By Rashmi r Parida
They may live from their state thousands mile away but their love for their state never faded. New Media have played a crucial role in bridging boundaries and crossing the seas and enabling Odia community to communicate on a common platform. In recent years so many Odia young techies working relentlessly to popularize Odia language in different ways. They take initiative to make Odia language the most preferred one in internet communication among Odia people, no matter where ever they are.
Be it in social networking sites, blogs, websites, groups, email , chat or any medium of internet communication, these groups of Odia youths developing technical know how to communicate in Odia language and script. While Indian languages like Tamil , Hindi , Telugu etc. are marching ahead with its rich features and sophistication of usage on computers and world wide web, Odia language has been far behind. But Odia youths take initiatives to add rich features and sophistication of usage to Odia language in world wide web.
Among them Delhi-based Gora Mohanty who involved in the IndLinux and the Rebati projects. Rebati is an initiative for FOSS computing in Odia. Mohanty is a Gamma-ray Astronomer by Profession having PhD from Iowa State University, USA and also associated with his postgraduate work at colo- Polytechnique, France.
Another Odia techie Prashant K Sahoo who is based in USA also developed Aprant Dynamic Font. It is compatible and enable for web for both viewing and writing on various browsers. Its dynamic font is supported not only on old version but also many new versions of the browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera on Windows, Linux and Mac Computers.
Many people don't know Odia Wikipedia (or.wikipedia.org), a free online encyclopedia in Odia language also exists! Wikipedia exists in 280 + world languages and 20 + Indic languages. Odia Wikipedia was started way back in 2002, but it remained very less active for 8 long years. After Feb 2011 volunteers started contributing to it and now its 2500 + article rich. Anyone having access to internet can write on Wikipedia by adding reliable sources as references, so personal views and biased information doesn't dissuade people to rely on Wikipedia.
Many Odias in Odisha, India and abroad have taken interest their knowledge with the rest of the world in reviving presence of Odia language on internet for free. The volunteers who contribute to Odia wikipedia (also known as "Wikipedians") meet each others to discuss finding new ways to reach to more people and help them to contribute to Wikipedia.
Similarly Odia youths in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are driving new forms of social interaction, dialogue, exchange and collaboration. Social networking sites enable Odia users to swap ideas, to post updates and comments, or to participate in activities and events, while sharing their wider interests. From general chit-chat to propagating breaking news, from scheduling a date to following MLA abduction by Maoists or coordinating flood relief, from gentle humour to serious research, social networks are now used for a host of different reasons by Odia community across globe.
Subhashish Panigrahi, a contributor and consultant with the Wikipedia is very expectant about Odia Wikipedia. "I was out of Odisha for years and to keep me rooted to my language and culture I started contributing to Wikipedia, but the real success is all these people who are voluntarily devoting their time for Wikipedia", he says.
Dhanada Mishra, Chairman at Human Development Foundation said that, "There are three major ways Odiya language based resources can be promoted online. One is Odiya operating system for mass use of computers and computing devices. Second is large scale availability of Odiya language web sites and web portals as well as useful content. Third one is Odiya Wikipedia, which is an important tool for development of online resources in Odiya for all. Interestingly all the above are being mostly driven by what is known as open source technology and voluntary collaborations of Odiya techies worldwide."
He further said that, "IT department and OCAC, all they need to do is invest some money in promotional campaign and some support to what already people are doing voluntarily.
Its the best use of Government resources ever possible."
Sabita Mallik, a researcher and housewife based in UK expresses her grief saying, "Odias across the world are not getting to know each other and facebook is a saviour for us to reach out to them, when I came to know about wikipedia I was very surprised to find that Wikipedia also exists in Odia language, I can contribute in so many articles on traditional crafts of Odisha".
Manoranjan Behera, a VFX artist based in Mumbai excitedly expresses, "Wikipedia is not a small thing, it's about how much we can imagine and moreover it's in our own language. Lets promote it to as many people we can!" Krupasindhu Muduli sun of famous Odia singer Arbind Muduli, another VFX artist based in Bhubaneswar who has contributed many articles and pictures related to music and film industry says, "Wikipedia is such fun, I have spent some quality time on Wikipedia and contributed resources which will be helpful for other people".
Swetapadma Satapathy, a rural development manager in AP Govt who has spent time in remote areas in Koraput district says, 'Tribal culture has such interesting things that the world should know, Odia Wikipedia is a place where I can contribute about the traditional drink Handia, with photos, let the world know the culture which is in extinct".
Diptiman, an Mtech student in BITS, Mesra proudly says, I miss my home and fun days of Engineering. And after finishing my studies I am writing articles related in Computer Science in Odia, he giggles after finishing writing the longest article on Odia Wikipedia about Key board. Mrutyunjay Kar who has leaded organizing workshops in Anugul and Cuttack spends his leisure time completely expresses his love for language saying, "Most people in my organization, NALCO spend their leisure time playing cards and I spend time editing Odia Wikipedia."
Suratha Parhi was looking for a way to share his knowledge and found Wikipedia says, "I was so excited to find Odia wikipedia and never stopped writing in it for even a day after that." Needless to say he has contributed over 60 articles on medicinal plants. Subhransu Mishra, who is a doctor from Baleswar silently contributes from his busy schedule and his articles on Medicinal plants are well written and cited with reliable sources. My sister Sunanda, who is in US now is brushing to revive her writing skills while nurturing her daughter so she can learn Odia when she grows up! Chinmaya Dash, a pharmacist shares how he spend time on collecting resources for writing articles on medical topics.
An engineering student Jnanaranjan Sahoo from Kendrapada says, "It is the love for mother language which drives me and I think students can write a lot on Wikipedia. Srikant Kedia, a student in DAV School, Cuttack is proud of himself as a contributor to Odia Wikipedia, 'Our education system doesn't give emphasis of Odia, but it never deprives my interests to helping people feel proud of our language. I am planning to take up Odia tuitions this summer", he giggles.
Kamalakanta Nayak from Cuttack adds, "The great heritage of Cuttack drives me to write articles on Wikipedia. It is also a place where I can share my photos which others would be searching. Asutosh Kar, design lead in Infosys, one of the initial contributors of Odia wikipedia adds, "We believe in working as a elaborate team, we support each other and bring new people join us to write on Wikipedia".
Sailesh, a tenth grade student from Bhubaneswar explains, "We are not encouraged much for learning Odia that well in our schools, it's my personal interest for my language and I want other people start writing in Odia. After all, Wikipedia is free for everyone!."
(This article was first published in Bhubaneswar Editon of The Political and Business Daily on 20th May, 2012)