BHUBANESWAR: Can technology rekindle interest in Odia writing? At a time when the vernacular is fast losing relevance, technology can be used to revive and revitalise Odia language and literature, opined experts at a session dedicated to this topic at Odisha Literary Festival 2018 on Sunday.
Academician and translator Jatin Nayak, who moderated the session, began by citing examples of how printing press in Odisha gave a new life to Odia language and literature in the 1860s. This was the time when Odias did not read fearing that touching books would convert them into Christians as they were being printed by the Missionaries.
“So when Pandit Harihar Das set up a school, Brahmin students did not enter it fearing that they would lose their religion. The change came in when Gourishankar Ray established the Cuttack Printing Company in 1866 from where Utkala Deepika, first Odia newspaper, was printed. People started reading Odia again. This was the first time technology created an opportunity for Odia language and literature,” he said.
Rare Odia books that once gathered dust in libraries are available at the click of the mouse because of digitisation works done by a local organisation Srujanika, he said.
Like oral languages, editor of Sambad and MP Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said, the life span of pen and paper is decreasing. “Technology is democratising the world of language and literature by providing a cost- effective platform that makes writings accessible for all. People in future may not be able to feel the essence of paper books because digitised books will take over. People should adapt to this new mode to take Odia writing to another level,” Patnaik said.
Linguist Debi Prasanna Pattanayak said the Odia writing is facing a situation where reading habit and interest in books have become most essential. “Though technology can sustain and stimulate literature, it cannot create literature. The prime job at hand is to motivate our youth to read Odia literature and write in the language,” said Pattanayak.
Subhashish Panigrahi asserted that Odia language can never die and it is technology that will keep it alive. Panigrahi, who has been instrumental in adding around 14,000 Odia articles on different topics to the Odia Wikipedia, said many dialects of Odia language are extinct today but efforts can be made to revive them using technology. Citing example of China, which has used its language to generate employment, he said the same can be done for Odia language.
He urged people and the State Government to use Odia as the medium of language in politics, governance and education that can give a new direction to the language altogether.