Life of a legend

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By Kanduri Charan"s efforts brought Renaissance in Odia literature
  • Published 16.06.14

IIt happened almost seventy years ago. A young boy of Pattamundai left for Calcutta in search of a meaningful life, leaving behind his widow mother, two younger brother and his village playmates.

The young boy from Pattamundai, Kanduri Charan Das, KCD in short, arrived in Calcutta in the year 1943. His sister’s husband Digambar Das was serving as a caretaker of a five-storey building owned by a British insurance company. Poor students from Odisha, those who could not get accommodation in college hostels or afford to stay in lodging houses Calcutta, were staying in Digambar’s residential quarters. Kunja Behari Dash, who later became an eminent literary figure, was one such student. He was a student of Sanskrit College in Calcutta and at the same time a teacher in Brajabandhu Naisya Vidyalay, a night high school. Digambar introduced his younger brother-in-law KCD to Kunja Behari babu and requested him to look after his education at Brajabandhu night school.

It was the Brajabandhu night school which became the learning centre and launching ground of literary career of young Kanduri Charan. The school had a very well-equipped Odia library. He spent a lot of time in reading all Odia books and magazines. A creative urge developed within him. He started writing short stories. He felt encouraged when his short stories were published in literary pages of Dainik Asha being published from Balasore and reputed literay magazines such as Sankha, Bina, Udaya and Kumkum. After completion of his education, he got a job in a British insurance company.

Kanduri Charan was not satisfied only by publication of his short stories in leading Odia magazines. He was very much interested to publish a literary magazine from Calcutta, in which he could publish articles of other young Odia writers. Jadunath Dash Mohapatra, then a law student in Calcutta and Hrudananda Mallick, a social activist, extended their helping hand to fulfil his desire. A literary monthly titled Asantakali got published from Calcutta in 1949 due to their efforts. The title of the magazine was given by Kunja Behari Dash.

Although other three names appeared in the editorial board, it was KCD who really devoted all his time in editing and proofreading Asantakali. Within a short span of time, the magazine turned out to be a household name in Odisha. Young writers such as Ramakanta Rath, J.P. Das, Manoj Das and myself became regular contributor to Asantakali. The poems of Krushna Chandra Tripathy and Gopal Chandra Mishra appeared in every issue of the magazine.

The magazine was printed at Konark Press and owned by Patiram Parija, the sole distributor of Ananda Bazar Group of publications in Calcutta. But after five years, the ownership of Konark Press changed. Jadumani Parija, his younger brother, became the owner of the press. He appointed Shyam Sundar Mohapatra as the new editor of Asantakali. Kanduri Charan quit the magazine and published another magazine, Taranga. Biyotkesh Tripathy and Chaudhury Hemakant Mishra, then student of Calcutta University, inspired him to publish Taranga. After their departure from Calcutta, the publication of Taranga was suspended.

In another development, his marriage with young novelist Kalpana Kumari Devi brought a welcome change in his literary life. Instead of magazine, Kanduri Charan started publishing Rajashree Pocket Books. Most of the crime thrillers of Kanduri Charan and social-historical novels of Kalpana Kumari were published in Rajashree Pocket Books. Three of my novels Nagapheni, Nadi Samudra and Nishanga Naika were also published in these pocket books.

Although writing fictions was his first love, editing and publishing literary journals was his passion. He had a printing press, Kalinga Mudrani, located in Calcutta. Chittaranjan Naik, a businessman and Congress politician, was staying in the same building. He encouraged Kanduri Charan to publish a new literary magazine Kalana.

He also suggested the name of Nandini Satpathy to be included in the editorial board. As Satpathy and Naik were not expected to devote time for the magazine, the editorial responsibility was imposed on me. We opened a window to the new literary talents. The first shortstory of Akshay Mohanty was published in Kalana along with shortstories of Debdas Chhotray. The autobiography of Kalindi Charan Panigrahi was also serialised in Kalana. But unfortunately, when Kalana was gaining ground, Naik left Calcutta to join as deputy minister of Odisha and a few days later, Satpathy also left for Delhi to join Indira Gandhi’s cabinet, leading to the untimely death of the magazine.

After Kalana, when Kanduri Charan gave up the idea of indulging in new venture of magazine publication, Patiram Parija came with a fresh proposal to publish a literary magazine called Nabarabi. He wanted Kanduri Charan to look after printing and met to shoulder editorial responsibilities.

To make Nabarabi a popular family magazine without compromising with its standards, we published full-length novels of Gopinath Mohanty, Kanhu Charan, Surendra Mohanty, Shantanu Acharya, Manoj Das and Rabi Pattanaik. Even shortstory writer Rajkishore Ray’s first novel was published Puja special issue of Nabarabi. We also published full-length drama of Manoranjan Das, serialised travelogue of Akhil Pattanaik and autobiography of socialist leader Surendranath Dwivedy in the magazine. Young writers such as Jagdish Mohanty, Ramachandra Behera and many others found place in the pages of Nabarabi.

As a writer, publisher and editor, he never compromised with quality. When Nabarabi was closed down after the demise of Patiram Parija, he wanted to publish another magazine from Bhubaneswar. But I advised him to publish books instead of magazines. Thus, Chaturanga Publication came into being in collaboration with Granathalaya, a popular bookshop in Bhubaneswar. This new publishing firm published selected writings of Gopinath Mohanty, Sachidananda Routray, Guruprasad Mohanty, Surendra Mohanty, Ramakanta Rath, Sitakant Mohapatra, J.P. Das, Mohapatra Nilamani Sahoo, Kishori Charan Das, Krishna Prasad Mishra, Prativa Ray and novels of Manoj Das and Shantanu Kumar Acharya. He paid full royalty to the authors in advance and created a new history in Odia book publication.

His entire life was dedicated to Odia literature. He was a literary legend in his lifetime. But his long literary innings suddenly came to an end on May 26 last with his demise at the age of 84. He left behind his wife Kalpana Kumari Devi, a Central Sahitya Akademi award winning novelist, elder daughter Shabarni Das, editor of a Bengali journal Prathama and countless readers and admirers.

(The author is an eminent novelist)