BHUBANESWAR: Literature is a mirror to the past that plants the seeds of hope for a bright future, said speakers at the OLF 2020 session on the Pandemic and its Impact on Odia Literature on Saturday. Authors Gourahari Das, Asit Mohanty, Bijay Nayak and Saqti Mohanty in an interaction with senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, said Odia literature, in response to the pandemic, has seen two books which are collections of short stories and poems titled Haata Dhuaa Bela and Lockdown Kabita respectively that depict the outbreak of the virus, the accompanying emotions of fear and uncertainty and celebrate the endurance of humanity.
Both books were released recently. The pandemic may be a new theme in Odia literature, but as an entity, it has witnessed epidemic, famine and natural calamities and taught its people resilience in these trying times, they said. Odia researcher Asit said in the last six to eight months, a number of literary pieces including stories and poetry on the Covid-19 pandemic have been produced by writers like Pratibha Ray, Bibhuti Patnaik, Rajani Mohanty, Tarun Kumar Sahoo, Iti Samanta, Gayatri Sarf and all of them are positive accounts of people dealing with Covid-19 situation.
“Odia literature, in general, has depicted the resilient nature of humanity in the face of epidemics and natural calamities in the past,” Asit said. Similarly, writer and columnist Gourahari Das opined that even as Odisha has not seen any writings on the pandemic in the recent past, epidemics and natural calamities have been time and again explored by litterateurs in prose and poetry.
Citing an example, he said Rebati– which is the first recorded short story in Odia literature written by Fakir Mohan Senapati and published in 1898 – that depicted the epidemic of cholera is an extremely significant piece of work even in contemporary times. Quoting poet Pandit Godabarish Mishra, young author Saqti said Odia poetry and stories have enriched the genetic designs to brave the time and have faith on humanity.
“This pandemic is temporary and our literature tells us that. It has stories of famine and calamities that tell us that our people in the past have been in situations as we are today and overcome them,” he said. The speakers said that a health crisis of this magnitude will leave a strong lasting impression.