Craftspersons/ Artisanal, Obituaries

Obituary: Subal Kumar Patra, Sabai Grass Artisan, Odisha

Ratnakar, Pooja

Just as I had unwound myself in an effort to write about a quaint adivaasi village, Baliapal in Orissa I seem to go into a reverse mode from the present to the day it all began, my tryst with Baliapal….
Just as much as it seemed a struggle to tell this story a few years ago, it seems to come so naturally now that I have trodden this path, and felt at home, welcomed into the open arms of Subal Patra and his family.

Subal Kumar Patra died on Oct 18, 2008, at Cuttack Hospital. I will always remember him as a simple common man, who led a simple hard life with a simple aim, to keep all around him happy.

Fondly known as Patra Babu, he is survivied by his wife, Aarti Patra, his sons, Rajesh, Rakesh and daughters, Nirupama, Anupama and Upama, and a few cats, dogs and a cow.

I first met Subal and Arti Patra at Dilli Haat, in Delhi, almost 6 years ago, where they were trying to sell bags made of woven sabaii grass. From then on it has been a long journey for the Patras, mostly uphill, which is always tiresome and with many hurdles. No awards, no medals, he was a simple man, trying to make his ends meet, while touching others lives. Patra Babu was a self-taught and a self made man, who kept his humor in all times, good or bad. His spirit of life was a part of his work as well. Keeping everyone happy with his offside jokes, the great culinary skills that he learnt over years, and forever lending hand to help others.

The seed of the organization, RAHAA, sowed by Subal Patra, is now being nurtured by his daughter, Nirupama and son, Rajesh, who are doing their best to make his dreams come true, under the guidance of their mother. They are trying to weave his dreams into reality, by the sabaii grass woven products that they continue to make in their village.

What Patra Babu has left for his fellow beings in his village will hopefully lend meaning into the rest of their lives.

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