Thursday, June 14, 2012

TAGORE IN MY THOUGHTS


Of Love, Longing and loathing
 – Hating the Bearded man in the month of May

                   I remember I wrote my first poem at the age of seven. It was ‘ Ek je chilo Bador, Se kheto sudhu Gajor (Once there was a monkey, who ate only carrots)’. My parents had a hearty laugh on it. My father, then had told me that Gurudev’s first poem was ‘Jol Pore, Pata Nore (It rains, the leaves tremble)’. Perhaps, the most powerful line I had heard till then. Time passed and I left my futile chase after poetry and concentrated more on the F-letter word, don’t take it otherwise, its football. Perhaps every Bengali has a sleeping Maradona or Pele inside him. But Gurudev remained with me. Inside my little head. He was everywhere. In the faded morning hours, the tiring afternoons and the restless evenings. He was everywhere. As in my love, longing and loathing. I remember my lazy mornings were mostly occupied by the resonating voice of Debabrata biswas. Our old gramophone would be playing, my father sitting beside, his eyes closed. I must admit, that I couldn’t decipher the meaning of all those songs at that age, but the tune struck a chord. It hummed inside my soul, vibrating on its hollowness.

                                                                          As days passed by, and I ripened, the man inside my head took a more firm grip. I listened to his unsaid words. His poems helped me sail through my sufferings. But all these remained a secret affair. Since I was neither educated at Shantiniketan, nor at Visva- Bharati .I always kept a low profile, when it came about Gurudev. I must admit my failure in keeping a long beard, an unkept hair, roaming in Nandan, attending theatres at the academy or applying for a course in Art College. I open-heartedly admit my ineligibility for the above creative and fertile grounds. My friends with their prized collection of girlfriends from Shantiniketan also openly warned me. I was cautioned not to try experimenting with Gurudev’s works as it was a highly sensitive issue.





               Some more days passed .I was struggling with my mind into the barrel field of mechanical engineering. Our world famous ‘Bangla’ at time soothened my soul. I was amazed to know that geniuses of the stature of Ritwik Ghatak, Sakti chattopadhyay and even our very own Sunil Ganguly maintained such ‘high’ habits. I was extremely proud that at least my ‘Bangla’ love somewhat matched with them. It really gives you a wonderful feeling, you know that your habits matched with legends.It swept me of my feet and I devoted my entire evenings and nights to the attention of precious ‘Bangla’. On one such lovely crimson evening, while I was happily gulping my beloved liquor at Anup Da’s Thek( or Adda you can say) I met Gurudev again. I was sitting on the mud floor with a farmer, a Rickshaw-puller and a local matador driver. The topics were taking interesting turn. I, being the most educated of the lot, was made to judge who was the richest among them. It was tough choice you see. And being inhibited already by few glasses, I was having a tough time to decide. It was all going on smoothly, till the farmer suddenly started crying. He gulped two quick pegs and stated that he had a son near about my age who was no more. Painfully, it all turned sombre. The old man kept on crying with the pain that he couldn’t save his son. And then the man inside my head appeared again. I ,with the ‘Bangla’ reserve inside my belly, was amazed to hear the old man singing with his harsh voice. ‘Je raate mor duwar guli bhanglo jhore......’. And then the pain melted in those cheap glass containers. I closed my eyes and felt united with the old man’s song.

                               A few more years passed. I was in London working for an Insurance company .It was perhaps raining that day. You know, the Queen’s land is always cloudy and raining. That day, as I watched those raindrops sliding on our window, I remembered him again. ‘Pagla Hawa, Badol Dine...’ echoed inside my heart. Looking down through the window, I imagined my nephew’s paper- boat trembling and stirring in the monsoon.Somwhere deep inside, in the hearts of my heart, an unsung pain kept craving. The moth-eaten meaninglessness torn me apart as suddenly the outside became discoloured with irrelevant marks, smudges and gaps. The man as I told you, was always there .Inside my now-grown head.

                    Such was the pain that I tried to pour it down on a crumbled piece of paper. As the words started flowing, I felt relieved. And relaxing. I thanked him and continued. But then all went futile. Few days later, as I was flipping through the pages of Macmillan pocket Tagore edition of Gitanjali, I saw the same sense. The same feelings. Thousand times better than mine. It made me loath. I kept on writing a few more lines and then I surrendered. For I could find nothing new in my words. All had been previously said by that bearded man, in much better and splendid way. I hated him for it. For having known all my feeling. I hated him more. For turning me into a puzzled half-creative human being and then mocking me again and again. It was perhaps in the month of May. When Hyde Park still waited to be lush green.

                           Autumn was there. While I was still fighting. The decision to come back to Kolkata permanently was unsettling me. Then on one such gloomy night when the great Bay area happened to look not so great, I heard that man inside my heard again. I was then looking at the Golden Bridge and comparing it to our Howrah Bridge. My friends who were still in United States of America, termed my decision as ‘ Utter Foolishness’ .Those who were in Queen’s land said ‘ Preposterous’ .And those who never had set foot abroad asked ‘ So you want to do something here?’ . I asked the true meaning and they said ‘like opening up an NGO, helping people ...bla...bla....and bla....’. They were surprised since I said ‘No...I am back for myself...for my love, for my city’. And again I heard the term ‘utter foolish’ in hush whispers.

                            I must admit, I struggled initially. It was hard. My bank balance decreased exponentially. I pondered if my friends in both US and UK were right. I pondered more .And then, flushing out all such thoughts in the KMC drain, I switched on the old gramophone. Still it’s alive. It still brings back those old memories. I smiled. I was relieved. And the man inside my head was again back. I walked along my favourite road in Kolkata .Beside the race course. I hummed Gurudev. The crimson evening was slowly getting dark. I looked up and saw birds returning home. I closed my eyes and said to the man inside my head, ‘ I simply love you for it’ .

                        So still I am fighting here. In my beloved city. The City of Joy. Kolkata. Morning sweats, abnormal humidity, endless traffic, increasing pollution, ‘Manchi na...Manbo na’ marches. I am loving it. For even the polluted air is still pregnant with the magical words of that bearded man. It will be, forever. Amen!

3 comments:

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

first off, congratulations, you have captured the sense of attachment that only a bong can have to his language, to tagore, to bengal, and one that is very difficult to express, especially if you are not the bearded, nandan types. i have been struggling to write about this aspect of my rootedness for many years, but have failed. however, i keep pulling that draft out from time to time. this post has triggered one more such attempt. loved reading it.

Saptak said...

Thanks @ Subhorup Dasgupta...nice to see you liked it...Regards, Saptarshi

Anonymous said...

Saptak,

I found your blog post very moving. Poetic, too.

Far from being foolish, you are a man with true courage.

You turned away from a life of seeming prosperity (though highly mechanical) and went back.

This is not something I (nor many other NRIs) have been able to do - I have returned to India and again come back for work and money.

I salute you and wish you the very best.

Atish

P.S. While writing poems is a great aim, how about penning some short stories in Bengali in the lines of Saradindu, Lila Majumdar, Nobonita, Shirshendu? There is a severe dearth of good wholesome storywriters ...

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