Friday, November 12, 2010

When we were in school, it was almost a compulsion to learn Rabindrasangeet for all the school programmes to sing for. We were the lot who would hardly ever protest but sing with grim faces and thank Tagore for relieving us every pochishe boishakh, while going back to attending classes and pleasing all our otherwise silently protesting teachers. Then there was me among all of them, who would receive a "...and congratulations to YOU!" in the middle of a serious maths class from Mrs. S. Roy, for having sung well. The singing well part of her compliment appealed less to me, from whoever it was, than did the part in their compliment which said I sang it in my own style. My voice is different and I didn't sing Rabindrasangeet in the typical "Shantiniketan style",they'd say.
My understanding of the music was limited to learning the verses written in Bengali with a lot of difficulty, poring over the texts intently for hours together to decipher what is written (this was only initially,though, I'm used to it now) and learn the melody which was more or less the same for almost all the songs.

Recently, when I sang for the nrityonatika "Chandalika", I was angered immensely. ALL the songs, and I'm not exaggerating one bit as most of you will know, sound the SAME. Except for one song "Jageni", every song has the same melody and I wonder as to how no one wants to tear their hair and cry. My wise friend Mayurakshi, all of 14, explained to me though, that not all the songs have their melodies composed by Tagore himself. Most of the boring monotonous ones are thanks to Tagore's less talented brother, who composed in the most uncreative way possible. This is a fact I didn't know before.

As I discovered more Tagore this autumn, I'm getting closer to understanding and appreciating him than before, when, on that culvert over the gutter in our school, I'd sing the songs hatefully and never ever tried to understand the sentiment behind the songs. There are so many songs which appeal to me now. There's one song, Bhabona Kahare Bole, which I really like but I discovered a Kirtan yesterday, which is beautiful, to say the least. A Bangladeshi band called Arnob and friends has reworked this song very impressively using a Nagra and Saxophone, besides the guitar( For now, I'll leave you with these beautiful lyrics.

Majhe majhe tobo dekha pai,chirodin keno pai na?

Keno megh ashe hridoyo-akashe,tomare dekhite dey na?

Khoniko aloke aankhir poloke tomaye jobe pai dekhite

harai-harai shoda bhoy hoy,haraiya feli chokhite.

Ki korile bolo paibo tomare,rakhibo aankhite aankhite.

Eto prem ami kotha pabo nath,tomare hridoye rakhite?

Aar karo paane chahibo na aar, koribo ami parno pon-

tumi jodi bolo ekhoni koribo bishoybashona bishorjon.

(My sincere apologies for Bengali lyrics in the english script)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Disco Bimari

Yesterday when I walked into class with my kiddies, I found the rooms almost empty, barring the two sole enthusiasts standing in the middle of the room with I'm-begging-you-please-let-me-go expressions on their faces. The festivals for them are almost never ceasing so most of them came in for a surprise visit to let me know they're finding the celebrations a tad more interesting than my classes. When each of these kids were giving me their pop up surprises, I noticed something peculiar and, well, funny to a certain extent, on their faces. They all had big white dots painted on their ear lobes and a bigger white dot on their foreheads, right at the center of the eye brows. When I asked one of the boys in my classroom who gave this little face painting thing a miss what the whole deal was, he said it's being done by the villagers to protect themselves from something called the "Disco Bimari". I pressed him on when he explained to me that Disco Bimari makes a person shake and shiver (almost like he/she would when in a disco) and the only cure for the disease is to make the affected stand in water for four hours.

I was left in a bit of a shock and a lot of confusion. I went on to ask a shopkeeper in the village what the whole deal was. Here's what he had to say.

On the night of Kali puja this year (which roughly translates into Diwali for the rest of India) a few youngsters were caught "sinning" in a temple. From what I could make out from the appendices being delivered by the wife of the shopkeeper simultaneously, a couple of young chaps were drinking alcohol and indulging in some other objectionable activities. "Ma" of course, is unforgiving. In Kalyug, there's a price you pay in this very life for any wrongdoing of yours. As a revenge, Ma has inflicted the people of the village with the inexplicable and peculiar Disco Bimari.

These are uneducated but God fearing people, there's no doubt about that. What left me wondering and feeling rather troubled later was the fact that these people are happy in their world, living with their dogmatic beliefs that refuse to be shaken. The village is infested with mosquitoes so I came to a random conclusion that it must be Dengue doing the rounds. What troubles me though, is the fact that even the first generation learners in the village won't be able to make any substantial difference. It takes a lot to shake the foundation of beliefs as strong and illogical as theirs. Children who are being educated will find it hard to make a change overnight. Well I don't want the children to go preach to the older generation that God does not exist, but to simply look at things in a different light and not attributing all their distress to Gods and Goddesses. Anything's better than dipping little kids in cold water for four hours and increasing their suffering.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Finally the number of followers has risen from the unlucky 13 to 14. Weeee :)

Had a whirlwind trip to Mumbai. It's unbelievable how bad a planner my dad is. We took the Geetanjali (33 hours journey,yes!) on friday, landed in the middle of a bustling Dadar on Saturday night, had a crazy day in the city on sunday and whoop! 4 am, Monday morning, preparing to jump onto the train again.

All the lack of foresight apart, it was Mumbai I experienced almost fully for the few hours I got to be there. My first impression of the city was that it isn't any different from my Kolkata. Dirty, confused, hoarding laden and chaotic. What puts it on a higher pedestal than Kolkata is, of course, the spirit. I fell in love with it, period. There's nothing more commendable about a city than its citizens, who work hard round the clock and don't care who thinks what. When you are stuck behind someone in Kolkata in a crowded place, you know you're dead. There's no one in Mumbai,on the other hand, who'll block your way. Everyone's running and you can run just as fast, the wind in your hair and all that jazz. For someone whose adrenaline flows at the thought of competition, like me, Mumbai is the place to be it seemed. A day is too less to base your judgement upon, but well, for a city that never sleeps, and which overwhelmed me as soon as I got off the train, I fell in love with it head over heels. And no qualms, mind you. Vada pav, marathi manus et al, it's a bigger and better version of Kolkata. I'm coming soon :)

P.S. on a local on saturday night, 11:30 pm, I met a bengali father-daughter duo. The girl was all of four and chattering away in bengali. I swear, I couldn't help myself. I carried on a long conversation with the kid, almost breathing a huge sigh of relief, of assurance..whatever I think is now unfathomable. There's a hardcore bangali sitting in me. No kidding.