There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tagore & Kadambari

By Bina Biswas
Hyderabad, India

Kadambari Debi, Tagore’s elder sister-in-law exercised a deeper authority than even her husband, Jyotirindro and was a dear friend of the poet.  After the death of the poet’s mother in 1875 she was something of a guide to the young boy; she made him her playfellow in her girlish pastimes, and when Tagore budded into a poet, she was his discerning critic.  She would subject all that Tagore wrote to severe examination and saved him from vanity and self-criticism.  

Shortly after their return from Karwar, Tagore was married. In early September of 1883, Tagore received a letter from his father, who was then in the hills of Shimla to see him at once. The letter was served as a summon and what transpired, nobody knows, within three weeks, Tagore was married on 09 December 1883. The marriage was a very plain affair and was held at Jorasanko and not at the bride’s place. Bhabatarini, the daughter of an employee on the Tagore estates, was ten years old, quite thin, not good looking and almost illiterate. Tagore appears to have accepted his father’s choice without meeting her. Her name was later changed to Mrinalini/“Lotus-like” and was dispatched from Jorasanko to stay in central Calcutta with her much older sister-in-law Jnanadanandini. The idea was that she should start to be educated; she was even sent ‘Loreto House’ a well known convent. Tagore would have seen his wife at his sister-in-law’s house, where he was spending more and more time. 

Before his marriage, he wrote some poems and published them on 23 February in 1884 as Chhabi O Gaan/“Pictures and Songs”. These he dedicated to Kadambari. One of them was particularly striking, entitled Rahur Prem/“The love of Rahu”. It concerned a Rahu, a popular demon in Hindu mythology. The myth of Rahu is recounted in the Mahabharata (Adi Parva, Ch.19). After the gods and demons had churned the ocean and drawn from it the nectar of immortality (amrita), Vishnu secured the nectar for the gods. But the demon Rahu sat down in disguise at the gods’ feast to drink it. He was detected by the Sun-god and the moon-god, and decapitated by Vishnu. The demon’s severed head was henceforth called Rahu and his body Ketu. Since the nectar had reached the demon’s throat, Rahu was immortal. Angered with Sun and the Moon for having exposed him, Rahu tries continually to devour them, but they escape out of his severed gullet. Solar and lunar eclipses are explained in this way; and because of their inauspicious associations, “to be devoured by Rahu” has become an idiom of misfortune or evil influence. In this poem, Tagore applies the Rahu myth to the context of self-centred, destructive, all-devouring love. The parallel with sexual desire is obvious. Here is a paraphrase of the poem in which Rahu speaks:

I am your companion from the beginning of time, for I am your own shadow. In your laughter, in your tears, you shall sense my dark self hovering near you, now in front, now behind. At the dead of night when you are lonely and dejected, you’ll be startled to find how near I am seated by you, gazing into your face.

Whenever you turn I am here, my shadow sweeps over the sky and covers the earth, my piteous cry and my cruel laughter echo everywhere, for I am hunger never appeased, thirst never quenched. I am always there, a dagger in your breast, a poison in your mind, a disease in your body.

I shall chase you like a terror in the day, like a nightmare in the night. Like a living skeleton in a famine I shall stretch my hand before you and pester you to give and give and give. Like a thorn I shall prick you day and night, like a curse shall I haunt you, like fate I shall follow you – as night follows day, as fear follows hope.
(Rahur Prem/“The love of Rahu”)

Two months after publication, Kadambari committed suicide, aged about twenty-five. For Tagore Kadambari’s death was the first of a person he deeply cared for. Over the years death would become his constant companion. This poem and the death that followed in the family after it was published are important since Tagore learnt to accept death as the ultimate truth. Years later in Chhabi/“Picture” he was to offer a remarkable tribute to her, the poet within a poet’s heart.
Perhaps, nothing is more precious in human life than love, the intense obsession a man and a woman feel for each other. With extraordinary intricacy Tagore analyses its different moods and recaptures the passion lovers feel for each other. An examination of his poems shows the originality of his perception and the delicate art with which he portrays the minute shades of passion.

Tagore was insensitive to Kadambari's feelings...he named her 'Hectate' and went to dedicate his poems to her..despite malicious whispers and raised eyebrows of the family members...after his marriage he dedicated "Rahur Prem" to which everything was symbolic...and result was shattering for a 25year old woman...who committed suicide by consuming an over dose of opium....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Humble Salutation

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, India

On the occasion of his 150th Birth Anniversary, I gathered up enough courage to write some lines.   I am too small to write anything about Gurudev so I decided to pen down only about my experience with Gurudev’s works.
I was introduced to Gurudev when I was baby.  I knew him as the man with interesting hairstyle, a long beard and intense eyes, in that large photograph in the drawing room of our quarter at Ranchi.  That photograph never ceased to send some waves of awe as well as fear, perhaps because of that long beard.  I remember a dream when I was a child; I dreamt that Baba and I were onboard a bus and he pointed towards a person saying, “Look, Rabindranath is travelling in the same bus” and I saw this man with that same long beard, counting some cash!  I talked about my strange dream in the morning and my Ma only smiled. 
Later, Gurudev came into life in the form of institutionalised, organised music school affiliated to the Rabindra Bharati.  However, even before that, I was already growing up fantasising holidays as ‘Aaj dhaaner khete, rodru chhayaaye...” and admiring the mystery of ‘Aalo amaar aalo’., courtesy my mother.  And my music teacher introduced me further into Rabindrasangeet.
At that age, I did not quite understand the meaning of those lyrics.  Aamraa shobaai raja..’ for me, was a beautiful, enjoyable song, the notations being simple, in Daadra tal  which could for sure fetch me a distinction at the exam.   However, my first song in presence of a crowd, I remember, was ‘Tumi kemon kore gaan koro hey guni!’ during my Part I examination when I was very small.  The examiner and the room full of examinees appreciated my song.  My last song sung in an exam was ‘Chorono dhoritey diyo go amaare...’ about 23 years ago!  Everyone will agree that this is not an easy song to sing!  With mind occupied with not missing the rhythm, following the tabla, I had sung it with low self confidence!
The best part of Rabindrasangeet to me, has been the Sanchari; I just loved the change in the tune and the graveness of the Sanchari.  Be it, ‘Chomokibe phaagunbero pobone...’ or ‘Chiro-pipaashito baashonaa bedonaa...’, I just loved to repeat the Sanchari again and again.
My academics changed into love, dedication and worship only after my vagabond spirit was released from the boundaries of organised learning.   Strangely, only after I stopped taking lessons in music that I started enjoying it.
From songs, I was introduced to Gurudev’s dance-drama and of course poetry.
But Gurudev as the philosopher, I recognised only after I started my job-life.  When life had rendered to me some share of sadness and happiness, loss as well as benevolence, I took a quiet shelter in his works. 
During difficult days at work, Gurudev’s works based on the Upanishad were my source of sustenance.  I went to work after listening to ‘Shobaaro majhaare tomaare sheekaar koribo hey...’, I marvelled at the infinity of the cosmic power with ‘Bhubono joraa aashono khaani...’, I gathered strength with, ‘Aamaar poraan binaaye ghumiye aache Amrito-gaan...’.
What attracted me most was that Gurudev’s writings on the Almighty never described any form; Almighty was not a man or a woman, not even a human form.  The unending power was described as ‘Groho-taaroko chandro topono, byakulo druto bege, koriche snaano, koriche paano, Akkhyo kironey...’.  Almighty was a ‘Satya-sundoro’.
Gurudev’s works helped me tide over my father’s death when I understood that death is the beginning of an eternal bliss with the ever present stream of light.  Amar ei deho khaani tule dhoro, tomaar ei devalay e prodeep koro..’ and thus I let go off my father knowing that one day I will also be one with that light!
At the border of India and Pakistan at Wagah, I once stood, questioning what made human beings divide and harvest aggression when we all are same.  Gurudev’s words, ‘..where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls....’ strengthened my thoughts and I believed that I was not wrong!
Gurudev has thus been in every nuance that life has offered.  What could be more passionate than ‘Momo hridayo rokto-raage tobo chorono diyechi raangiyaa’ and ‘......tobo odhoro ekechi shudha-bishe mishe momo shukho-dukho bhangiyaa’.
What could be a more retiring submission than, ‘Tomaare koriyaa niyo go amaare, felonaa amaare chhhoraaye...!’
I had sung this song 23 years ago with a low confidence, in presence of the examiner but today when I stand before no examiner but only before the Almighty, tears do not stop while humming, ‘Bikaaye, bikaaye dino aaponaare, paari na phiritey duyaare duyaare..’ when I am tired but then Gurudev is there to lift up the spirit with, ‘Klaanti maar khoma koro Prabhu..’
So here I am, in full awe and inspiration with Gurudev but not one bit of ability to write about the great Philosopher. 
In love, worship, music, prayer and life’s rhythm, my humble salutation to GURUDEV!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Unexpected Meeting

Translation by Arunava Sinha
New Delhi, India

We met suddenly on a train
I hadn’t thought it possible.

I’d seen her over and over
In a red sari –
Crimson like a dahlia;
Today she was in black silk,
It covered her head in a cowl
Cupped her face, lustrous and fair like a lily.
She seemed to have enveloped herself
In a deep dark distance,
The distance to the edge of the mustard-fields
To the blue-grey of the sal wood.
My senses came to a sudden stop,
I knew her once, now she wore a stranger’s solemnity

Throwing aside her newspaper
She greeted me suddenly
Social mores could now be followed;
We began to converse –
‘How are you?’, ‘How is everyone?’
She continued to gaze out of the window
As though she had overcome the contagion of intimacy
She answered in monosyllables,
Some, she didn’t even respond to.
Conveyed with an impatient wave –
Why talk of all this,
Silence is so much better.

I was on another bench with her companions.
After a while she beckoned with her finger.
Such boldness, I thought –
I sat down on the same bench.
Under the sound of the train
She said softly,
‘Please don’t mind,
Where’s the time to waste time!
I have to get off at the next station;
You’re going further,
We’ll never meet again.
So, I want your answer to the question
That hasn’t been answered all this time,
You’ll tell the truth, won’t you?’
‘I will,’ I said.
Still gazing at the sky outside she asked,
‘Are those days of ours that are gone
Gone forever –
Is nothing left?’

I was silent for a while;
Then I said,
‘All the stars of the night
Remain under the glare of the day.’

I felt doubtful, had I made it all up.
‘Never mind, go sit over there now.’
Everyone got off at the next station.
I journeyed alone. 

(Rabindranath Tagore)

Maya...the cosmic illusion?

By Sudeshna Dasgupta

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)

Graam chhara oi ranga maatir pothh...

By Mithu Chakraborty

AmAr  prANer  mAnuSh  Achhé  prANé
tAi  heri tAye  sakol  khAne
Achhe  shé  
nayōntArAy,  Alōk-dhArAy,  tAi  nA  hArAye

Friday, May 6, 2011

Raga & Rabindranath

By Ananya Mukherjee

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the hear of time, love of one for another.
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
What better words to describe Rabindranath’s intensity as a philosopher, poet and songwriter than these? And that we remember him to this date as the greatest poet of all times “in life after life, in age after age, forever”?
I can’t remember where I heard the first Rabindrasangeet of my life. It was just about everywhere, in every nook and corner of my parental home and I stumbled upon it at all times....Baba crooning Amar matha noto kore dao hey tomar choronodhular tole.. in the shower, Mamma humming Aaro aaro probhu aaro aaro.. in the kitchen as she moved her ladle in a soft Rabendrik dance motion, and the morning radio that religiously had a slot for three Rabindrasangeet each morning as I struggled with my Bonny Mix and shoe laces and rushed to school. 
I did not understand the depth or meaning of these songs as a child, but like nursery rhymes, Abol Tabol and Thakumar Jhuli, they were a part of my growing up. My bed time story was Birpurush, the car-stereo always boomed with Debabrata Biswas; Pochishe Boishakh was as important as my own birthday, and Gitabitan found a place on the bed-side table. Baba was an ardent Gurudeb follower and Mamma’s Viswabharati background built up an ambience that cultivated Tagore in everyday life.
I remember my first solo dance performance on stage. I was barely five then and Kothayo amar hariye jawar nei mana was nothing but a lyrical fairy tale to me. What my innocent mind didn’t understand was that there was a deeper philosophy hidden beneath those seemingly simple words. Only later in life, as I began to discover Tagore’s unrestricted spiritualism in his writings, through his philosophy, did I realize how this was all reflected in the way he composed music.
The words found new meaning; the aestheticism was not lost in translation as alphabets transcended the level of sensory perception and evolved as more profound, sensitive and spiritual realizations. And then an open, boundless, unrestricted, uncorrupt mind that saw no horizon, no boundaries, was revealed to me.
Since then there has been no moment in my modest life, neither in wakefulness nor in dreams that is not influenced or inspired by the poet of all poets. Tagore’s profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verses have found life in my personal expressions in all human form; making it difficult to sift Puja, Prem from depiction of Prokriti in everyday life sometimes. Beyond the conservative understanding, they all seem to merge in a more metaphysical overlap.  
Have I not sat by the window on many afternoons watching a storm rise over the horizon, the low dark nimbus clouds caressing the tips of the rice fields, humming softly to myself...
Tumi Jodi dekha nahi dao koro amaye hyela? Kemon kore kaate amaar emon badol byela?
and revisited my inner self over and over again....?? Was it Puja, Prem or Prokriti?
Does it not lead me to think even deeper? Is there actually a line of demarcation? Isn’t everything around us including ourselves a part of that greater scheme in nature, a piece of that divine design called life? What is not divine then?
Jogoto juure udaar shure anando gaan baaje, shey gaan kobe gobhiro robe bajibe heeya maajhe
Batasho jolo akasho aalo, shobare kobe bashibo bhalo, hridoyo shobha juriya tara boshibe nana saaje
Tagore is not just a poet we read to enrich our literary acumen, he’s not just an artist who saw the world on a canvas different from others, he’s not just a composer who blended his poetry with music in a magical communion; Tagore, to me, is a philosophy, a harbinger of life that teaches us to live, to laugh, to love and above all, to win with pride and battle failures with courage, in life after life, in age after age, forever....
As the world joins hands to celebrate the greatest poet’s 150th birth anniversary, I shall leave you with these thoughts from Gitanjali....
My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers.
My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.
Philosophically yours