Cuttack: On the auspicious Netaji Jayanti day all roads in the Millennium City lead to Netaji Birthplace Museum at Janakinath Bhawan, Odia Bazar. With the members of the Cuttack Heritage Walks (CHW) deciding to march towards the memorial of national importance as a special heritage initiative, the patriotic rhythms of the live bands came as an inspiring note with different educational institutions seen also marching towards the same. The heritage walk started with patriotic notes and touched the hearts of all CHW members present there.
Be it a small kid from a play-school or students of higher secondary institutions or social service outfits, people came in hordes to pay their respect to the Son of the Soil, who led the Indian National Army (INA) or Azad Hind Fauj in his effort to liberate our Motherland from the reigns of the British rulers.
But, as a patriotic endeavor CHW’s Netaji Heritage Walk not only started with a trail around and inside his birthplace, but ended with a heavy note with a short film on Laxmi Panda, an unsung INA member who came to limelight by the painful efforts of writer-historian Anil Dhir, also a prominent member of CHW. He also delivered a talk on his struggle and sacrifice to bring honour and pride to Laxmi Panda from Odisha, who was staying in an unhygienic slum in Jeypore in Koraput district, before she was spotted and later shifted here.
The Netaji Birthplace Museum was also decorated with beautiful paintings made by artists at a workshop earlier at Rashtriya Lalit Kala Kendra, Bhubaneswar. The masterpieces of art on the lives of Netaji, freedom struggle and patriotism was admired by one and all. Beautiful flowers on the lawns of the Janakinath Bhawan also created a wonderful setting with people from all walks of life and sections of the society coming to garland the statue of the great leader near the entrance of the museum.
Right from the birthplace to the Azad Hind Radio, provisional government of Azad Hind, study room, the spiritual leaders who were followed by the residents of the small but beautiful palatial home, weapons of INA, Netaji’s prison life and library all came alive. The murals on the walls also created a perfect ambiance for the visitors to tell a tale on the life and work of the leader from the city.
The CHW members, many locals of the Millennium City, also helped their other counterparts in explaining the displays in the museum as it has become a crowd puller on a special day. All enjoyed the trip inside the museum.
FILM ON INA LADY
With the story of Netaji in their mind and fresh after listening to the beautiful patriotic songs, watching a short film on Laxmi Panda, the INA soldier from Jeypore, Koraput, was another unforgettable incident of the day at the Odisha Maritime Museum, Jobra.
The lady, who fought gallantly against the Commonwealth forces during her INA stint was traced by CHW member and noted writer-historian Anil Dhir, who made the short-film more than a decade ago for a private TV channel. In the short and precise film, the maker had perfectly captured the story of Laxmi Panda and how she played the role of a warrior. She had joined the INA even if she was a minor and Nataji himself ordered his juniors to include her in the war camp after listening to her and knowing that she was from Odisha. It was a fact that Netaji was always taking great pride to identify himself as an Odia.
The portrayal of a freedom fighter apart Laxmi Panda, whom one could refer as a true soldier as she had joined the INA to take the revenge on the killers of her parents, the film also showed how she suffered as a person post-INA as she had to wash dishes in other’s houses to make a living. However, never in her life, she asked anyone for help.
Sadly, after the film show, the Q&A session with the documentary maker made all the CHW members depressed as the historian-turned-author narrated how she had to struggle to get her freedom fighter’s pension and citation from the government for her contribution for the nation.
Though Laxmi Panda could not survive long to see the honour coming to her, she died with dignity and national honour and the Odisha Government had commissioned a life-size statue of her in Jeypore and also named a road after her. Another statue of her in the State Capital is still in the pipeline.
As a usual practice, the walk ended with traditional Odia street food, but the return journey was reminding every walker on the great sacrifice of Laxmi Panda. We are perhaps enjoying our lives now in independent India for such thousands of unsung freedom fighters. The film-maker did rightly noted that from Odisha alone there could be more than 1,500 fighters who had joined the INA and fought against the British.