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Window Seat: Vidyasagar, the giant of a man

27/09/2020 at 7:00 AM

Two hundred years agoon 26 September a baby was born inBirsingha, in present day PaschimMedinipur district of West Bengal into a Brahmin (Bandopadhay) family. He was named Iswar Chandra. He grew into one of the key figures of India’s renaissance in the nineteenth century, a social reformer, educationist, philanthropist, an anti-colonial activist and a linguist.

As a social reformer, his role in changing the status of women in India is remarkable. He attempted to reform the society not from outside, but from within. His study and mastery over the ancient texts convinced him that the status of women was a result of the power structure of the society.

It was the result of his untiring struggle that brought in Widow remarriage Act in 1856. He fought for women education, founded 35 schools for girls throughout Bengal. He also vigorously challenged the practice of child marriage. He fought against the custom of Brahmin polygamy.

As an educationist he brought about unprecedented changes in education and academic administration. He strongly believed that everyone should have access to education. He established about 20 schools across Bengal.

He brought about a revolution in the Bengali education system by changing the way Bengali language was written and taught.

As a linguist he is credited with restructuring the Bengali alphabet. He simplified Bengali typography. He wrote the primer BornoParichayfor childrento learnthe alphabets.

He was a key figure in Bengal’s renaissance, which ignited similar creative and reformative zeal in other parts of the country, including Maharashtra and Odisha.

For his great learning, the Sanskrit College in Calcutta, of which he was the principal for a few years, conferred on him the title of ‘Vidyasagar’. He was also called DayarSagar for his philanthropy.

Ironically his personal life was full of tragedies. As he fought against the orthodoxy, he was subject to criticism from several quarters, including from within his own family. But he trudged on. He was truly a giant of a man.

Abhay Padhi

AbhayPadhi, former Additional Director General of AIR and DD, a great communicator and teacher; a poet and author; an original thinker and able administrator; a great proponent of Koshali language, culture and history left us on 21 September morning. He lost his fight against Corona. He was 71; not a dieable age if one considers the energy he used to radiate and the amount of work he used to do.

We have known each other for nearly three decades. He has been a friend, philosopher and guide to me and Indian Institute of Mass Communication, where I work- with which he has been associated almost from the beginning in 1993. His forte was his encyclopedic knowledge on broadcasting in India, especially radio broadcast.

He was a hands-on person. He used to host several programmes in Sambalpuri dialect from AIR, Sambalpur, which was very popular. He also used to write a column in Sambalpuri in Sambalpur edition of a prominent Odia newspaper.

The best part of AbhayPadhi was that he was always open to new ideas.

His demise is a personal loss and a great loss for the knowledge world of Odisha.

Stealing Flowers

Stealing flowers from other’s gardens, public parks and any other place one can lay hands on is a favourite past-time of many in several towns including capital city Bhubaneswar in Odisha. I know this also happens in many places in West Bengal.

The stealing operation usually happens early in the morning. The flower-stealers would go armed with a specially prepared stick (in Odia it is called ankushi, in Bengali it is called Ankshi) and a polythene bag. Wherever they would see a flower, they would use the stick to pluck it.

Some of the flower-stealers also steal fruits and vegetables. If you catch them stealing flowers from your garden, they will reason it out by saying – “it is for the worship of the God”. I fail to understand this- if God has created everything that we see including the flowers, why should you steal it and offer it to Him!

My friend SandeepSahu writes that Bhubaneswar based Writer, speaker and entrepreneur Hara Prasanna Das has a grievance. Pointing to a 100 meter patch of land by the side of the road in front of his house, he says; “I planted all these flower plants after I shifted to this place in 2010. I have personally tended to them with great care ever since. But people denude the plants of all flowers by the time I get up.

I never get to see a single red ‘kaniara’ that I had fetched from Unit III. And they would give me a stern look if I commit the cardinal sin of asking them why they were doing what they were doing. They seldom argue. But the look on their face says; “Who the hell are you to ask me about it?”

The worst part is they don’t have the patience to pluck the flowers one at a time. In their anxiety to pluck the whole bunch in one go, they would often break the branches. And I have the onerous task of nursing it back to health. Why can’t they be a little patient?”

Translation Day

September 30 is celebrated as International Translation Day. Launched in 1953, International Translation Day is a relatively recent entry into the calendar of world events. Established by the International Federation of Translators, the annual celebration is an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of translators who endeavour to make the world a slightly smaller place by breaking down language barriers and allowing great literature to be enjoyed far more widely.

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and the planet. Translation makes the communication between different languages.

International Translation Day is observed on 30 September as it celebrates the feast of St. Jerome, a Christian scholar and a priest from North-eastern Italy. Hewas the first person to translate the Bible into Latin from the original Hebrew, making it accessible for the first time to a far wider audience. He also translated parts of the Hebrew Gospel into Greek.

He was of Illyrian ancestry and his native tongue was the Illyrian dialect. He learned Latin in school and was fluent in Greek and Hebrew, which he picked up from his studies and travels. Jerome died near Bethlehem on 30 September 420.St. Jerome is considered as the patron saint of translators.

Tail piece: Legal Opinion

 A wife asked legal opinion from her lawyer husband on why wives are supposed to cook food for their husbands.* 

He said, “According to Geneva Convention all prisoners must be provided with food”


The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He writes fiction and plays; and translates Urdu poetry into Odia. [email protected]

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