Each one of us siblings had a separate Dhai Maa. From cradle they loved and took care of us with all their heart. My elderly Dhai Maa was Robir Maa. She was called after her son, Robi. However, I would call her, Dhai Maa. From my birth, she brought me up with love and care. It was not possible to tell if she was my Maa or if she was Robi's Maa. In my childhood, I was very fair. Dhai Maa fondly named me Dalim Kumar. Twenty four hours of the day, she kept me under her Anchol of love and care. Ever since I can recall anything, she was there for everything; to feed me, bathe me, and also tuck me in to bed. Even in College, when I was out of the house, she would patiently wait for my return. I would have to be prepared for a Bokuni if I were late. Later when I permanently came to Kolkata in 1925, Dhai Maa also came with me to stay for she could not live without seeing me. She stayed with me for two years and returned in 1927. At home, old age complications caught Dhai Maa. She soon left the material world. At the time of her death, it was not possible for me to meet her since I was in Kolkata then.
I passed the IA (Intermediate in Arts) in 1922. All of my elder brothers did their studies away from home. I was now ready to go to Kolkata to study. I expressed this desire of mine to Baba. The bottom line truth was the desire to go to Kolkata and learn music. Baba did not want to let me out of his sight. "You're my youngest Son. All the others are abroad. You'll stay with me for at least two more years. This is my desire". I could not go against Baba's will. And that was it. I stayed in Comilla for another two years. I got admitted in the BA at Victoria College, Comilla in 1923. The villages, the sky and the winds of Purba Bangla did not want to let go of me just yet. I found an excuse to get breathing space and give all myself to nature. In the end it turned out in my favour.
Thus my BA studies started. I realized I had crossed adolescent and was now in youth. With new enthusiasm I would roam around the villages, the fields, and their wharfs. With the farmers and the fishermen, I would float boats into the river. In between vacations and bunking classes, I would spend time with the Bauls, the Bosthams, the Bhatiyali singers, and the Gajon groups. I would sing with them; listen to them; learn from them. In the midst of all this, there were sessions of smoking on their Hookah. Baba never found out that I would share the same Hookah with them.
There is no village; there is no river in this part of Purba Bangla that I have not set foot on or I have not traveled. During vacations and in between studies, I would collect
songs. Whatever I can show and offer today, is the wealth I accumulated during that period. Today I am rich only in this wealth. It is this wealth that cheers my heart whenever I enjoy it. It is this wealth with which I have remained a humble servant to music. It all originates from what I collected during that period and what I can remember in memories.
I have composed in almost all genres, but in folk music it is as if my Soul finds life. I grew up in the shadows of these simple people of the soil. This is why their simple folk tunes come naturally to me. Those tunes have created my world of fantasy. They come automatically. They vibrate and come to my voice spontaneously. For this I do not need to practice. The tunes are engraved in me.
Nobody could find the strict rules and regulations; etiquettes and formalities of the Royal Family in me. Once you have experienced the vast open green fields of the villages; once the shades of the ancient trees have hidden you away and kept you within nature; once you have walked a village at night when one or two kerosene lamps are all you could see; once you have fallen in love with the blue skies; once you have become one with the simple people and gossiped hour after hour, how in heavens can the world of the Royal Palace tie you down?
There is a phrase in Hindi: Raag Rasui, Pagri- Kabhi Kabhi Bon Jai. You don't always like good food, good music and a good headgear all the time. This phrase does not apply to folk music. In the rural environment, Baul and Bhatiyali always complement each other.
There would be an annual drama at our college. I would be the music director of the drama. As far as I can remember, our history professor would be the director of the drama. He was also a lyricist. He would pen down lyrics. I would put a tune to them. At that time, I was a big wheel amongst the students at college.
Translated by Asrar Chowdhury. He teaches in the Department of Economics at Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]