Rabindranath Tagore’s presence in the lives of the Bengalis has been like this song written by the great poet himself. The songs, poems and his other literary works have been a blessing to us and would continue to be so, forever…..
“Bohe nirontoro ononto anandadhara…….”
(The showers of eternal bliss flows forever)
(Rabindranath Tagore, Bhaanga Gaan, written on 1897)
However, my acquaintance with the famous bard, kobiguru, as most people call him, dates back to my toddlerhood when my mother used to sit with ‘Sanchayita’ (An anthology of Tagore’s well-known poems) and recite one poem after the other. I remember that I enjoyed the rhyme ‘Khantoburir Didishashuri’ a lot, then. Gradually, I learnt most of the children’s poems written by him thanks to my mother’s persuasion and the elocution tests in my school.
Rabindranath Tagore Poems
As I embarked upon the journey of teenhood, I felt his poems seeping into me slowly. We had ‘Sankalita’ as one of our Bengali textbooks. The best part of the ‘Sankalita’ books was that the poems were collated according to the age of the students. The poems like ‘Samanyo Khoti’, ‘Poroshmoni,’ ‘Nirjhorer Shopnobhongo’ had an immense impact on me.
Thereafter, I was introduced to his plays and novels, not to mention his songs which were the quintessential part of the mornings in our house. I remember the mornings when I used to run apprehensively to school whenever the radio channel aired “Dhwonilo Ahoban modhuro gombhiro probhat ambaro majhe….” lest I get late for the assembly bell. Frankly speaking; initially, I didn’t find his songs as interesting as his novels and plays (excluding dance dramas). They were no better than the opulent lullabies to me, the ones which the so-called samajhdaars listen to.
When people swore by the ‘Rabindrasangeets’ I was pretty content with revising and re-revising ‘Chirokumar Sabha’ and ‘Tasher Desh’, the two of my favourite plays resplendent with sarcasm and dark humour.
The Bard Find Place in My Adulthood
How and when I was smitten by the ‘opulent lullabies’, I don’t know. Maybe during a stage of infatuation when somebody coincidentally sang ‘Pran chaay chokkhu na chaay’ or celebrating the first Doljatra in college with “Labonye purno praano praanesho he” or maybe when I was spending a restless night after my mother’s death and my mobile’s playlist offered me ‘Jete jete akla pothey‘.
My lamp blew off while plodding alone.
Gale has picked up, O dear; I get the storm my companion.
Destroyer at the corner of the sky
It sniggered every so often, Plays chaos in my crazy robes and locks.
Puzzled, I fail to follow the path I was moving along,
I’ll have to search my path afresh in the darkness.
Rumbling thunders might give a crack on new course,
The world, which should see the night through.
When people go overboard with the Rabindrajayanti celebrations every year, I quietly remember him, my quintessential guardian, through his songs, poems and those long-lost evenings which resonated with my mother’s consecutive recitations of Tagore’s poems.
Happy Birthday, my dear Bard, my Rabi Buro! Your literary works are like an ocean to me, where every wave seems new, every single day.
I would like to sign off by remembering a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore which was my mother’s one of the favourites from Sanchayita……
মৃত্যুঞ্জয় (The Death Defier)
দূর হতে ভেবেছিনু মনে
দুর্জয় নির্দয় তুমি, কাঁপে পৃথ্বী তোমার শাসনে।
দুঃখীর বিদীর্ণ বক্ষে জ্বলে তব লেলিহান শিখা।
দক্ষিণ হাতের শেল উঠেছে ঝড়ের মেঘ–পানে,
সেথা হতে বজ্র টেনে আনে।
ভয়ে ভয়ে এসেছিনু দুরুদুরু বুকে
তোমার ভ্রূকুটিভঙ্গে তরঙ্গিল আসন্ন উৎপাত, —
পাঁজর উঠিল কেঁপে,
বক্ষে হাত চেপে
শুধালেম, “আরো কিছু আছে নাকি,
এইমাত্র? আর কিছু নয়?
ভেঙে গেল ভয়।
যখন উদ্যত ছিল তোমার অশনি
তোমারে আমার চেয়ে বড়ো ব’লে নিয়েছিনু গনি।
তোমার আঘাত–সাথে নেমে এলে তুমি
যেথা মোর আপনার ভূমি।
ছোটো হয়ে গেছ আজ।
আমার টুটিল সব লাজ।
যত বড়ো হও,
তুমি তো মৃত্যুর চেয়ে বড়ো নও।
আমি মৃত্যু–চেয়ে বড়ো এই শেষ কথা বলে
যাব আমি চলে।
The translation follows here
I thought from afar–
That you were invincible, merciless,
That the world trembled as you ruled,
That you were a frightful sight,
That your blazing flames burnt on the torn chest of the sufferer.
The weapon of your right hand raised towards the storm,
Drew thunder from the clouds.
I came before you in fear,
With a trembling heart.
Imminent danger rose in waves from your frown,
And there came the blow.
My ribs tottered,
I asked you pressing my hands to my breast,
“Do you have more for me,
Is there anything left,
The last stroke of thunder?”
Again came the blow upon me.
Only this? Nothing more?
My fear left me.
When your thunder was ready to strike,
I considered you mightier than me.
But with your blows you came down,
Here where I have my footsteps.
Today you have shrunk smaller than me,
Making me victorious over all my hesitations.
Mighty as you are,
You are not greater than death.
‘But I am more than death’, saying these last words,
Shall I go away.
Photo Courtesy: Souptima Basu