Music is an integral part of Bengali culture. Almost every Bengali girl in Kolkata learns singing. The older generations (and all the Non-Bengali persons I have come across and who were familiar about Bengali culture) actually expect every Bong girl to know how to sing “Robindro Songeet” but all of us DON’T know!! And then we are looked down upon for being “Probashi” (Out of state residents) and for being contrary to Bengali culture. Anyway that is another long story. Let me quote Wikipedia to explain what is Robindra Songeet.
Rabindra Sangeet also known as Tagore Songs in English, is a form of music composed by Rabindranath Tagore who added a new dimension to the musical concept of India in general and Bengal in specific. The Rabindrasangeet, which deal with varied themes are immensely popular and form a foundation for the Bengali ethos that is comparable to, perhaps even greater than, that which Shakespeare has on the English-speaking world. It is said that his songs are the outcome of 500 years of literary & cultural churning that the Bengali community has gone through.
So India celebrated her 60th Republic Day today. Like every year I watched the parade on TV. This post is a collection of the few random thoughts I had during the show.
1. Only 6 were awarded Ashok Chakra out of the 16 brave officers who died fighting terrorists in November. I think the government could have afforded or made exceptions this time to award them all. It was touching to watch tearful wives receive the awards. May their souls rest in peace and may their sacrifices not go wasted.
2. Helen, Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were awarded the Padma Shree. Helen is a legend so I can understand..even Akshay Kumar too if I stretch my understanding power but Aish???? For her immense acting skills ?? For winning Miss World a decade ago?
So I had taken a break from blogging and was busy studying. But the Vice President of BJP Mr. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi made me come back to express my opinion. He said “kuch hamari behne..mahilayen..lipstick aur powder laga karke aur mombatti le karke aur paschimi sabhyata ke saath waha par aa karke politicians ko gaali de rahi thi. Ye theek waise hi kar rahi hai jo Jammu Kashmir me algaavadi jo hai wo bhi yehi kaam karte hai…blah blah blah”. Translation – “Some women wearing lipstick and powder have taken to streets in Mumbai and are abusing politicians, spreading dissatisfaction against the democracy. This is what terrorists are doing in Jammu and Kashmir”.You can see him commenting at this link. Sigh! One would expect politicians to be refined, educated, progressive and most importantly to have good PR skills or at least a PR officer. Though BJP has distanced itself saying “These are Naqvi’s personal views and the party had nothing to do with it”; he has found support in RSS now. On NDTV, Sharmila Tagore requested to women that they should ignore Naqvi’s comment and that he is a nobody. By making this an issue we would be giving him way too much importance. I beg to differ because there are some things which I just have to express. And by keeping quiet we let these politicians get away with such so called gaffes.
So its that time of year again. The time when my Dad uncovers the cassette player and digs out two cassettes of devotional songs in Bengali from the pile of cassettes which are now ignored in today’s world of Winamp and Channel V. He plays them every year on the first day of this time of year at an unholy hour of 7.00 am that too quite loudly. And we know by listening to “Mahishashur Mardini” that its Mahalaya i.e. the beginning of Durga Puja that day. You can listen to some songs at this link here.
Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It’s a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth – “Jago Tumi Jago”. This is done through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs. Since the early 1930s, Mahalaya has come to associate itself with an early morning radio program called “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon.” This All India Radio (AIR) program is a beautiful audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of “Chandi Kavya”, Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama. The program has also been translated into Hindi set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience. This program has almost become synonymous with Mahalaya. For nearly six decades now, the whole of Bengal rises up in the chilly pre dawn hours, 4 am to be precise, of the Mahalaya day to tune in to the “Mahisasura Mardini” broadcast.