POET OF SOIL AND SOUL
By Deepsha Rath
A saga of visible history is created by him but his naiveté is never hampered with its impact. Coming from the realm of invisible and unwritten history, he makes a success story for himself and his language.
He is the spirit of green pasture and waving rice flowers and stands like a steadfast banyan tree at the crossroad of our times as if a song springing out of eternity to enrich mankind. He is a prodigy unaware of his own aura of wisdom. A very ordinary looking man clad in Dhoti (loin cloth), he charms people with an illuminating poetic self.
Thousands stand with bated breath to listen to his poems in a time where poetry is taken as an art of intellectual minority, Haldhar Nag, the inimitable poetic mastermind from western Odisha makes poetry as the aspiration of masses. He sings in every festival and occasions and goes on recite his poems for hours and people wants him never to stop. Renowned and critically evaluated as a new creative phenomenon in the western part of Odisha, Haldhar Nag is revered by his people as their own poet.
“The life walks like a shadow and metamorphose to umpteen examples of diversity. I identify it with the Banyan tree at the outskirt of my village. It is the steadfast witness of village life reflecting its solitary presence yet never acknowledged for its tacit benevolence. “This is not a composition of any classicist but an innocent line of rumination of poet Haldhar Nag who is personified as the most influential voice per se in Kosali, a language spoken in western Odisha by bringing it to a platform with its definitive individuality .His poems reflect life in the most basic form.
“Haldhar Nag is an organic creative poet, who has inherited vision of poetry from his local imagination. His mental text and creative thought process drives the language of poetry which is uncommon and unprecedented. If someone has to see a true poet - Haldhar Nag's creative mind a subject of deep cognitive and creative inquiry - sans retention or artificial flamboyance. His narratives are natural like sky and earth”, says Dr Mahendra Mishra , critic Odia Literature.
He was an elementary school dropout but now he has become a subject of scholarly research in the universities. His anthologies of poems have been published by Universities of the state and major publishers are lining up to get his new manuscripts to publish. He is read by the common man and intellectuals alike. His magical and mellifluous voice goes on echoing in the hearts of his people and he charged their soul with vibrating creative energy. He is an innocent wonder who has seen the beauty of life in the lowest strata of society but the limitations could never deter his imagination.
Born in a remote village of Bargarh district called Ghens, Haldhar Nag being a poor orphan survived at villagers’ mercy and earned his meals by working as a hotel boy. He was a struggler and sold peanuts for livelihood. He is one of the most influential poetic voices of the state and yet getting hardly any recognition or laurels. Living beyond the mainstream of literature, he enjoys his poetry as the celebration of life. The BBC documentary showcases his outstanding personality.
The subjects of his village become his first inspiration and he wrote his debut poem “The Grand Banyan Tree” that was an instant success. He hardly reads or writes, poetic imagination comes to his mind from raw and unadulterated life which is visible in his poems that talk about the spirit of innocence. He is a narrator of dust and dew, greeneries and graveyards, little joys and unseen romance. He picked up characters from popular mythology and metamorphosed them as the metaphors of our time. He uses all kinds of poetic style and aesthetic designs without knowing their existence. He is a poet of high spiritual order and also a poet who can easily be identified with modern progressive ideas.
“He is an incredible poet and with a magnificent way of expression. I have worked with him in an upcoming movie based on western Odisha and it was a great experience for me. I enjoy his poems as it connects to the soul”, Says Neela Madhab Panda, film maker.
Poetry is not merely an individual expression of self, rather it goes beyond and transforms a vulnerable society to wake up with its tune to fight for justice. Haldhar Nag hardly writes about politics, but his poetic voice always stood with the people who are marginalized and pushed into the darker zones of life. His epic poem ‘Achhian’ which means ‘The Untouchable’ is a strong critique of caste system and the protagonist fights for justice in the social systems. Mahasati Urmila, Bachhar, Rasia kavi, Veer Surender Sai and many more of his collections are widely read and acknowledged. People have showered their adulation towards him by building several schools, colleges orphanages and public institutions in his name.
“His poems reflect the essence of life and voice of the common man finds its echo in his words. He is blessed with an amazing memory and delivers his recitals with an unmatched expression which set him a class apart.”, sums up S.S Gourahari Das, Convener, Kendra Sahitya Academy .