Syed Badrul Ahsan
There is beauty about an evening given over to music. And the charm reaches greater heights when the songs come in informal manner. On Independence Day, at a friend's place --- and he is a highly respected academic at Dhaka University --- in the company of other good friends, I listened to songs which once were sung by Manna De, Hemanta, Kishore and so many others. The good bit about the evening was the ease with which people sang. There was good conversation, good food and wonderful silences. And beyond it all there was music, modern as well as Tagore and Nazrul.
I will confess that at such sessions of melody I find it hard to resist the urge to sing. But, then again, there is that certain inhibition, propelled more by a desire not to embarrass myself and the audience, which sometimes comes in the way. But on that evening, I sang. And I sang because I needed to, because my friends had gloriously made the announcement that I could 'sing'. And so it was that Ruhi, the hostess, handed me the microphone. A microphone, as some of you might know, is an instrument which instills fear in you the moment it comes into your hand. At that point, you simply cannot abandon it and walk away, even if your legs begin to give way and threaten to collapse in a heap around you. What would the good men and women seated before you think of such rudeness?
And so I did what I often do. I went for some humour, much of it of the self-deprecating kind. Everyone laughed. I do have reason to think they found it rather hilarious. For good measure, lest I feel nervous, I had Professor Akhtar --- and he was the host --- give me moral strength by being at my side. He is my batch mate at university and like all my classmates and academic contemporaries, he looks extremely young. I am the odd one out, with my grey hair that is now nearly gone. What remains of it is a treasure.
But enough of that. On that evening, or as night seeped into the room, I sang. It was Mahmudunnabi's borho eka eka laage / tumi paashe nei boley that I began with. It is one song I keep singing, for there is in it the kind of romance which is sometimes punctuated by quiet desire.
And so I sang. My friends joined me in the singing, which made the occasion even more joyous. I branched out into a second Mahmudunnabi number, ke jeno aaj amar chokhe / notun alo duliye dilo. As with the earlier song, I sang the entirety of this second song. It was then time to remember Khondokar Faruq Ahmed, whom I had the privilege of meeting a few months before he passed away. His eyes brimmed with tears when I hummed aami nijer mone nijei jeno / gopone dhora porhechhi. It was this song which I picked up again at Akhtar's place. Every other artiste in the room joined me, which was a potent sign of how music brings people together.
I picked up a line from Abdul Jabbar. If you recall, ekti moner ashish tumi / kachhe jokhon ele makes people like you and me fall in love all over again. You look straight into a pair of beautifully dark eyes and you know you must sing for her --- as the breeze plays games in her hair and the rays of the setting sun draw patterns of beauty across her soft, dewdrop-touched face.
As I write these lines, it is Tagore's ek tuku chhoan laage that I sing. It is the touch of love you miss, that soft warmth which passes from one hand to another in life's fleeting moments, as dawn gives way to bright day.