HOMAGE TO NIRANJAN MOHANTY (1953-2008)
by Dr Jaydeep Sarangi
(Head, Dept. of English, Seva Bharati College, Kapgari: 721505, Midnapore West, West Bengal, India) – firstname.lastname@example.org
All art is the expression of life in forms of truth and beauty.
– W.J Long
Niranjan Mohanty lived at Berhampur (Orissa) and Santiniketan, the abode of Rabindranath Tagore. His bulk of critical corpus includes articles, books, essays and reviews on Indian English Poetry and American Literature. He is the single largest contributor of critical articles on Jayanta Mahapatra and f the pioneers of Indian critics devoted to Indian Writing in English. His articles have appeared in Kavya Bharati, Chandrabhaga, Reflections, JIWE, Seva Bharati Journal of English Studies and many other reputed journals in India and abroad. Mohanty also served as a member of the editorial boards of various reputed journals like Dialogue, Prosopisia and Reflections. Mohanty was a true child of his soil; like Bibhu Padhi and Jayanta Mahapatra land and identity of his root tradition is the theme-song of his poetic lines.
He published seven volumes of poems (Silence the Words, On Touching You and Other Poems, Life Lines, Prayers to Lord Jagannatha, Oh This Bloody Game!, Krishna and Tiger and Other Poems). His poems have appeared in magazines in India, UK, USA, and Canada, such as Chandrabhaga, The Illustrated Weekly of India, Indian Literature, Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Kavya Bharati, JIWE, New Quest, South Asian Review, Seva Bharati Journal of English Studies, Toronto South Asian Review, Hundred Words, Tandem, International Poetry Review, Suns Stone and Ucon Directory. He was Honorary Writing Fellow at the International Writing Program, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA in 1994.
He translated from Oriya and Bengali into English and Bengali into Oriya. Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi published Nirjhar (2006), a volume of sixty poems of Jibananada Das in Oriya translation. His poems have been translated into Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese and Urdu.
Niranjan Mohanty’s Tiger and Other Poems (2008) is a vintage image gallery, emotionally satisfying, that explores diverse facets of life. Mohanty’s greatest asset may be his ability to take the mundane and make it interesting. Rarely does a poet glow with grace on every page. Mohanty is no common poet; he takes utmost care and keeps us ‘busy and moving’: ‘Every page is an epic of meeting” (from “I Read a Book Printed Nowhere”) Richly meditative and at the same time rooted in cultural and religious realities in Orissa, his poems in this volume speak to us with beguiling simplicity and the theme-song of life come through the linguistic cadence of his poetical lines ; mystic and visionary.
In one of the poems of the anthology, ‘I Read a Book Printed Nowhere’, Mohanty considers the book as his ‘grammar book’ for poetic creation. This volume of poems dedicated to Dinanath Pathy and Rama Hari Jena evinces a significant departure from his two long poems: Prayers to Lord Jagannatha and Krishna. His Prayers to Lord Jagannatha and Krishna register the Indian mystery of love (as bhakti), the mystical element embodied in the man-woman relationship in the bhakti-cult. Mohanty’s Prayers to Lord Jagannatha is the longest prayer poem in Indian English Poetry.
Niranjan Mohanty’s poems register and celebrate ‘blue whispers of hearts, immaculate’:
“the flavour of rice
boiling on an earthen- pot
under the thatched roof
sheltering voices(.)” (from Tiger and Other Poems)
Mohanty’s willing leap into the pool of nostalgic past creates a sense of ‘presence’ through the poetic metaphors of ‘absence’. The haunting presence of the metaphor of ‘death’ invests his poems with a sense of mystery, a sense that is indefinable, and non-negotiable by experience. An absence continues to haunt the poet since childhood which finds fitting expression in poetic texture. The fleeting nature of tempus fugit always chants a sweeping sense of absence in his recent tiger poems that concrete metaphors that describe the fuzzy zones of modern life.
MY POEM FOR YOU
(Dedicated to Professor Niranjan Mohanty)
Your tiger runs in me
my youth blooms into a full Rhododendron;
pink and white:
the theme song of my rhythm.
When I touch a silent stone
in the vice-regal palace at Shimla
You sing in me.
And I would rather have time to write lines on you ,