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Sailing away – An adaptation of Akshaya Mohanty’s ‘Ja Re Bhasi Bhasi Ja’ on canvas

Blogger: Charudutta Panigrahi

Chairman of FIDR, Bhubaneswar

Meandering river

Blue waves slithering,

Lissome maiden,

Nimble-footed on the stone

Lighting every creek,

With her coy outpour

On life’s gondola

Through the curvy path

Meandering river

Every nymphet has a story and so does every bend in the river – well juxtaposed. As the boatman oars along Mahanadi the maiden at every anchor has something to tell him. Who else can she confide in?

The waterman is her friend for the moment because the next moment he is gone along with the flow. That’s the flow of life. Today here, not there tomorrow. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass and the world is too full to talk about.” That’s where she needs a moment, your moment, Oh Sailor. She has so many emotions to share, so many family wires which would design her future life. Has anyone ever asked, what she wants? Her life partner is to be decided by others, excluding her.

This ballad, the first of its kind in Odia, became a chart buster and remains a cult narration of geographies, demographies and their specificities. A treatise on middle class, Odia families caught between groom hunting for their daughter, the struggle of catering to the new capital Bhubaneswar’s clerk groom’s ‘demand’, the helplessness of the dark complexioned girl and the confidence of a Cuttacki girl, ready to face the world on her own terms.

At every curve on the canvas, I meet the beauty (because for me the sailor, a maiden is a maiden is a maiden) as a confidante and a gypsy listener. Someone is needed to listen to her. She has a voice. At home everyone is busy crafting her life except herself. But this doesn’t dampen her spirits – she is still aware of her beauty, the need to preserve her ‘demure’ persona. Her gaze is straight and her conversation uncharacteristically confident.

Only Akshaya Mohanty could pen this, compose this with all the elements of folk tunes and still make it popular and not pedantic or boring. Lines like “Majuchi suna diha”- scrubbing the golden body- colours it ‘flirtatious’ or ‘cheeky’. That’s refreshingly natural and ahead of its time for the prudish seventies.

I can see the ballad on the canvas – the boat trudging along the slithering small waves of ‘the big river’ (Mahanadi), anchoring at Sambalpur, Kantilo, Banki, Cuttack and downstream with a palette of white and blue, lines of thick tresses of hair basking on the bathing stones, sheer un-inhibition of the lolita at every creek. The protagonists are three or four and the story is lively enough to be captured on the canvas.

Truly, life and romance begin with water and taper with water, the boatman being the mute witness, till he calls out to his friend at the other shore. I miss the nauria daka (the shout out of the boatman). There is no water and there is no witness.

About the author:

Charudutta Panigrahi is a celebrated policy analyst and the Chairman of FIDR (Foundation of Integrated Development and Research) a social change organisation based in Bhubaneswar. He has worked as senior professional at the national and international levels in diverse areas. He writes regularly for dailies, journals, blogs on as diverse topics as health, budget, music and revolutions.

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