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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Jagatsinghpur: The applause and appreciation from an awestruck audience was the staple for this couple for many years until Coronavirus came prowling in to snatch the 'Revered' stage away from them turning their lives upside down in just a couple of months time.

Their penchant for acting and stages have now catapulted to a street vending cart which comes ringing every morning to the same place beside the road serving tea and food to the hungry.

Manoj Routray and his wife Manu from Mantripatana under Kujang block in Jagatsighpur district have acted in Jatra for close to 20 years. It is the stage that brought these two souls closer and ultimately made bound them together in the sacred thread of marriage. But little did they know that such a time will come that will force them to sell tea and snacks as a roadside vendor.

Manoj who originally hailed from Mahanga in Kendrapara has made Mantripatana his home because of his passion for rural drama and the studies of his son. He has directed many plays for Jatra Companies and plays in his village. After the advent of web series' and cheap mobile data, Jatra and village plays have evidently lost its charm in Odisha, and to add salt to the wound, the pandemic situation acted as the last nail in the coffin.

Niranjan Khatua, the owner of the house where Manoj stays as a tenant said, "I pray the government to help the artistes of Odisha in any way possible so that they don't lose their livelihood."

Though, both Manoj and Manu's hearts are big enough to not label any job as menial, and notwithstanding the fact that the tiffin stall has actually helped them stay afloat during this troubling times, they surely miss the stage that provided them recognition and job satisfaction.

"When the theatres, cinema halls and Jatra were closed down to curb the spread of Coronavirus, I decided to make a food stall and sell snacks," said an unapologetic Manoj.

"I knew the nuances of the trade. I knew how to fry a delicious Vada, Make Idli and slurpy Odia sweets. So I did not any waste time thinking and set out on a new venture. And adding to that, my wife and son's help made this business even easier," added Manoj.

"He makes a fabulous tea," grinned a local and a regular at Manoj's tiffin stall. "He opens in the morning and continues to sell till afternoon. Then again opens it at around 3pm and continues till night," he said.

On the other hand Manu Routray, the wife of Manoj who helps him in the tiffin stall seemed to be an eternal optimist. She not only keeps patience but awaits the good times which, as she describes are, "Due".

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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