Keonjhar: He might be a vegetable vendor; however, it is his love for singing that makes him a household name in Keonjhar town.
Meet 52-year-old Umakant Patra of Gambharia village, a most sought after ‘Pala’ singer in the area. If you happen to go to Raspuja Temple Market in Keonjhar, you will spot him selling vegetables. But that is not the only identity he has.
He has created a niche for himself with his singing talent. He is invited to sing ‘Palas’ and that gives him satisfaction. While he sells vegetables to run his family, it is singing that gives him satisfaction in life.
His love for singing dates back to 1985 when he first saw his guru Dayanidhi Das and Dasarathi Das performing on stage. The two maestros enthralled the audience with their performances. It was then Patra was attracted towards singing.
He got the chance to nurture his talent during his college days. He participated in college dramas and songs. Slowly he got inclined towards ‘Pala’ — his first love. Since then, there has been no turning back.
He met his guru Dayanidhi and joined his troupe. This gave him the scope to learn more and perform on stages. Within two years, he perfected ‘Pala’ singing and is now one of the most sought after singers in the area.
People look for him when there are programmes and functions. Though, the profession isn’t profitable, Patra says he does it only for pure satisfaction and own pleasure.
“There is no big money in ‘Pala’. It is just for the sake of self satisfaction I perform on stages,” Patra said adding that he performs 50-60 times a year.
However, he expressed concern that the age-old tradition is slowly fading away. People prefer to go to movies instead of watching ‘Pala’. He urged the government to take necessary steps to keep the tradition going.
“Pala is something to learn from. It depicts age-old traditions, rituals and beliefs. It gives moral values and religious lessons. It helps to spread values of Hinduism to the people,” he says.
His family comprises his wife and three children. While his daughter is married, his two sons are studying engineering.