Manas Ranjan Mahapatra, Puri, 23 July 2023
I have not been able to breathe properly for the last few days. My dear Mangala is no more. He was three years younger than me, I was chosen by his father to coordinate the search for a bride for his marriage, as I was considered as the eldest son in their family. I have no option but to share my anguish again and again with the world. Mangala Prasad Mohanty (Professor, Dr.) was my brother, friend, philosopher and guide for the last four decades and more.
Today, I fondly remember the young boy who entered the nomination hall for becoming a student representative in the Odia Sahitya Parishad of SCS College, Puri way back in the academic year 1979-80 when I was its General Secretary. Later, he energised the literary forum “Sanibar Sahitya Sandhya”, which had just been begun by me with the help of some friends, and organised the first ever State Level Literary Conference at Annapurna Theatre, Puri in 1981. He also edited a magazine, “The Sampark” of which he made me the Chief Editor.
Everything was moving happily and suddenly, he decided to leave Puri for higher education in JNU where he joined the Students Federation of India (SFI) and became an elected representative of students in the Students’ Union headed by N R Mohanty. I have witnessed the historical students agitation in JNU that happened at the time he was a part of the Students’ Union. He began a new NGO, “SEARCH”, at Puri around that time and was the Secretary and I was the Working President.
After working for a few years with Rajiv Gandhi’s brain child, the Festival of India programme as an officer, Mangala was offered a senior post in East Zone Cultural Centre, Calcutta in 1989, but he was more interested to remain in Delhi for working at national level for Odisha. He was a candidate for the post of Odia Language Editor of NBT in 1990 and withdrew from the competition after finding me as a candidate for the same post, as he always held me in very high esteem and never wanted to compete with me.
Later, he joined Rajiv Gandhi Foundation as a senior officer. I have not been able to understand why he relocated to Odisha in 1998 to become OSD to Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang in 1999. After the sudden fall of the Gamang Government , he became a Professor in Utkal University of Culture, which was practically his baby. I conducted a Certificate Course in Book Publishing there on his initiative in 2002.
Then, one fine morning, Mangala was chosen by the then Governor, Odisha to become Secretary, Indian Red Cross, Odisha Branch. All his tenures from Festival of India to Indian Red Cross had abrupt ends in similar ways. Finally, he ended up containing his talents to become the owner of a Petrol pump. What an up and down of fate!
A person of many arts and parts, Mangala was a great dreamer. He was a poet, editor, translator, fiction writer, actor, journalist, organiser, youth activist, and art critic. Besides, and most importantly, he was a good kind-hearted person. I fondly remember the international conference he coordinated at Delhi on the theme “Revisiting Hinduism” three decades ago in which I also chaired a session on his sudden demand, as the designated chairman regretted at the last hour. I was on my way back to my residence after office and instead of Katwaria Sarai, landed up at YMCA Convention Centre!
I have failed to digest the fact that after working closely with PM PV Narsimha Rao and Mani Shankar Aiyar for a few years and remaining a Gandhian Youth Congress Leader, why Mangala preferred to return to his roots. Odisha has not done justice to this great man.
My feelings can’t be described in words. I have lost my right arm in his untimely death. How to share my sorrow? And with whom?? I pray to the Almighty that this be my last obituary on the death of someone so dear to me.