Basanta Kumari Patnaik

The Power of Words

Basanta Kumari always wanted to create her own identity. After everything she faced, she wrote her feelings and life experiences in various Oriya poetry. Even at the age of 84, her love for writing never faded.

In a country with rich heritage and pride, where Hindu Goddesses are prayed for strength, some sections of its society still find girls a burden. During the pre-independence around the 1930s, the situation was worse than the current day. A girl was born in a small village in Ganjam district of Odisha to a lower middle class family. She was named Basanta. Her father was a teacher, she had three brothers and four sisters. During those days girls were not allowed to study much (at max primary schooling). They were rather encouraged to learn various household chores and crafts so that they can become a successful daughter-in-law. The 'Purdah' system still prevailed at that time and girls were not even allowed to speak to their father or brothers directly.

Under such society rules, Basanta defied the society norms and decided to study more even after completing her primary education. Everyone in the family were against her wish. So, with lots of struggle, she managed to complete her studies up to the eighth standard. She also had many hobbies such as music and reading books in various languages. This was also not encouraged much.
In the meanwhile, her family had started looking for suitable grooms for her marriage.

Soon she got married to a well-settled engineer from a nearby village. Though she was happy with her marriage but somewhere deep inside, she always wanted to create her own identity, to use her creativity. But, as per the then societal norms, she was asked to cook, clean and raise kids in her in-law's house. Her husband used to be away from home for many days as his work demanded. She was all lonely with a house full of in-laws who did not understand her dreams well.
Time flew and in the course of it, she became the mother of six beautiful kids. Suddenly, one fateful day, her husband fell seriously ill and passed away within few days leaving her all alone with six kids. Basanta was all broken. She had no money... A little saving which they had was utilized in her husband's treatment. By this time, the family had shifted to a town in Ganjam district, Berhampur.

In these gloomy times, Basanta chose poetry as her one and only friend to express herself completely. She used to pen down her feelings and life experiences in various indirect Oriya poetry. Whenever she felt sad or frustrated with life, she never shared her feelings with anyone in the family. Rather, she wrote it on numerous sheets of paper. Then gradually, she started sending her poems to various local magazines and eventually gained popularity. She was also honoured at various district level ‘Kavi Sammelans’. She was invited to various events as chief guest. Her only support during all this was her family and her belief that all bad times and difficulties come to an end. She supported her kids throughout their lives and all of them are successful professionals now.

Today, she happily lives with her family in Berhampur. She has published a book with all her life's best poetry collections. She gifts these books free of cost to people who seem to give up on life.

At the age of 84, till day, she loves to write poems. Ask her "What is your favourite gift?" and she would happily say like a kid, "A pen and a diary to pen down poetry."


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