Bantala: To make a living, he grows cucumber and goes around selling them too. For a large part of his loyal customers, buying from him, however, is a means to an end as they come to him to listen few lines from ancient religious scriptures.
Meet Mandaradhar Sahu from Poktunga village under Bantala police limits in Angul district. A fairly educated person for his time, he passed matriculation in the year of 1964. His qualification was good enough to get him a decent paying government job, but that was not to be.
Mandaradhar, born in a ‘teli’ family, was bitten by ‘Pala’ and ‘Daskathia’ bug ever since he was a mere child.
“I was so fascinated towards these art forms that no other things would come to my mind. After matriculation, unlike my friends, I did not go for a job. The ardent desire to be an artiste inside me made me scout for a guru,” he narrates.
A famous percussionist of his time, Brajabandhu Mahapatra of Manpur village accepted him as his disciple after realising Mandaradhar’s urge to learn the ‘mrudanga’.
It was because of his dedication and honesty that he learnt the intricacies of playing the mrudanga pretty quickly and became popular too as a percussionist in his locality. Thereafter, he joined pala singer Suresh Sahu’s team and visited a number of villages showcasing his talent.
“After a few shows, I felt I was lacking something. That’s when I decided to learn ‘Danda Nrutya’, a traditional dance form,” he adds.
In his prime, he performed for All India Radio (AIR) and television on several occasions. Five years ago he was recognised as an artiste and has since been receiving a monthly pension of Rs 15,000.
“As a ‘Danda Nrutya’ performer, I have been a shadow of my former self. However, I cannot distance myself from playing the ‘mrudanga’,” he boasts.
He is also known as a good farmer. “I have had the experience of selling cucumber at 75 paisa a kilogram in 1965. No I am selling it at Rs30 a kilogram. Every day I sell about 50 kilograms of cucumbers. In selling so many cucumbers, my talent often helps me,” he chuckles.
Mandardhar doesn’t regret not opting for a job. “I have all along been satisfied in whatever I have done. I believe each of us should listen to our heart’s calling,” he points out.