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Straight from the heart

Despite not having any formal higher education, Punyaprava Devi, has proved that by sheer determination you can reach dizzy heights.


Punyaprava Devi, with her collection of books.

Aged yet full of youthful exuberance and tough as a teacher but with a tender heart, she radiates motherly vibes with her graceful movements. Every word she speaks comes wrapped with affection and a soothing touch that can cure the maladies of a child. She is Punyaprava Devi, a poetess, novelist and mother of four.

Born on October 7, 1938, in an orthodox Oriya family in Cuttack, she could barely make it up to the sixth class, as women's education was not in vogue in those days. However having been born in a family of writers and poets, the urge for literary pursuits was always simmering deep in her young mind. In direct lineage she had a famous author in the form of her father, N.C. Das, and a Sahitya Akademi award winning poetess sister, Bidyutprava Devi, directly influencing her thoughts.

Punyaprava's modest home was a confluence of literary stalwarts. This acted as a catalyst for her early baptism. Inspired by the high wattage literary environment, she started writing poems and short stories at a young age. Her father, in order to encourage her, asked her to show her works to the assembled poets and authors who, in turn, corrected them and motivated her to carry on the good work. From then on there was no looking back.

Children and nature always enthused her, and this combination is seen in almost all her works that she has dedicated to them. "Nature is gods gift and children are the gift of Nature, so the synergy is divine and pristine in all forms," she avers.

`Tiki Raija' her first juvenilia, is a compilation of such a motif in the form of short poems. Published in 1956, she caught the imagination of the children and could successfully bring out the child in her. The book met with great success and was widely appreciated. It was "Kalia Balada Gala Gala', her second book, that fetched her the National Award for best children literature in Oriya, in 1960.

Post-marriage, she shifted to Visakhapatnam in 1964, and ever since she has made this city her home and its reflection is seen in almost all her later works. But unlike most of the Indian women who are forced to close all openings for the pursuit of their choice, she continues to carry on her work, ably supported by her husband.

Punyaprava Devi's keen observance of the Indian bourgeoisie and her depiction of the struggle and travails of the average Indian women is intricately woven in her novels. In all of her books she has been able to portray women with life size characters as the nucleus, picking up small events and factual happenings from day to day life. Her novels, `Punaschu Prithivi', `Surrogate Mother' and `Sudur Saikat', are vivid tales of women who have achieved success through sheer determination and dedicated struggle touching one's finer sensibilities, and can engross readers long after one has read them.

So far she has authored ten children's books, four novels and two anthologies of short stories, with one novel and an anthology under print.

Besides the National Award she is also the recipient of quite a number of awards from various institutions like Orissa Lekhika Sansad and All India Radio to name a few. Language is no barrier for her, she is equally fluent with Bengali, Hindi, Telugu, Assamese apart from English.

"Awards and fame are not my motivation, but the burning desire to write and write more keeps me going. The show must go on irrespective of such materialistic recognition," Punyaprava Devi asserts.

By S . B

Photo: K.R. Deepak

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