Let’s celebrate his poetry!

He is no more but can a poet of his stature die?

The great Indian poet Jayanta Mahapatra died on the 27th of August, 2023. Death is inevitable but leading a complete life and a life full of passion is unique and beautiful. So, come let us celebrate the life of the doyen of Indian English poetry, Jayanta Mahapatra.

He had received the Nation’s highest awards and accolades for his extensive and exquisite work. Not being a literature student, I did not know about Mahapatra in my youth. I came to know of him when I started writing poetry. Again, another aspect attracted me to him. Many ask me a person of Genetics writing poetry? So, I connected to this great man who being a Professor of Physics wrote poetry. I wanted to know how he amalgamates science and poetry since I am asked the same question repeatedly. I got a lovely answer from one of his interviews, where Mahapatra says, “Physics is the poetry of the intellect and Poetry the science of human emotions”. At times we poets have a dilemma on whether our poems are revealing our true selves. Mahapatra with his clarity of thought and expressions put to rest this dilemma. He says, “Poetry by revealing the person behind the poems, binds the poet to other people”.

I always wanted to meet this great man. At last I met him in January, 2023 in Bhubaneswar at the Toshali Literature Festival organised by the bureaucrat and poet Pradeep Biswal. There he was …this enigmatic tall young man of 95 standing straight with an intelligent twinkle in his eyes.  He gave a very short speech and it still lingers in my mind. He said poems should be short and should touch the heart. A long and boring poem interests none. His positivity, his magnanimity scattered an aura around him. I then had the good fortune of sitting next to him in one of the literary sessions. When he came to know I lived in Mumbai, he told me he had such fond memories of Bombay and he spoke with me in clear, unaccented Bengali. I so loved connecting with this loveable, ever-smiling old man, my father if alive would be exactly his age. I gifted a book of my poems, “Paradigm” to him. He not only accepted it graciously but immediately started reading some of the poems and said “Paramita your poems are so beautiful”. I remember he even called me a week from then and told me he had read all the poems and is fascinated with the scientist turned poet’s poems. His encouragement meant the world to me.

He is no more but can a poet of his stature die? His thoughts, his words and his legacy will remain forever. When I read his last wishes for his funeral, another aspect of him surfaced. Mahapatra was an organised man with a foresight. Let us go on celebrating his life and how we poets who love him want his house which he named Chandrabhaga be made into a museum, a memorial of this great man. His mortal remains has been scattered in his beloved Chandrabhaga but his words will remain in this world forever and ever.


Paramita Mukherjee Mullick

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