Odisha: Meet The Man Who Is Waiter By Day & Lyricist By Night

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04 August 2019

Snigdha Chandan Das

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Bhubaneswar: Creativity cannot be taught in a classroom. Karunakar Sahoo, is the living example of that. Hailing from a small town Parjang in Dhenkanal, he did not have the finances to take classes for song writing. Without any proper skill, he had to take up the job of waiting tables in a popular South Indian restaurant in Bhubaneswar. But, his passion for words and magically weaved phrases in ‘Bhajans’(devotional songs) as well as Odia modern music have earned him several accolades and recognition.

“I have been working as a waiter in Venus hotel for 20 years now. Simultaneously, I have written 250 songs as well. Every day after working for eight hours, I return home and with a fresh mind I pen down my thoughts. Today, my songs have been recorded in major Odia studios and have been sung by famous singers like Mamata Sahoo, Kumar Bapi, Aseema Panda, Sri Charan and Abhiram Sahoo.”

In the late 90s, Karunakar met music Director Mohammed Abid when he was waiting tables. Karunakar showed Abid a piece of paper on which he had scribbled something very basic. “Abid Sir told me that I had the talent and he would guide me. He showed me how to give structure to my thoughts and turn them into songs. Since then, I have been unstoppable,” he said.

The waiter-cum-writer understands the harsh reality of life. Just writing songs, couldn’t have sustained him. “I had to pursue my passion as well as earn my livelihood. With money from two sources, I am able to give my family a comfortable life. So, I am a waiter by day and lyricist by night. The restaurant owner and co-waiters also love my songs and encourage me. I do my 8-hour duty and then write songs making sure that the two never mix or become roadblocks for each other. I go from shouting Dosa orders to writing devotional songs dedicated to Lord Jagannath every single day,” he beamed.

There is no process of the creative flow. Sahoo does not think a lot about the words. He simply lets his feelings do the talking. After returning home, he hurries to the rooftop and lets his mind run on the outline given by a music director.

“You need a lot of passion and dedication to write a song. You have to join word with word for finding a deep meaning and giving it a flow. Sometimes, it takes moments and sometimes it takes over five days. At times, I feel irritated when I get stuck on a line. But then, I think about the time when I will get to hear my song on the big screen and I feel happy immediately. Looking forward to that, I get back to writing with a fresh mind,” he said.

Karunakar’s family members don’t really understand his side job. But, they constantly give him inspiration. “The end result is absolutely overwhelming. When I hear all praises, it really touches my heart. I also pay heed when someone gives constructive criticism,” he said.

Over 30 songs written by Karunakar have been released in the last 20 years. Many more are in the pipeline. Karunakar receives payment of Rs 2000 for one song. When asked if the rate was low, he simply said, “My soul is happy. My stomach is full. Why would I need more money?”

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Karunakar Sahoo