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Friday, May 8, 2009

Poetry in the pain of ecstasy

148th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore

Syed Badrul Ahsan / May 8, 2009

Rabindranath Tagore is at the core of your being. The Bengali in him approximates the Bengali in you. As you recite his poetry or sing his songs, you remain aware of certain inalienable truths. And they are pretty simple ones as well. The bard speaks to you through the turnings in the seasons. In your turn, you speak to him, absorb his sentiments as it were. The result is a harmonious whole. 

And harmony is what Rabindranath has consistently focused on. Think of shimar majhe ashim tumi / bajao apon shur. It is a song that takes you closer to Creation, indeed imbues you with thoughts of the ties that bind you to your Creator. In his puja songs, there emerges all the brilliance of the universe as it goes through a dawning somewhere deep within time and space. And so you hear the gentle tones of tumi daak diyechho kon shokale / keu ta jaane na. In Rabindranath, it is the gentle and the tranquil which flows through the leaves of the trees. The poetry is the breeze.

And the poetry caresses, all the way through the verses given over to a celebration of love. Imagine the beauty and the poise of the one you adore, you worship. Imagine the silk softness of her being as you hum aha tomar shonge praaner khela. The soul is all in Rabindranath, be it in the links between man and woman or between you and the gods. Praan, the soul, takes on a sadder dimension when the loved one moves away, which is when you lose yourself in the pale light of the moon and sing dekhate parine keno praan. No pain can be more intense than that which the beloved does not see. Close your eyes and hear the pain of the one who sings amar praaner pore chole gelo ke / boshonter bataash tukur moto . . .

And yet there is sometimes pleasure in Rabindranath's evocation of pain. You call it the agony of reaching for the heights and at the same time know that you cannot quite scale the peaks of desire. The soul wriggles through a delicate dilemma in the song, shunil-o shagorer shyamal-o kinare. The pain begins at the beginning and then rises clear of you, of the earth your feet are firmly planted on, until it reaches its crescendo in imone kedaraye behaage bahare. There is ecstasy in that song, as there is in the sadder, quieter jokhon eshe chhile ondhokare chand utheni / shindhu pare chand utheni.

There is forever the primordial in Rabindranath. It is life he celebrates and death he glorifies. The universe is a pattern of ever widening ripples and experience is the insistent falling of the rain on monsoon nights. When the melody of tomaye gaan shonabo / tai to amay jagiye rakho seeps into you and goes into an intensification of your sensibilities, you realise that this canvas of aesthetic beauty will pass into a wider cosmos one day, in the way the river finds itself anew in the bosom of the sea. Somewhere deep in the night, the wind brings to you the strains of ogo nodi apon bege pagol para. The beating in your heart is a sign of the expansiveness of melody. You know then that the earth is now poised to meet the sky, that the river prepares to consummate its romance with the heavens. The climactic comes through the whispered megh bolechhe jaabo jaabo / raat bolechhe jai / shagor bole kul milechhe / ami to ar nai. You are at peace. You lie back, until the pounding at the gateway of the heart tells you that newer songs have arrived.

Images of the one lost to time flash before you. The sense of loss reveals the vacuum that the passing of a soulmate has left behind, crater-like. Your loneliness comes encompassed in noyono shommukhe tumi nai / noyoner majh khane niyechho je thain. And then, swiftly and surely, you are pulled back to thoughts of your own mortality . . . amar din phuralo / byakul badolo shanjhe.

The universe is what God has made of it. We are but atoms, infinitesimal beings in the consistently expanding frontiers of the universe. But we are the universe too, for the Creator redefines Himself within us, humbling us with His munificence. And so we cheerfully sing amare tumi oshesh korechho / emoni leela tobo.

You are thus part of the miracle. God's beauty comes conjoined with your song. At the edge of twilight is a new beginning . . . amar bela je jaaye shanjh bela te / tomar shure shure shur mela te. 

Poetry has triumphed.


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