As if fire was being poured from the sky in Pondicherry in June 2010. A mild shower had brought in little pleasant breeze into the atmosphere of Pondicherry.
The former French colony which came into prominence with the establishment of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
The Ashram was stared with few disciples of Sri Aurobindo after he settled down at Pondicherry relinquishing active politics in 1910.
I had arrived at Pondicherry from Bangalore overnight to extend an invitation for a special lecture at the prestigious National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
I was a regular Faculty member offering a course in legal and political philosophy.
The course was dealing with the issue of obligation.
Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi had made in-depth analysis of the issue of obligation. The other philosopher was Socrates.
Being an authority on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, Prof Manoj Das was the most sought after speaker to dwell on this issue.
With much trepidation and great expectation in heart, I reached his residence. And what? Prof.Manoj Das was at the entrance gate with a big and broad smile on his face.
It took me a little time in realizing that Prof Manoj Das is right infront of me. The pleasant breeze brought in by a mild shower was added with another pleasantness of seeing the great Professor, the literary giant in both English and Odia and an outstanding Editor Prof Manoj Das.
The moment I bowed down and touched his feet, his two hands were on my head.
It was just heavenly and the most cherished moment of life.
It was no less than a long cherished blessing from the heaven. Prof Manoj Das drew me into his residence holding my hand.
Within moments, he called his life Pratigyan Devi and introduced me saying,’ he is Sujit…my friend Narayan Pruseth babu’s son…Sujit is a famous Professor in Bangalore…Please provide us the breakfast….and yes…please do take a photo of me with him.’’.
I was on the cloud nine and did realize little later that Prof Manoj Das has already bowled over my heart with sweet, charming words and enchanting and baritone voice.
The photograph of me with Prof Manoj Das clicked by late Pratigyan Devi has been the most precious asset for me.
Over the breakfast Prof Manoj Das enquired about my activities as an university Professor at Bangalore, my literary works, about my father late Prof. Narayan Pruseth and about Sri Nrsinghnath- a tourist place in Bargarh district at present. Prof Manoj Das had paid a visit to our residence at Padampur way back in November 1985 .
At that time he was the Editor of the prestigious English magazine ‘The Heritage’. He visited Sri Nrusinghnath alongwith my late father in order to collect few information on Sri Nruisnghnath for an article in ‘The Heritage’.
The interactions with him got stretched as he was discussing many issues relating to western and Indian philosophy.
Realizing that it was lunch was time has arrived, he asked me to have lunch. It was a simple lunch yet the most satisfying.
I just mustered courage and asked a question regarding ‘The Heritage.’ Prof Das was having the rice.
Without evading the question, Prof Manoj Das was candid. He said,’ Sujit…you are a Professor at a university, so do I…. there are certain values and ethics attached to the profession which have made this profession the most revered one…Those values and ethics did not allow me at accept unpalatable advertisements.’’ .Prof Manoj Das paused for a moment.
Then he resumed saying,’ in fact it was Swami Ram [the famous author of the book Living with the Himalayan Masters] who offered all help in getting the ‘The Heritage’ published from USA…but the original owners did not allow …’ The meeting with Prof Manoj Das in June 2010 was my second meeting with him.
I was a university Professor. But, prior to that I had the blessed opportunity to meet and interact with him way back in 1991 in Pondicherry while I was a student of Economics in G.M.College,
And to my uttermost surprise, Prof Manoj Das had mentioned about my meeting with him in a letter to my father late Prof Narayan Pruseth.
The letter has remained as the prized possession and the most valuable gift from a intellectual and philosopher par excellence. It was certainly the greatness of a great teacher.
The very first meeting with Prof Manoj Das was in November 1985 when I was a school going kid. At that time, I had no idea about his stature in Odia and English literature.
Prof Manoj Das was touring Odisha as the Editor of ‘ The Heritage.’
What has been the great contributions of Prof. Manoj Das? He was certainly the most knowledgeable authority on the emerging contours of time in contemporary times. His book Kete Diganta [in two volumes]
Dura Durantara; Antaranga Bharat represent the unchallenged authority on subjects like philosophy , history, sociology which he used to offer to readers in Odia English.
The book Stories of Light and Delight published by National Book Trust comes across as the most sought after book by youngster.
The book is the collection of forgotten and lesser known traditional stories which was visually enriched with the masterstrokes by legendary artist Mario Miranda.
The great contributions of Prof Manoj Das has been his unique ability in making the youngsters indulge in creative imagination and inquisitiveness through print format of books.
The contributions of Prof. Manoj Das are certainly eternal.