Back of the Book:
One day watching the sun going down the western sky, Manoranjan Das (b.1921), one of modern India's eminent playwrights enters into a unique dialogue with his memories. What unfolds is the drama of an extraordinarily creative and eventful life, that raised the curtains on an important stage in the development of art and culture in modern India, and particularly the growth of modern theatre in Orissa.
Jatindra Kumar Nayak teaches English at Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. He has co-translated Fakir Mohan Senapati's autobiography, Atmajivani Charita (Story of My Life) and Manoranjan Das's play, August Na. He won the Katha Translation Award in 1997.
Arun Kumar Mohanty is currently working as Editor, Orissa Review in Information and Public Relations Department, Govt. of Orissa. He has translated Gopinah Mohanty's novel Dadi Budha (The Ancestor) and co-translated Manoranjan Das's play August Na. He won Prafulla Anubad Pratibha Ratna Award of Utakal Sahitya Samaj, Cuttack in 2000.
Manoranjan Das's memoirs, Smruti Sanlap (A Dialogue with Memory) tells the story of the evolution of modern Oriya drama. Two distinguished predecessors of Das, Baishnav Pani and Kalicharan Patnaik, have left vivid accounts of the growth of Oriya drama in their autobiographies, Panikabinkara Atmakahani (The Poet, Pani's Autobiography) and Kumbhar Chaka (The Potter's Wheel). In a way, Das begins his narrative where these two great dramatists end theirs. It is also significant that Das's dramatic works sought to blend the best elements in Pani and Patnaik and absorbed elements from contemporary western theatre. This led to the emergence of a new theatre in Orissa, which fused native folk forms with modern consciousness and techniques. Das's plays laid the foundations on which a generation of younger dramatists built later. Das's memoirs also make an attempt to analyse the cause of the decline of the commercial Oriya stage. He seeks to identify the limitations of amateur theatre groups in Orissa. The former suffered because of its neglect of the intellectual dimension of drama, and the latter was handicapped on account of its alienation from native tradition. The absence of a coherent cultural policy in Orissa, in Das's view, contributed to the decline of theatre in the state.
A Dialogue with Memory also records Das's experiences as a witness to historic events shaping the destiny of modern India. It is full of lively anecdotes relating to people and places as they underwent changes in the post independence era.
Das played a key role in shaping the cultural policy of Orissa, and in building institutions that would promote a strong sense of cultural identity. His rich experiences as a dramatist, his participation in policy-making processes at the national level, and his acquaintance with western theatre helped him in playing this role effectively.
A Dialogue with Memory radiates warmth and humanity. Though crowded with events, some of which are quite painful, the book is remarkably free from bitterness. It affirm and celebrates life its totality.
In translating Smruti Sanlap we have profited immensely from the advice of the author, Sri Manoranjan Das. We express our deep indebtedness to him. We are greateful to Smt Kusuma Das and Sri Bibhu Ranjan Das for their support and encouragement. We express our gratitude to NBT, India, for publishing the English translation of Smruti Sanlap. We thank Ch. Manoj Kumar Patro for secretarial assistance. - Arun Kumar Mohanty, Jatindra Kumar Nayak.
I have written plays all my life. This is my first work outside the field of drama. Its scope encompasses a period of long seventy years. I had many things to say. So the task seemed daunting when I undertook it. Many questions arose in my mind. What should I write? Who would read it? And why? Should I write only about art, literature, painting, stage craft, the Akademi's at the state and central levels, about All India Radio, Doordarshan, film institutes, amateur theatre groups and the commercial stage with which I was directly or indirectly associated? Should I talk about my creative self? Or should I include in it other things as well? Several other incidents which occurred in my life, several other scenes which still flash before my mind's eye, the many experiences which are still fresh in memory - are they of no account?
A few years ago, I wrote a play entitled Simara Arapari (On the Other Side of the Border). A character in it says:
Mita: The Seventeenth century, the age of knowledge. The eighteenth, the age of reason, the nineteenth, of progress. And the twentieth....
Dr. Ray: (completing the sentences) of anxiety.
I was born in the first quarter of the twentieth century. I lived through the last decades of British rule in India. The non-violent struggle for freedom under Gandhiji's leadership, the country attaining independence, the functioning of democracy in the country, the wars and the completion of fifty years of independence are part of my experiences. The drama of political history of the nation unfolded before me. Changes occurred not only in the sphere of politics, economy and education, but also at other levels of society, in the nature and manners of people, their faiths and superstitions, their ideas of morality and their values. All these blended in my memory and took the shape of a colourful rainbow. Should these not get reflected in my writings? Experiences of joys and sorrows, my own views and opinions are also stored in my memory. Should they, too, not find a place in my work?
I struggled with these questions when I began writing my memoirs. The writing took long five years.
I had written a preface to each of my plays. Since this work will serve as a preface to all the reminiscences of my life and times, I do not find it necessary to write and elaborate preface to it. A British novelist once wrote: "Don't trust the writer, trust his writings." I share his view. I feel, I owe to my readers to mention the difficulties I came across while writing an account of my life.
Several incidents in one's life take place simultaneously. So it is not always convenient to arrange incidents chronologically. However, I have taken care to mention the time of occurrence of the incidents. Of course, there are repetitions. Since I am in the habit of maintaining a diary, the time of occurrence of most of the incidents could be referred to without much difficulty.
My memoirs entitled Smruti Sanlap came to be published in 1999 by Friends Publishers, Cuttack. It is a matter of satisfaction that it received an enthusiastic response from all sections of Oriya readership. The thought that it might also appeal to non-Oriya readers crossed my mind. I felt that the English translation of my memoirs should avoid details having relevance only for Oriya readers, and, instead, focus on events having a greater universal appeal. So I edited and abridged the text keeping the non-Oriya reader in mind.
I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Arun Kumar Mohanty and Shri Jatindra Kumar Nayak for preparing this English translation. I express my gratitude to National Book Trust, India for publishing it. I feel particularly grateful to Dr Sitakant Mahapatra, Chairman, NBT, and Dr Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, Director, NBT for the keen interest they have taken in bringing out this book.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend