“Love and Let Live” is her motto.
“Give me your heart, I will give you God”, she says.
A professor by profession and a writer by choice, Pratibha Ray undoubtedly is a household name in Odisha and in most parts of India through her translated works. She is one of the leading fiction writers in India today. It has been a long journey for Pratibha from the obscure lanes of her village to the secure place she enjoys in the hearts of her avid readers.
As a committed academician she has been involved in active research. Her boldness, courage and commitment to work with the savage and aggressive Bonda tribe was commendable at a time (1985) when even a male researcher shied away from working with them. Pratibha’s voice is a self-searching one, in the quest of true identity. In her works, the woman is redefining her role and determining parameters for herself and the society, in every walk of life and perhaps revolutionizing the concept of womanhood itself.
Pratibha Ray, an Indian academic and creative writer, was born on 21st January 1944, at Alabol, a remote village in the Balikuda area of Cuttack district, Odisha state.
Pratibha was destined to be a writer and this was amply proven by several instances in her childhood. She found a role-model in her poet father, Late Parashuram Das who gave up a lucrative job in the Tata Iron & Steel Company and joined as the first Head Master of Balikuda High School to educate the people help them realize the significance of freedom struggle. He was inspiring the students to join the “Banara Sena” of freedom movement by writing and teaching them patriotic songs. Throughout his life he worked for the spread of education and eradication of social evils. Pratibha’s mother, Late Manorama Devi, was an ideal housewife and at the same time, associated with philanthropic work and social service. Pratibha had her schooling in Balikuda High School. Her father was her friend, philosopher and guide.
Pratibha mostly attributes the boldness, revolt and humanism in her literature to the impact of her Gandhian teacher-father on her. The search for a “social order based on equality, love, peace and integration” continues, ever since the novelist and short story writer first weilded her pen at the age of nine. When she wrote for a social order based on equality without class, caste, religion or sex discrimination, some of her critics branded her as a communist and some as feminist. But she says “I am a humanist; men and women have been created differently for the healthy functioning of society. The specialities women have been endowed with should be nurtured further. As a human being however woman is equal to man”. This attitude has varied manifestation in her fictional works.
My daughter will become a doctor as well as a poetess like Utkal Bharati Poetess Dr. Kuntala Kumari Sabat (1901-1938). It was the fond dream of the loving father Late Parshuram Das. But the sensitive school girl nurtured a dream to become a writer and not a doctor. She left medical college just after taking admission to fulfill her dreams and continued her science studies in Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, Odisha without informing her father. The bold step she took at that age was beyond imagination.
Pratibha married young to Akshaya Chandra Ray, an Engineer in Odisha Government, after her graduation. But the achiever in her was not lost in the hearth-centric life of an affluent family. After sending her three children to school, she did her Master’s in Education and Ph.D in Educational Psychology. Her post-doctoral research was on tribalism and criminology on the Bondo, one of the most primitive tribe of Odisha, India.