Devdas Chhotray*

Like a potter who moulds a lump of clay and gives it a shape, Akshaya Bhai has been instrumental in shaping my personality. In 1961, when I, for the first time, wrote a popular song (Jaane Na Mu Kiye Se, Kaha Ghara Jhia Te), I was in my first year of college. The song was broadcast the previous evening. When I reached college the next day, the lyrics of the first stanza was written in block letters on the blackboard. I was petrified of what would happen if anybody came to know that I was the lyricist of the song. I zoomed on my bicycle to his house and narrated the incident. He pacified me saying that our song was a hit and that people have liked it so much that they are scribbling it on walls and blackboards.

Akshaya Mohanty

His stories, poems, writings and most importantly, his consistent efforts to create and innovate are what have made him evergreen. He is the talk to the town today, but 40 years ago, near a betel shop or in Buxi Bazaar chhak, I have seen him at his frustrated low at the fact that people were unable to understand songs like Chakori Kandena, Jochhana Rati, etc. had no takers. Some of his ‘modern songs’ were tagged as obscene and called anti-social. We are excluded from the so-called civilized and sophisticated circles. Our songs were specially inspected in radio stations to determine the nature of their content and if they were acceptable by the conventional norms of the society.

But that same Akshaya Mohanty is a cult figure today. His statues have been established and school children sing his songs. People are felicitating him after his death. Incidentally, he used to tell me that our acceptance and relevance will follow our deaths.

The writer is the former vice-chancellor of Ravenshaw University, writer and lyricist.