When I came to know that Priyabrat had been afflicted by a terminal disease, I knew the end was coming. But when news arrived this morning that he is gone, I felt as if a hot pan hit my cheek. No amount of “preparation” can reduce the scalding effect.

Priyabrat and I were classmates. We were competitors at inter-college debate competitions, he from SCS and I from BJB. When we made it together to the IAS in 1976, it was like being a team-member of a side which won a trophy. In the Academy, he was much better known than I was – he created news, I avoided it.

Our journey together in the Odisha cadre was long and eventful and we played like a team. Whether as ADM, Rourkela, or as Collector of Dhenkanal, Balasore and Cuttack, he chose a path that was out of the ordinary. His Robinhood-like image, right through his career, was one of his own creation. He wrote his own script, whether you liked it or not. Upon entering the IAS, one would immediately shed one’s boyish ebullience, as if it were a milk tooth. Priyabrat never lost his.

People think Priyabrat was a man of “action” and not “thorough” with the files. Quite the contrary. His pen was as incisive as his tongue, and he knew how to use both for full effect.

One day a file came to me from the Planning & Coordination Department of which he was the Special Secretary. It had copious notes from lower levels to him, as is expected of an important matter. The “lower notes” played for caution. Bureaucracy is after all synonymous with the status quo. Priyabrat had gone through the voluminous notes of the previous pages. A simple signature of his, and the file would have sailed in its pre-determined course. Priyabrat chose to differ. He dictated his own note, a self- contained one. It began thus: “All previous notes may be ignored…….”

I wonder how many of us today have the guts to swim against the current, against “the previous notes”. He was different, and he was not afraid to say so.

I will treasure the memories. Farewell, Priyabrat.

Bijaya Patnaik

Former chief secretary of Odisha