepted one and joined School Education Department as a Headmaster. From there I switched over to NCERT as an Educational Media Researcher.
A job of Language Editor in Odia was advertised in newspapers in 1990. I applied for it and got a call for appearing in an interview. There I met Mrinal Chatterjee again as a candidate.
The interview board led by famous author and translator Jeevan Pani appreciated my earlier experience in a publishing house. The result was to be declared after a day. The candidates included Gaurahari Das, Satyapriya Mahalik, Chitrasen Pasayat and Soudamini Bhuyan apart from Mrinal. I jokingly said while we were served tea, ‘One of us will get the job, but s/he has to offer works to others.’ All of us laughed.
The result was out after a day. I was selected. Mrinal was only waitlisted. I offered translation works to the rest as I proposed. Mrinal and Gaurahari got the major assignments. Those days, NBT was offering the best translation fee. Mrinal’s wife also became a distributor for NBT books on my initiative and guarantee.
Time is very powerful. A bigger opportunity was waiting for Mrinal. He got the job of Associate Professor in Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal. He offered me guest teaching assignments, annually once at his institute. Prior to it I was teaching as a visiting faculty in DU, STI for Prasar Bharti, BHU and a few others, but IIMC assignment was special. Inspired by it I did another MA in Journalism and Mass Communication. I registered for Ph D in the same university from which Mrinal did his D. Litt now, but sadly my guide died in an accident.
I was Director, Information and PR of North Eastern Region for three years at Shillong. In one of our meetings, I met the then VC, Guwahati University and he was happy to know about my credential as a Media Educator. The next day I was invited to teach in their Journalism and Mass Communication Department as a visiting faculty.
Much before the term Professor of Practice was introduced by UGC, CMR University, Bangalore invited me to teach Development Communication there as a Professor of Practice. Covid brought an abrupt halt to my teaching assignments. I have now retired from my government job of an Editor and relocated to Odisha, have not met Mrinal for almost four years, don’t know when we will meet again and where. But my friends get unhappy when I use the term Professor with my name though they pamper private college teachers and politicians as Professor !
One should never look back. It’s always gloomy and painful ! Mrinal is Regional Director now at Dhenkanal and IIMC has almost forgotten me.