Prof. Umesh Chandra Nayak

Prof. Umesh Chandra Nayak
Principal, Khaira College, Khaira, Balasore
“Human kind cannot bear very much reality”
Burnt Norton: Four Quartets T.S.Eliot.

Reality is endless. It is immense and intense. This prompts the artists to present actuality in a palatable dish for reader’s consumption. To achieve the end he adopts myriad means or artifices. He dreams and beams amidst trials and tribulations of life and the readers are entwined and enticed by his creative world through folklore, fairy tale, fable, superstition, supernaturalism, serendipity, fantasy & realism, magic through ghosts, fairies, mystery, animals, trees, spirits, Premonitions hallucination, poetic justice and divine justice. Once Manoj Das said about the choicest themes he contemplates; he said, “Natural and supernatural characters and situations, denizens of forests too, are the means through which my themes find embodiment.” He makes the mundane magical. Through the mist of magic he cajoles the readers unwittingly to peep beyond. Dr. Srinivas lyengar remarked, Manoj Das creates an autochthonous world (as he has in the Submerged Valley) which by its very virtue of uniqueness leavened by a quaint-essential Indianness have won him a discriminating audience cutting across the borders of geography, clime and culture. Psychological realism he presents in abundant measure but the dreams and fantasies, the awe and wonder, the height of sublimity related to the depth of psyche lifts the realism to a much higher plane where he transmits a poetic sense of life and even a kind of near-total vision. He is possessed of a keen ear and piercing eyes for the oddities and eccentricities, deviations and anomalies, quirks, wastrels or tramps. His imagination draws realism in words to reveal the subterranean truth of facts beyond appearance, through manifold images and often through elemental symbolism.

The present paper is a humble attempt to unravel sublime consciousness of the Manoj Das creation ‘The Submerged Valley’ through magic majesty embedded.

Henrik Ibsen in his play ‘Pillars of Society’ articulates his thesis is to advance forward: emancipation by ordeal: Emancipation or freedom from hypocrises and deception and self- deception is something moral or spiritual that leads to the flowering of spirit. The lack of such freedom is enervating. It is a hindrance to progress in both individual and social levels. Life stagnates only when it is opposed to hazardous experiments and remains quiet and peaceful. Rorlund, the school master in “Pillars of society” considers himself ‘the moral pillar’ of the community, is opposed to hazardous experiments. For he stands for the status quo that both guarantees and sustains social stability. In his eyes, a pillar of society is the successful citizen and patriot who subscribes to the ways of life cherished by a given society. Naturally he is critical of ‘the bigger nations’ for they submit to ‘the new-fangled things’ which breeds suspicions and ferment and discontent and instability. But the fact is this: the submission to hazardous experiments or the willingness to try alone can foster progress. This is what Ibsen hints at in his Portraitures of Johan Tonnesen, Miss Lona Hessel, Dina Dorf as well as of Olaf with his suppressed love of adventure. Ibsen is definitely opposed to what may be described as ‘The quiet, peaceful, stagnating life’ Manoj Das stands on the threshold of a new era and heralds it without silhouetting the past. According to him life is to flow on unabated, unchecked and unumbraged. All should bask in the sun shine of life.

Modernity is serendipity. It is a blessing. Literature captures its milieu. J.A.Cuddon says:

“As far as literature is concerned modernism reveals a breaking away from established rules, tradition and conventions, fresh ways of looking at man’s position and function in the universe and many (in some cases remarkable) experiments in form and style”.

Manoj Das is a true modern. He never loathes it but present its pulse and impulse through captivating magic majesty &-mysticism. He says:” I am a student of great lores- including mythology, philosophy and mysticism. My interests in such subjects has never stood in the way of my creative writing. They help my inner understanding of truth and life”.

His fictional works portray a vision of complex reality that shows faithfulness to everyday, physical reality as well as to the unfamiliar world of super reality existing beyond. He presents this complex reality by twining mundane with the fantasy both in themes and techniques. In most of his fictions he deals with unfamiliar themes by the use of various magical devices like coincidences, consequentialism, poetic justice and divine justice, supernatural powers, dreams, mythology and make a perfect blending of fantasy & realism to convey the fantastical features of reality.

In ‘The Submerged Valley’ the dam is to be built for the general welfare. Brushing aside the public ire Father Engineer says:

“Where is Harappa today and where is Babylonia? Time has wiped them away just for the sake of change. On the other hand, if we are losing our lands, it is a change for the better, for the welfare of a larger population. XXX where can we find a village that had no shrines? Can any Project succeed if such sentiments are respected?”

These lines have deeper connotations that not only herald change but yoke tradition with modern, aboriginal and phenomenal, physical and spiritual, magical and real. The majestic embankment chimes in with memories of past basement of the village submerged with its trees, temple and many more habiliments. On listening to the visit of the site, child Manoj recounts: “The temple and the hillock had always remained green in my memory. Their reappearances in this novel setting naturally gave me a strange sensation of excitement tempered by sadness”. But the Stubborn Abolkara stays put and as a symbol of ancient that resists change, saunters around for years when he is recovered by not the cruel Engineer father but a transformed father with abundant milk of kindness.

Strangeness is heaped copiously when the villagers of the submerged village question Abolkara:

“Do tell us, will you? How did you manage to breathe under water for five long years? What was your diet? to which Abolkara says in his usual eerie indistinct way: “like that, like that!”. Father went on coaxing Abolkara to come down the hill. It was unheeded. Gale galed gaily. The launches start back. They swirl and twirl at the gnarl of the wind. The lake looked fearful. Putu clung to mother. The present got blurred into the past: Past and Present mingled and merged. Child Manoj says: “In the howling wind I heard the cries of the ghost of the village lying drowned.” An eerie atmosphere is built up. But the unprejudiced & undaunted Father Engineer went back to the hillock and rescued the beaming Abolkara not the booming one – a metamorphosed being – no more recalcitrant but a vibrant being amazingly emerged into a sublime fellow of a new self and ennobled soul.

‘The Submerged Valley’ is a metaphor of all our sensory world where we are embedded in the quagmire of senses Eliot in his Four Quartet says:

“Grlic and sapphires in the mud

Clot the bedded axle-tree xxxx

As we grow older

The world becomes stranger:,

The pattern more complicated”.

In his ‘Myths, Legends, Concepts & Literary Antiquities of india’(2009) Manoj says about 10Avatars:

Matsya being the first Avatar, is the primeval descent of life (consciousness) in the water. Then comes Kurma(Tortoise) in which the creature now crawls to the land signifying unfoldment of a new phase of consciousness. In Varaha(Pig) is marked the evolution of life force capable of fighting against the odds of its environment. The avatara of Narasimha is the image of transition from the animal to man while Vaman avatar marks the beginning of man. The next avatar of Parsuram symbolizes the fully developed man. With the Krishna avatar is revealed the spiritual potency of man. The Buddha avatar exudes enlightenment and nirvana. If anything otherwise happens Kalki comes and does away with heinous elements and heralds a new era.

In Gita Krishna says:

” Life is not meant to be spent as a plaything of prakriti, Nature or to be tossed about like a tiny ball on the violent waves of passions, hopes and frustration, birth, procreation & death, life’s ultimate purpose is to realize the Divine.”

We are all flowers of the divine tree-the stem in the branch and the branch is inset in the devine tree. Through this world of submerged Valley an Engineer father could be honeyed and an Abolkara the resistant, hesitant is moistened and softened to a new entity. That is why Manoj Das says:“I adore the hidden divinity in man; I feel deep empathy much more than sympathy, for several parts of myself are present in my characters – for the helplessness of man, his propensity for falling into the traps of the darker forces – call them lower nature of Avidya – and I abhor the elements of cruelty and hypocrisy in man”.

It can be concluded that through magic majesty Manoj lifts his readers from this submerged world of maya(illusion) to greater climes of sublime. With his resilient imagination he goes beyond and merges the East and the West, traditional and modern , original & derivative, ancient avant-garde, modern & post modern, philosophy and folk, poetic & critical, intellectual and emotive, myth and legend and makes his outlook broad and brood on cosmopolitan belonging to time and timeless.

Works cited:

Cuddon, J.A.- Modern literature.

Das, B.K.(ed)-Invitation to English-2

Orissa State Bureau of Text Book.

Das, Manoj- Myths, Legends.Concepts & Literary Antiquities of India, New Delhi, Sahitya

Academy, 2009

Ibsen, Henerik-Ibsen: Plays, OUR 1975

About Manoj Das

For thousands of men, women and children of the past two or three generations, Manoj Das has been the very synonym of light and delight, whose writings in Odia and English inspire in his countless readers faith in the purpose of life and also open up concealed horizons of confidence and compassion in humanity a dire need today.