My Hero – Biju Pattanaik

Posted on August 2, 2013
Location: London
My Hero – Biju Pattanaik

Bijayananda Patnaik, popularly known as Biju Patnaik has become a legendary hero in his life time. He has proved that greatness does not descend to a man automatically. It is acquired by hard labour, perseverance and sacrifice. In a very short period he has distinguished himself as an aeronautical engineer, navigator, an ace pilot, industrialist, an eminent freedom fighter and above all a crowning statesman of national and international repute. A rare celebrity indeed !

He received science education at Ravenshaw College. Cuttack at the Aeronautical Training Institute of India and at Delhi Flying Club. He developed a keen interest for sports in his student days and captained the University Team in football and hockey. He was a lover of adventure. In these days, the young boys were taking up flying as a sport and adventure. His intense love for sports and inclination for adventurous feats landed him in Delhi, where he was trained to fly high in life. He became a distinguished Pilot and Navigator. He joined Indian National Airways and became its ace pilot. He also served as the head of the Air Transport Command1 during the war years of 1940-42.

Modern Orissa cannot be thought of without Biju Patnaik. Man is mortal, but his deeds make him immortal. He attains immortality by dint of his brave and heroic actions. Biju Patnaik was such an immortal man. Respected as a messiah and admired as an epitome of courage, Biju Patnaik stood like a colossus. He was respected by the masses for his charisma. He was a man who created history, changed history and shaped history. And the history he shaped as the history of modern Orissa. His mission was the emancipation of Orissa from poverty and negligence. The nation still remembers him for his extra-ordinary bravery in “Indian Freedom Struggle”, “Indonesian Freedom Struggle” & “Kashmir Operation in 1947”. The noble and heroic deed of Biju Patnaik was duly recognised by the Indonesian

Government. For his act of bravery at this critical juncture, he was awarded ‘BHOOMI PUTRA’, the highest Indonesian award and a rare distinction ever granted to a foreigner.

Biju Patnaik’s presence was visible both in his success and in his failure. The true son of the soil, he demonstrated pride and self-respect of the Oriyas. He did not budge before anyone, however powerful he might be. The only interest he had was the dignity and honour of the Oriyas. It was evident in his speeches in the State Legislature and in the Parliament, in his recorded discussions and interviews to the Press, and in his correspondences.  Some of his often quoted sayings include   (i)  ‘To be born poor is not a crime but to remain so is indeed a crime,’  (ii)  ‘If a thing can be done now, do it at once and do not defer it to the next day,’  (iii)  ‘Be loyal not to me but to the destiny of the State,’  (iv)  ‘Orissa is a rich state where poor people live,’  (v)  ‘Be a pride to your State and not a shame.’

Biju Patnaik tried his best to bring about an industrial revolution in the state. The Choudwar and Barbil industrial belts, the Cuttack-Jagatpur Mahanadi highway bridge, the Bhubaneswar airport, Orissa aviation centre, Paradeep Port, Express Highway, the MIG factory at Sunabeda, the Thermal Power Plant at Talcher, the Balimela hydel project, the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, the Panchayat level industrial projects, Engineering Colleges, some of the major Public Sector Undertakings of the State, the Orissa State Planning Board, the reorganisation of districts, etc. were some of his outstanding contributions.

He wanted the Oriyas to achieve excellence in every field.  An Oriya boy born seven decades after this great Oriya was born feels proud of the fact that he is born to the same race to which Biju Patnaik belongs.  No other Oriya has ever bridged such a generation gap. Many of Biju’s dreams remained unfulfilled. His dream to industrialise Orissa could not be fulfilled. Orissa, situated in the eastern seaboard of India, has a rich cultural heritage just as it has been endowed with vast natural resources. But it has also been a state neglected over the years resulting in its backwardness and under development. Biju’s mission of making the state rich and prosperous remained a dream. He had a multifaceted personality a freedom fighter, a pilot, an industrialist, Chief Minister of a state and Union Minister, all combined into one. His life is an extraordinary saga of adventure and sacrifice, valour and dedication.

His death was an irreparable loss to the nation. Lakhs of people from all over the state bade a tearful farewell to their dear leader. Biju was a man who never let Orissa down. He tried to follow the saying of Bhima Bhoi, a nineteenth century poet, who wrote:

Boundless is the anguish and  misery of the living  who can see it and tolerate ?  Let my soul be sent to hell but let the universe be redeemed.

These are the lines, which Biju often quoted and followed.

As I compose this,  memory of my little encounter with this great personality, gets fresher in my mind…I was a school going kid then in Cuttack, following him curiously, all trough the evening, like a paparazzi, when he was arrived to inaugurate “Annual Book Fair” in Cuttack. Yes, only he had the ability to take my attention away, from my regular after-school session of “Cricket”, and give me a reason to attend the Book Fair!

Ladies and Gentlemen – on this very cultural annual OSUK day, let’s remember this heroic soul, who had given us better identification & made us proud, nationally and internationally.

Published in OSUK Magazine -  Year 2009 by BCM

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