By Srimoy Kar
When entire Odisha and the Odia community across the globe sang ‘Bande Utkala Janani’ in unison on Saturday evening, a unique feat was achieved by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Life came to a complete standstill as Odias responded to Patnaik’s call to sing the song as a community to salute COVID warriors for their tireless and selfless efforts to fight the pandemic.
The patriotic song, written by Kantakabi Laxmikanta Mohapatra, was extensively used during Odisha’s struggle for a separate state which became a reality on April 1, 1936 and subsequently became a `state song’. Sung first in 1912 at the Balasore conference of Utkala Sammilani which spearheaded the movement for a separate Odisha province, Kantakabi reminded Odias of the glory of Utkala (Odisha) which always had held her head high and never succumbed to adversity.
But for a man, whose clear discomfort with Odia language has vexed his critics if not his voters, the idea to bring Odias together through this song was, indeed, a master stroke. Who is bothered about his lack of knowledge of the local language when all responded to his call for Odia solidarity? He surely went a step ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s highy hailed call for expression of appreciation for the Covid fighters by clapping, ringing bells or beating thalis. `Bande Utkala Janani’ was evidently far more meaningful, emotive and evocative.
Let us, for a moment, keep aside the impact of such political stunts or oneupmanship in the time of Corona and think of the purpose behind these apparent gimmicks. No doubt, the purpose is extremely noble. It is all about the sacrifice of those putting their self behind in their struggle to fight the scourge which is growing exponentially throughout the globe. Corona has shattered the economy, pushing people to unthinkable misery, particularly those living in the margins of society. Enough has been told and seen about the plight of the people on reverse migration in the last 70 days. Heart rending stories of their sufferings and travails abound in news channels, newspapers and social media every day. Such reports no longer shock us.
Unfortunately, we are so engrossed with our own affairs and worries during the extended lockdown that majority of us have failed to empathise with people who have been fighting a losing battle with Corona, infected or not. On one hand, we are coaxed politically to express our appreciation for the selfless acts of the Covid fighters, on the other, most of us have behaved extremely selfishly. Corona has made us selfish where we have stopped thinking about others. All that we have on our minds is our own safety, well being and security – both physical and financial. Thank God, most of us are lucky to be in our homes.
While we all joined to salute the relentless efforts of doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, cops, social workers and government officials dealing with quarantine centres and desperate migrant workers, let the immortal words of `Bande Utkala Janani’ inspire us to contribute our bit to the society to which we already owe a lot.
The author is former Resident Editor of New Indian Express. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with Prameya News)