Manas Ranjan Mahapatra, Puri, 25 June 2023
The horrible accident between three trains in Odisha recently saw visits by the PM, CM, and several ministers with bureaucrats. It was just an eyewash. So shameless is the political culture today that nobody took responsibility. Hundreds of people died and many more were wounded. My father, who sacrificed his youth in the freedom struggle, used to call it deterioration in the national character in the name of development!
Nationalism and Development….where do Gandhian perspectives fit in them? A Million Dollar question but I have not got an answer till date.
My father was similarly disturbed in the first few years after independence. Later, it became restlessness and finally, disillusionment. Poor fellow, he spent 6 years of his life in the freedom struggle but the Governments post-independence did not bother to involve such people in the development process.
My father and I had a lot of differences of views. But, whenever I differed in views, I always looked at his feet and not face. I never sat on his favorite chair, nor wore his favourite ‘chappal’. But we discussed many issues and my philosophical foundation was laid with that.
Gobinda Mousa was the best friend of my father. Some other friends were Dr. Abhimanyu Mohanty, Somanath Mahapatra, Nilamani Dubey, Jadumani Jena, and so on. Their normal place of meeting, “Adarsha Mistanna Bhandara” was closed in 1974. Our hotel, “Sri Hotel and Restaurant” was then their place of meeting for a few years. Later, it shifted to Fakir Sahu Hotel for a few years. Finally, they met only on roads, at times.
Since my father lost everything in the freedom struggle, our family was pushed to starvation. I did not have a proper childhood. I don’t remember when I played hide and seek with my friends. Indira Gandhi gave some pension to freedom fighters, but nobody wanted to involve those people in nation building.
In the absence of a regular source of income, my father took up a lot of petty jobs. After independence, he was District Correspondent of “Ganatantra”, which was the newspaper of the political party – Ganatantra Parishad. It later merged with the Swatantra Party and the name of the newspaper became “Swarajya”. He left it in 1974 and started a hotel. It could not run properly and he started a Fair Price Shop. Later, he joined Bijoy Marine Products as their local PR Officer. After that, he started Stamp Vending.
My father had a different lifestyle. What was cooked, had to be consumed the same day. Nothing for tomorrow. My daughter has inherited that lifestyle though she never lived with my father. Gene factor!!
It is a sad story how Gandhians like my father and his friends were sidelined in the National Development Process in the post-Independence period. Gandhian perspectives died, but Gandhians like my father and Gobinda Mousa continued with their Gandhian way of life.
Where is Gandhism today? My father had this question in the last two decades of his life and I am yet to get a suitable answer. Gandhi will soon be a forgotten chapter of the New Indian History, for communalism has now occupied the centre stage with politicians, bureaucrats and corporates supporting such moves.
But Gandhi will never die! Even if one shoots at him a thousand bullets at a time. He survives beyond body and boundary in the hearts of millions in this universe. Political gimmickry and nuisance of the so called tiny politicians cannot erase him.
This is the centenary year of Gobinda Mousa, and my father’s too.This article is my tribute to these two friends who devoted their life for the welfare of people. While Gobinda Mousa worked for making a hospital for his fellow villagers at Baliput, my father worked for a market for the rural coconut growers at Sakhigopal. They were Gandhis for their villages! They preferred to work in a Gandhian way lifelong at their hometown – Puri. Practically, the new generation of the country has successfully murdered Gandhism in the modern India.
My father was with Swatantra Party, which was the political party in power in Odisha in the late 1960s. Rajendra Narayan Singhdeo, the erstwhile King of the princely State of Patnagarh, was the Chief Minister. My father was the General Secretary of Puri District and had very good rapport with the Chief Minister and a few prominent ministers, especially Shri Rajballav Mishra and Shri Harihar Patel.They used to have small party meetings on the roof of our house…just in front of the sea!
Chief Minister, Shri Singhdeo, wanted to give a party ticket to my father in 1967. He politely refused and decided to remain in organisational politics.
People like Gobinda Mousa and my father were different. They always wanted to build up the structure so that their party will have a solid base among people. Fighting an Assembly election was requiring a few thousand rupees and that was accumulated through people’s contribution. Leaders were doing their election campaigning on Bicycle or on foot, may be sometimes on a Jeep.
How beautiful was the friendship between Gobinda Mousa and my father!! They were in two different political parties, but were staunch Gandhians. Gandhism was the binding force and the other binding force was a sense of commitment towards people.
Gobinda Mousa did not have a house in Puri, nor my father had one. Both were educated and could have gone for a salaried job. But instead, both preferred public service as their life’s mission.
Fakir Mishra was the Chairman of Puri Municipality. He offered a piece of land to both as journalists and social workers, respectively. My father did not accept the offer and on frequent request from Fakir Mousa, opted in favour of my uncle. I do not know what Gobinda Mousa did.
Interestingly, Gobinda Mousa continued in Congress and my father went with Chakraborty Rajagopalachari to Swatantra Party. But political rivalry did not hamper the discharge of duty. Whoever deserved any assistance was getting the same.They were regular members of “Adarsha Mistanna Bhandar”, the first Coffee House of Puri way back in the 1960s. While Gobinda Mousa worked as the District Correspondent of “Prajatantra”, my father worked for “Swarajya”. The State Government in 1968 offered a few built houses to Social Workers and Journalists at Bhubaneswar. Chief Minister personally told my father to accept one. “I am working at Puri. What shall I do with a house at Bhubaneswar?”, said my father! Gobinda Mousa may have done the same thing as his party, Congress, was in power for a longer period. Alas, these days, tiny political workers of any place want a house at the state capital to further their political ambitions! And my father and Gobinda Mousa wanted to work for the people of their native places in the Gandhian ideology of Gram Swaraj – living with the people to serve them.
It has become difficult today for people to meet their elected representatives after they get elected. I am told our dear MP from Puri has not visited his constituency for the last few months…..and our dear CM got him in place of Braja Kishore Tripathy, a real worker for the people!
No wonder, it is not people’s support but a political wave that governs the country now at the Centre and also at the States. What a nice way to kill Gandhi and his ideologies! It is not Nathuram Godse, we have all killed Gandhi and have been butchering his body for the last 75 years!
History will one day remember people like Gobinda Mousa and my father, sooner or later. My childhood memories are full of memories of Gobinda Mousa and his son, Bijoy, my classmate. I was five years old when Gobinda Mousa and my father used to walk from Malatipatpur to Baliput on foot with me on the cycle carrier…..I am still on that cycle carrier of the Freedom Movement of India!!!