Was going through the 30th July 2012 issue of the ‘Outlook’ magazine. It has several articles celebrating 80 years of Indian Cricket. I am not a huge fan of cricket but my husband has always loved the game. He was so excited about enrolling Ahren into the cricket academy yesterday that I decided to read out to him a list of 80 trivia about Indian cricket from the magazine. Joy Bhattacharya, the director of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) writes in trivia number 22 “Tinnu Yohannan is technically the first player from Kerala to play a Test.”
Hello, Mr Bhattacharya, why list that and not Debasish Mohanty who was the first player from Odisha to play a Test? What do I have against Kerala? Nothing. Some of my closest friends are from Kerala. But why list that and not Odisha’s first Test player? What do YOU have against Odisha?
In1999, when we had just shifted to Delhi, an employee from Godrej who had come to repair my fridge noticed I was speaking with my daughter in a language that he was not familiar with. The inquisitive young man in his twenties asked me which language it was. I told him it was Odia and that we belonged to Odisha. He asked about its location. I explained that it was a state near Bengal and Bihar. “Tab toh aapne kabhi fridge nahin dekhi hogi?” he asked. When I asked him why he thought so, he said, “Wahan toh bahut garibi hogi…batti nahin hoti hogi…fridge kaise chalegi?” Young man, my family had a Kalinga fridge even before you and I were born! And it was not only functional in an Odia household, it was even built in a refrigerator factory in Jobra, Odisha.
In early 2000, we met a school teacher in Delhi who ridiculed the way Lalloo Prasad Yadav spoke on TV. “He is so uncouth,” she said, “Your chief minister.” I replied, “But he is the chief minister of Bihar and we are from Odisha.” “Isn’t it the same state?” she asked in astonishment. Remember, she was a school teacher in a government school here in Delhi and taught Geography, out of all subjects. Pity how her students fared! You remember this incident don’t you, Nandita Mohanty?
That was then and in 2012, I expected school teachers in Delhi to know better. To my utter disappointment, nothing has changed since then. My children study in one of the better known schools of East Delhi. My daughter’s social studies teacher(class 9) was teaching them about tribal communities in India and was citing an example about Odisha. Thank God, she knew Odisha was a separate state and it had its own entity! But she went on to say Odisha had the largest number of tribals. It was basically a tribal state with people living in utter poverty. Even today Odisha has no proper communication channels or adequate transport facilities, she added. She said that the state had no rail connectivity and that it had no airport. How ill-informed these people are?
Why does a Bengali start talking to me in Bangla the moment I mention I am from Odisha? Why is it that I am expected to understand and speak Bangla while you ‘merely understand Odia’? Why can’t we talk in Odia instead of Bangla? My friend, I do not just understand and speak Bangla. I can even read Bangla. I take pride in that. But I will not talk to a Bengali in Bangla if she does not speak to me in Odia. Let’s communicate in Hindi or English instead! You think I am being arrogant? So be it!
For the people who ask me if I speak ‘Odishi’, all I can say is “Get educated.”
Who is responsible for people outside the state being so ill-informed about Odisha? Us! Why do we not question it when Joy Bhattacharya writes about the first Test player from Kerala and not about the first Test player from Odisha who as a debutant in International cricket dismissed none other than Sanath Jayasuriya ?
When the “Mile sur mera tumhara to sur baney humara” video was shot, why did we portray Odisha as a land of scantily clad tribals and not one that hosts the Proof and Experimental Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) at Chandipur which is the oldest establishment under the DRDO and the Integrated Test Range which is the test range for the most sophisticated space missiles from India?
Or the temples of Odisha which have their distinct architectural designs to talk about…distinct from the South Indian as well as the North Indian temple architecture? Or the world famous Puri Rath Yatra for the kind of human crowd it attracts each year? Or the Chilka Lake for its annual avian visitors from far off countries?
That brings up another question…why do we always suggest only Puri, Konark and Chilka as Odisha’s tourist destinations? Odisha is so much more…Why not publicize enough about the amazing stalagmite caves of Gupteshwar for its gigantic Shiva Linga that keeps increasing in size over time?
Why not educate non-Odias that the Rourkela Steel Plant is India’s first integrated steel plant in the public sector and that the glass that they drink water from every few hours could very well have been made from steel produced in Odisha? Or talk of the Hirakud dam, one of the longest dams in the world? Or the Duduma waterfalls…one of the highest waterfalls in India? Or the scenic beauty of the Daringbadi hill station?
Odia culture is so much more refined than the cultures of most states in India. Odissi dance is the oldest surviving dance form in India with an unbroken tradition of over 2000 years. There are only 5 main branches of Indian classical music and Odramagadhi or Odissi is one of them. Why don’t we tell people outside Odisha that Sambalpuri is not the only handloom textile Odisha has to offer? We also produce the finest ikat at Nuapatna, tassar silk at Barpali, and Berhampuri pata at Padmanavpur.
Maybe by nature, Odias are not the showy kind! They love to maintain a low profile.
But wake up Odia Bhai o Bhaunimaane, it is an age of publicity..of making your presence felt.
Unless we get up and speak for our state, who else is going to?
Contributed By : Natasha Das
Natasha Das is born and educated in Cuttack, a medical writer based in Delhi since the 90s. She is actively involved in health awareness programs and loves being an Odia !