By Sambeet Dash
Pandit Nilakantha Das was a strict disciplinarian, a martinet in school though he advocated democracy in decision making. All teachers were consulted before taking any important decision. Similarly the character and academic proficiency of a student was given utmost importance before he was made a monitor of his class (it was a boy’s only school). The class monitors were monitored, lest they misuse the power bestowed upon them.
Meanwhile Gopabandhu made a trip to Shantiniketan – an innovative, model school founded by Rabindranath Tagore in Calcutta to get a first hand view of its operations and cloned a few of its modus Operandi. Satyavadi by now was a School with 400 boarders. Big or small, rich or poor, the students or teachers were asked to do self help, doing all menial jobs themselves – a la the same concept implemented in Shantiniketan.
Mr. Macombe, the British Inspector of Schools was very impressed with the Satyavadi, especially by its famed library which post -destruction due to a deliberate act of arson rose from its fumes like Phoenix. So much so that the SAHEB (As the British were referred then) instructed to all schools under his jurisdiction to extend similar facilities.
Nilakantha Das was tough on his teachers too. Once he overheard an English teacher – “Any word ending with ‘ly’ is an adverb”. A smart student questioned back – “Are Italy and Cicily adverbs too”? Pandit Nilakantha called out this new teacher and asked him to look for a job elsewhere.
The founding fathers of the School knew the adage – “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy”. They took the staff along with all 400 students to the famous Konark temple on a study tour cum picnic trip. They began their walk journey along with an army of 11 bullock carts loaded with logistics.
It was the time of World War I. The students marching in an orderly manner to the “left – right” command of group monitors were mistaken for soldiers by the villagers they passed by. On the way battalion of Satyavadi staff and students camped at BALANGA HATA, and then took a break at NIMAPADA before reaching GOP in the evening.
The locals excited by this sight of the long caravan welcomed them with lantern lights and music of drum beats. They were served a sumptuous dinner, feeling greatly obliged by the august group of VIDYARTHI (students), the prospective future of the society at a time few educated folks adorned the masses. After thanking their hosts, the caravan left early next morning for Konark to reach there by noon. They all spent a few fabulous days there, before walking back to Satyavadi once again – a week well spent from the monotonous drudgery of school life.
Many eminent personalities came as Chief Guests during the Annual Function held in the school every winter. One of them was UTKALA GOURABA (The pride of Odisha) Madhusudan Das. The popular features at the events were SLOKANTA (Antakhyari of hymns), BAKTRUTA (Speech) competitions were regular features, along with DOO DOO (a form of Kabaddi) game.
Impressed, when Utkal Gouraba credited Utkala Mani (Gopabandhu Das) for bringing Nalanda to Odisha, a humble Gopabandhu replied -“Not me. It is our Nilakantha who deserves this credit due to his tireless work and dedication”. Such magnanimous attitude of giving credit where it is due is unimaginable these days.
(This is the 7th in series of recapitulation in the writer’s own words portions of Pandit Nilakantha Das’s Biography in Odia.)
Sambeet Dash is an Odia technocrat living in Georgia US.