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Dr Bijaya, Where did you go? And Why?

In this article, Mr Ashok Pandey, Director, Ahlcon Group of Schools pays heartfelt tribute to one of India’s finest educationists Dr Bijaya Sahoo, who left for his heavenly abode recently.

Whenever I think of a visionary, educationist and social entrepreneur, the only name that comes to mind is Dr Bijaya Sahoo. A thorough gentleman, an embodiment of humility and a nationalist, Dr Sahoo’s descent on the K-12 educational landscape began with the establishment of SAI International School Bhuvneshwar. A Chartered Accountant with a passion for education soon became tall, leading, and a person-to-go-to within the country and abroad.

Naveen Babu, the Chief Minister of Odisha, picked him as his advisor, conferred a cabinet rank entrusting him with the responsibility of Odisha Adarsh Vidyalaya, a rare honour to an educationist. Moreover, Utkal University conferred on him the Honorary degree of Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) in April 2021, recognising his missionary contribution in the education sector.

Dr Bijaya Sahoo

With a calm exterior, punctuated by a welcoming smile, a fulsome hug contained a curious child inside him. Lovingly-for he was younger to me, and respectfully for his wisdom and accomplishments, I addressed him as “Bro’. After that, he would call me “Ashok Ji’. Thus, a decade-old relationship that began with a brief encounter, thanks to British Council, soon turned into a lasting relationship, admiration, collaboration and heart-to-heart exchanges.

Dr Bijaya Sahoo

Though we met both in Delhi and Bhuvneshwar, our favourite venue was determined by the British Council. As British Council School Ambassadors (BCSAs), we participated in several leadership workshops. In one such congregation, the theme was “100Words.” During the seminar, Bro, five more colleagues and I were tasked with enacting a play with a script in 100 words in 10 minutes- scripting, role allocation, prop-hunting, staging altogether. Bijaya volunteered for a role demanding him lie on the floor draped in a sari- and he did it with utmost grace and aplomb- delivering his lines.

With all his dreams realised one after the other, he mentioned one taking up next during his last visit to Delhi on Feb 23′ 2021. We spent a couple of hours in the office of a familiar friend Ashish Jain of Edu Next. He said, “there is no future for education until we create a long pipeline of professionally sound, dedicated and willing teachers.” He was keen to set up a world-class teacher development centre in Delhi.

Dr Bijaya Sahoo

Bijaya graciously hosted Mr LV Sehgal, principal Bal Bharati School, GRH Road, Delhi and I during a visit to his school five years ago. The visit turned out a great learning experience-witnessing educational innovations in action, interacting with an army of teachers giving their heart and soul to Dr Sahoo’s vision. Happy children filling the classrooms and corridors reminded us of a modern gurukul.

He was a successful educationist, a fulfilled individual, famous and sought-after. A nationalist- his Diwali greetings would invariably have an end-note, “ Let’s make India great.” The incredible thing about him is that success did not overpower him. He was well-grounded and a great connector- reaching out to people and friends. His leadership was phenomenal. He dreamt of Odisha as a developed state. “He would encourage his students to opt for commerce and take up entrepreneurship to rebuild Odisha and not look for a job, says,” Harish Sanduja, a former principal at SAI international school.

I guess Bijaya connected with everybody in his network on Apr 14 with Odisha New Year Day greetings, as he did with me. Bro, you were so much to me and to an extensive network you have weaved that one part of us will always miss you, will remain in pain, will look for that twinkle in your dreaming eyes. The other part will strive to cope with the grief, deriving inspiration and wishing you peace. We always saw in you ‘A Man in a Hurry”. You demonstrated it in death too.

Dr Bijaya Sahoo

I was thinking of writing my grateful tribute to your illustrious career and life ever since I heard the terrible news. As I was looking to a befitting close, a WhatsApp message from Dr Rajeev in Oman, a colleague and a dear friend popped up to say, “A true friend is never truly gone. Their spirit lives in the memories of those who loved them. You may be gone but we can still see your face and hear your laughter. Death may have robbed us of you, but it didn’t rob us of our love. You will never go out of our heart and thoughts.”

Standing Ovation, Bro.