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The bard of Ghens

By September 28, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

Haldhar Nag writes poetry in his native Sambalpuri to document life in his region and bring about social reform

There are several examples of literature which document the realities of the time and the poems of 67-year-old Sambalpuri poet Haldhar Nag have done just that as they record happenings in his hometown Ghens in Bargarh district of Odisha. For four decades now Nag’s poems reflect on the socio-political aspects of the region, matters that often remain ignored by the mainstream media. His works have created a movement that demands focus on Sambalpuri literature. he himself has composed more than a thousand poems in Sambalpuri.

Haldhar was in the city at the Jagannath temple complex, Daspalla Hills,to join the cultural event organised by Utkal Sanskrutika Samaj to celebrate Nuakhai Bhetghat, a festival that marks the arrival ofnew rice in Western Odisha.

Some of his long poems that have more than 300 stanzas include ‘Mahasti Urmila’, ‘Achhia’ and ‘Tara Mandodari’. Other poems have been published as Haldhar Granthabali and with themes like oppression, environment protection and mythology. The Sambalpur University has included Haldhar Granthabali–2as part of its syllabus.

“Back in the day we had teachers who had studied till fifth or seventh grade. I never felt I needed more education to be a poet and voice of change,” says Haldhar who dropped out of school after the third standard. It was during this time he started writing poems. He took up a job as a cook in the village at the age of 10 and worked in that profession for 16 years. Later he established a modest stationery shop in Ghens after taking a loan of ₹1,000.

Gifted poet

Even as a teenager he was sought after in Ghens as someone who sang folk songs. Haldar’s journey as a poet took a professional turn in 1990, when his first poems — ‘Old Banyan Tree’, ‘The Cuckoo’ and ‘Conscience’ — were published in a local magazine. After years of writing and public recitals, Haldhar’s literary work was finally recognised by the Odisha Sahitya Academy in 2014. Two years later, he received the Padma Shri. He says, “I don’t write for social validation. My work was well received in Odisha. But I feel the awards will help in the revival of Sambalpuri literature.”

His works have been translated in English, Telugu, Hindu, Bengali, Odiya and Nepali. However, the rhyme schemes are best captured in Sambalpuri, which he developed listening and singing folk songs while growing up.

Singing for revolution

“I like to capture the atrocities around us in verse so that we don’t forget them and can bring about change,” says Haldhar who wants his work to keep the spirit of social reform alive.

His poem ‘Why did he leave his home?’ recounts the visit a minister makes to a village and how the hopes of the villagers for better roads, access to water and other development are tied to the visit of a politician. Predictably, they get nothing barring instant sops such as clothes and food and no promises of development. The poem ends with the minister’s car running over a blind villager named Phagnu. Haldhar Nag writes in the poem, “People said ‘Good that he met his doom\ He knew the minister was coming\Why did he leave his home?’”

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