Rabindrasangeet

In childhood, I had been quite associated with it. My mother was a good singer, though amateur. Most probably at that age and times, and the family, she might not have been permitted to do any public singing, and hence her repertoire was limited to family and may be but I don’t recall, friends. It isn’t that she was jailed in the home. She was housewife, but not Pardanashin. Still there would be certain mental bonds in them, which would deter them from public performances, even local “neighbourhood” clubs. But in those family gatherings she was listened to quite attentively and appreciated at the family functions. Even when she was old (and minus quite a few of her teeth and hence with a bit of lack of clarity in speech), she used to sing or rather was forced to do at least one rendition, during the Puja family gathering in our village. That gathering would be (and still is) large, since from all over (some time including abroad) people will converge to turn the erstwhile nuclear families into one big joint family. It would be Railway waiting room like living conditions, sharing the roof for that less than one week a year at the still standing part of the buildings. Since the largest standing roof is that of the drawing room of today (Kachari Ghar, some sort of ancient court room type thing of yore), that would be a pure railway platform, with scores of people sharing that room.  Being at a semi-remote village, the luggage will be minimal, no one would definitely take on his head to carry even a harmonium. So all these renditions will be sans any instrument.

Of course despite her sincere attempt, even with harmonium, none of her children went beyond “Sa re Ga Ma” and she too finally understood the futility, and stopped her mis-adventure. But despite not learning, appreciation of the slow, clear, unmodifiable permeated in. (Rabindra sangeet music is strictly kept static and controlled by Bishwabharati, and though after expiry of copyright, people are permitted to modify, but I doubt whether the connoisseurs look at anything but askance at these modified versions.)

Back at those times of course what attracted us was the hauntingly sweet tunes, and in most of the time the romantic aspects of the songs (and also that it was mom, and being “encored” by others). When mom will sing “Aguner Parashmani”, we, at least I, would assume it was directed at dad. We couldn’t probably realise, courtesy Radio Ceylon and movie songs,  that the songs could be anything other than romantic or sad.

Now that the age had mellowed to go past those feelings, I have started to look and concentrate on the lyrics. May even be more on the lyrics now, since the tunes now are played on the back of head, the moment the song lines are mentioned. In doing that I find too many songs are, though on first glance romantic and pledging love and devotion, but the lover in the question, to accept those, probably is the Almighty. 

I won’t pass a judgement on whether he did that with intention or I am (mis) interpreting that way. But after reflections on Shrimad Bhagavat,  I have found that in many places my thinking could be different from the explanations given. In this aspect there is no question of who is right or who is wrong. The blind man who says the Elephant is like pillar and other one who says it is like a Python, are both partially correct.  And if you take poll, there would be four votes for pillar, all others would only get one vote each. So in a democracy, the elephant is pillared.

There are some which are clearly romantic, and it may be a bit difficult though may not be impossible, to bring Him in it. Some are clearly parlaying with Him, and it would be difficult to un-capitalise the ‘h‘ or replace with “sh“.  But there too are some, or in fact many of them, which could point to, depending on the lense on the eyes, at “she/he” or “He“. I suppose I could jot down those in this string, with my (non-romantic) interpretations.

Of course there are love songs, songs of ache, philosophical and downright devotional. But as I see them, all these depends on the particular lense one is wearing at the moment.  

Let me look at a lovely romantic song from Shriman Pritviraj, lovely Mahua Roy Choudhury (I think it was her debut movie) with another gorgeous heroine, Sandhya Roy. (Youtube doesn’t have that good a print but the DVD is far better), I suppose the voices are of Lata and Haimanti.

Just to be a bit off the subject, Lata is one of the rare ones, who I have surprisingly seen to be having an almost perfect Bengali diction.When I listen to other non-bengali singers trying out Bengali, the difference, even if subtle, could be felt. I don’t know how she could pick up so perfectly. This is one of those, there are several others when I could, only after looking at the credits, found it to be her. Unfortunately Youtube most of the uploaders don’t give the credit, and for that a thorough search some times becomes mandatory.   

Here we have a young bride (Mahua) pining for her (insensitive, due to immaturity) husband like in Balika Badhu. Anyway Mahua at that time (1971) was still in early teens, so a Balika badhu she was alright. 

The senior wife, Sandhya teases her, of her restlessness, obviously Mahua doesn’t accept that she is pining away, and the teases of Sandhya is teased back, almost taunting, through this song.

Sakhi, bhabona kahare bole. Sakhi, jatona kahare bole.
Tomra je bolo dibosho rajoni ‘bhalobasha, bhalobasha’,  
Sakhi, bhalobasha kare koye?  Seki keboli jatonamoy?
Seki keboli chokher jal? Seki keboli dukher swaas?
Loke tobe kore ki sukheri tore, emon dukhero aash.

Friend what is all this longing and what are those aches? Every moment you keep on chanting of love,What is this love friend? Is it only a pain?

Is it only the tears? Is it only the sighs of pain? Then in search of what happiness people long for such a great sorrow?

Amar chokhe to sokoli shobhon,
Sokoli nobeen, sokoli bimol, sunil akash, shyamolo kanon,
Bishodo jyotsna, kusumo komol – sokol amari moton,
Tara Keboli hashe, keboli gaye, hashiya, kheliya morite chaye,
Na jane bedon, na jane radon, na jane sadher jatona joto.

(Since I am free of it), Whatever I look at, everything is pleasing in my eyes. Everything looks new (young) and pure, the blue sky, the green garden, the  soft moon light, tender flowers, all are like me. 

They know not of pains, tears or the aches of longing. They only laugh and sing songs of happiness and wants to keep on doing that till the end (death). 

Phul se hashitey hashitey jhore,
jyotsna hashiya milaye jaay,
Hashite hashite alok sagore akasher tara teyage kaay.
Amaar moton sukhi ke aache, Aay sakhi aay, amaar kaache –
Sukhi hridoyer sukher gaan suniya toder jurabe pran.

The flowers fall from the branches laughing with glee and the moon light fades away smiling. The bright sparkling stars gladly lose their entity in the ocean of light (dawn). 

Who is as happy and carefree like me? Come friend, come to me. Listening to this song of happiness from a happy heart, your aches and pains will be balmed and your heart will be at peace.  

Protidin jodi kandibi kebol,  ek din nai hashibi tora –
Ek din nai bishado bhuliya shakole miliya gahibo mora.

Why don’t you be glad just for a day, instead of crying every moment of every day? Just for one day, forget of all the sadness, and sing songs of happiness together with me.

The song clearly is taunting those feeling the pangs of love to be free of it and enjoy a life free of all care. In this case (since we know) the heroine is under that case herself we find it an extremely sweet romantic song.  

Then if I look back and look at the song minus the romance, replacing the Bhalobasa (love) with Maya (the bonds), which really it is, and consider the song not as a song of laughter, but of serious nature? 

Is it not what one who is ascetic, philosopher, close to Him, would advise? 

This one song now has three different viewpoints, one in love, one teasing another who is in love, and third a philosophical one.  If someone else starts reinterpreting it, it might have another, may be entirely different hue.