I woke up today with “Akash bhora shurjo tara…” Quickly realizing through the early morning slumber that Ma was playing one of her favourite CDs. I listened through the quietness of the morning. This is not how ordinary Wednesdays begin.
But then this is no ordinary Wednesday. Today is ‘Ponchishey Boiskakh’, the Poet’s birth anniversary. Rabindranath Tagore. Robithakur, as we were to know him in childhood. This man has been an anchor in Ma’s otherwise clichéd life.
As a young bride, she determinedly completed her then-considered exalted education (she was the only girl in her batch of Jadavpur Univ. B.Tech) despite pressures of a traditional joint family and a boisterous child (me), uprooted all her known ties and followed my father to an alien land.
In the clutter of a new land, she hung on to his words, his wisdom, his poems, his songs. We had been at awe. Not so much for his words but for Ma’s devotion to him.
We assimilated well, bhai and I, with the world outside home. We went to school just like other kids in the neighbourhood. We made friends, spoke deutsch, ate sauerkraut with relish. But once inside, it was a different world. A world filled with Rabindranath, Bankinchandra, Saratchandra and other stalwarts and of course Ma’s enormous collection of bangla music. From puratoni to calcutta youth choir, she had it all. And what she didn’t have in records, she would sing. Her beautiful voice would fill our hearts with a longing but we didn’t quite know for what. It would take us to the world we sampled during our annual visits to Kolkata and a world we found difficult to relate, at times. She took us through the meanings behind those mellifluous words and helped us learn the bangla script. With patience she corrected our intonations till she was satisfied. She took enormous pride when bhai could sing “alo amar alo ogo…” with near-perfection (he lisped a little), when he turned five.
My mother was undoubtedly the mistress of the house. And everything ‘in’ the house was essentially bengalee. Or rather as bengalee as one can get in an ‘alien’ land. Baba never interfered and I believe he secretly enjoyed and indulged Ma’s obsession with turning us into genteel bengalee bhadrolok. “This is who you will always be” she told us gently, “no matter where you are”.
Over the years I rebelled and I balked. I indulged in music and thoughts that Ma considered anguished. My new world of Sartre and Camus, Floyd, Morrison, Iron Maiden and later Nirvana and the rest of the urban angst didn’t appeal to her. Successively, life took me to various cities away from home and as I moved through the maze much got lost. But somewhere the strains of music long forgotten stayed with me.
Today, I listen to the same music with care. It appeals to me in ways it had never appealed before. Today I want my son to appreciate this legacy. Life has indeed come a full circle.
For that alone, I salute you, The Poet.