BRAHMOTREE MOHANTY, a poet par excellence, left the mortal world last week at 76. Once condemned as a sinner in literature, she was later honoured as a trendsetter, an idol and an icon as well. A rebellious poet as Mahadevi Varma, Amrita Pritam and Kamala Das, she will remain immortal through her writings.
Born in Puri to a family that was rich both in education and wealth – father was a three-time civic chief, mother an ardent admirer of literature and brother Ananta Patnaik was prominent poet – young Brahmotree was well-educated unlike girls of her generation. She was sent to Cuttack and then to Delhi for schooling that resulted in a progressive outlook in her. Along with her study, she continued to compose poems despite lack of publication opportunities during the pre-Independence era.
When a teenager, Brahmotree got married but that proved a boon for the budding writer. Husband Bijoy Krushna Mohanty of the same town was a young and acclaimed writer and after her mother, he continued to be the fountainhead of inspiration for rest of her literary career that spanned over half-a-century.
Brahmotree’s poem was first published in 1953 in the popular literary supplement of Oriya daily The Prajatantra being edited by former Orissa chief minister and prominent literary figure Harekrushna Mahatab. The honest confessions of an aspiring and progressive Oriya woman writer shocked the conventional people who even condemned her. However, Mahatab apart, prominent literary figures like Mayadhar Mansingh stood by her and encouraged her to continue with her kind of confessional writings that had no trace of hypocrisy. And the rest is history.
Anthologies of poems followed, one after another. Publishers made a queue for her contributions. Honours and awards kept pouring in – Orissa Sahitya Akademi Award, Sarala Samman, Prajatantra Bisuba Samman, Sucharita Samman, and Jhankar Puraskar – to name a few.
Fond of their home town Puri, the creative couple led the rest of their lives in Puri. Following her husband's demise a few years ago, Brahmotree was ill and confined to bed. But, loneliness and illness could never dampen her love for literature. She would love listening to the visiting writers about their creations and not hesitate to offer her appreciation or criticism till death silenced her.