A superannuated Reader from the Department of Odia Language & Literature, Bhima Prusty is a prolific writer, who has bagged this year’s coveted Sarala Award. He has tried his pain in very many Odia literary genres like short story writing, novel writings, children’s literature and the like. Prusty took to writing as a fish takes to water. His first short story collections entitled as “Nirbachita Galpa Samkalan” was published in the year 1980. It was followed by a quick succession of creations like “Ho Manisa Mane” (2002), “Peta ‘O’ Petatala” (2003), “Adhe Manish” (2003), “GaparaHataGoda” (2008), “Lachhamania” (2008), “MananiyaSrijukta”, (2017), collected short stories “Nirbachita Galpa Samkalan” (2017), “Chalis Barsa Chalis Gapa” (2021), “Nabakalebara” (2022). His novels are “Muhana”, Chandrabhaga” (2002), “KabitaraUpanyasa” (2002), “Priyanari” (2004), “Samudra Manisa” (2006), “Omm” (2009), “Kuade Chalichha Ruha Panchabhuta” (2011), “Jambuloka” (2017), “Chari Upanyasa” (2019). His children literature creations include his collections as “Hira Moti Manika” (poetry collection), (2020). Awards and accolades poured upon him like “Chandrabhaga Kanhei Katha Puraskar-1994”, “Nirmata Puraskar-1998”, “Bibartana Samman-1998”, “Odia Juba Lekhaka Samman-1999”, “Gokarnika Samman-1999”, “Adwaita Katha Samman-2002”, “Swara ‘O’ Swakshar Samman-2002”, “Bhubaneswar Behera Sahitya Samman-2003”, “Sibaram Patra Smruti Samman-2006”, “GopabandhuSaraswata Samman-2007”, “Anandapur Sahitya Samman-2007”, “Galpika Chintamani Sahoo Puraskar-2008”, “Akhila Katha Samman-2008”, “Odia Sahitya Academy-2008”, “Birupa Sahitya Sansad-2010”, “Paschima Upanyasa Samman-2014”, “Fakir Mohan Sahitya Sansad Sambardhana-2016”, “Rangaraj Puraskar-2016”, “Kadambini Galpa Samman-2017”, “Anwesha Sahitya Samman-2018”, “Tapasya Srujan Puraskar-2018”, “Kadambini Bibhuti Pattnaik Upanyasa Samman-2021”, “Utkal Sahitya Samaja Sukadev Sahoo Upanyasha Samman-2021”, “Akshya Mohanty, Sahitya Samman-2022”, “Abani Baral Sahitya Samman-2023”. He believes that the hitherto future generation of Odia writers should explore the Odisha locales, Odia local habitations and colour by providing them a transforming touch to the otherwise film of our familiarity in order to take Odia literary creations to dizzy heights of glory while not to lag behind other pan-Indian literary scenario. In an interview to The Pioneer, Prusty spoke to Sugyan Choudhury on his literary journey and on the many issues concerning his creations.
Could you please share with us your feelings after having won the 2023 Sarala Award?
I am delighted. Sarala Award is prestigious and the previous awardees are all stalwarts in Odia literature. Some of them are trendsetters and have created their own narrative styles. The award comprises cash of Rs 5 lakh, which is one of the highest payments in the country.
What are the trends and styles in the contemporary Odia fiction? Do they match their pan-Indian counterparts?
There are different kinds of novels being written in Odia such as historical, psychological, realistic, moralistic, sentimental, romantic, based on nostalgia about recent past and rarely political or philosophical. We can hardly find novels about diaspora or immigration or dystopia. But the number of novels produced here is comparatively no less than those in vernacular literature of different regions in India.
How do your writings stand apart from those of your peers?
It depends what I plan to write. It may be about a few characters or a place or a journey to explore about a legacy or autobiographical. I do participatory research, undertake background study and construct the narrative painstakingly over a few years. Usually, I take much care about the choices of my subjects.
How do you appreciate the writings of Odia novelists who have received national recognition?
Many of them belong to the neo-classical tradition. A few writers are modern with a focus on an individual's angst and predicament. Seldom do we find award-winning writers dealing with contemporary social or political issues. My favourite writers are Gopinath Mohanty, Jagdish Mohanty.....
Which novels of yours have earned for you the coveted Sarala Award? Could you please elaborate on your award-winning creations?
“Jambuloka” (The Land of No Return) won the Sarala Award for 2023. This book is about the Bangladeshi refugees and their settlement (illegal) on an island, Jambudwipa, not far from the Paradip Port on the shore of Bay of Bengal. Most of the refugees are Hindus who were forced to leave their home and motherland and finally got anchored in a seaside place seeking shelter and certified recognition from an alien government. This book is about their perilous journey and new life they adapted. The narrative was based on exhaustive interviews, reports, recorded observations spanning many years and personal involvement and anecdotes that perhaps spice up a radical way of storytelling.
My other novel, a short one, “Samudra Manisha” (The Sea Man) got Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award in 2008. This book is about two villages and its memorable and mind-blowing characters who are on the verge of disappearing into the sea where its level is rising every year by few inches due to sever climatic change in our atmosphere.
What are your messages for the future generation of Odia writers?
One can only say to fellow upcoming young writers: Continue learning about your mother land Odisha and your mother tongue Odia in its myriad variants and colours and tastes and local flavours. Let's explore communities. Let's venture into landscapes, old and challenging. Let's discover humanity once again among the people about whom we choose to write. Let's participate in the life process about which we intend to write. Let's do research, collect data, listen to the people's stories and invent a style of narrative of our choice and imagination.