Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Short Play in One Act

Continuing the Rabindranath theme, here’s a translation of a brilliant dialogue on Tagore in Bengali, called “Jhaki Darshan”, written by this guy named Chirantan Kundu. Chirantan is extremely famous, known to over five people in Kolkata and this masterpiece of his have been doing the rounds on the world wide web for the past two years.

I have taken the liberty of making a few changes, to ensure that the conversation is more believable in English. Emboldened by the fact that the article is being forwarded on E-mails definitely without the author’s permission, I am confident of not infringing any copyright norms. In case I have, Chirantan, please don’t slap a lawsuit. I won’t fight it.

(Scene: Two Bengalis in an erudite conversation on Tagore)

Err…which Thakur (God) is this?

Why, Rabi Thakur…

Is he, like, worshipped?

Of course, dude, every May.

I mean, how, like?

Huh-that’s easy, one old picture, one holy book, (called “Gitanjali”), one tablecloth, a carpet, a few incense sticks and a fewer claps-that’s all you need. It’s real simple, you see.

Where do I get the holy book, but?

In shops, of course. Long time back, people used to get it at marriages as well. They don’t any longer, though-times have changed, you know. My cousin brother got “How to win and influence people” in his marriage.

Why the long beard, then?

He’s a God, that’s why. Like Shiv, with his shock of hair. And he also wrote a famous poem on beards-it went like, “my beard, your beard”- you remember, the one I recited last year in that competition and won the first prize.

What prize? Last year my elder brother….

Oh, never mind. But he wrote many poems, very famous poems.

Oh, is it?

Actually, you see, since he never went to school…

He never went to school?

Of course not-being a God and all that. And, back in his times, schoolbooks weren’t any good either. So he wrote many books.

Oh, I see. We have a book at our place. Must be his.

Of course. In fact, most books you will ever see are his. Social study, character analysis, reference to the context, figures of speech-where do you think these are from? His books, of course.

Wow!

What else? Stack all his books and it’s taller than a two-storeyed building. The other day, this local don came to our place, growling for his “Puja bakshish”. We were all shit scared, of course. The bugger kicked the cupboard, he was so pissed. And Thakur’s complete works, you know, those real fat books you keep on top of cupboards, fell down and knocked him out, stone cold.

My God!!

Ya, he’s a very powerful God. Moth-eaten books, but man, what power. 16 books in all-his complete works-you must have seen that, at least.

No, never.

What are you saying? You don’t have one in your house? Take ours if you want-five bucks a kilo.

Ok, I’ll tell dad-let’s see if he agrees.

…and those books also have famous songs-real tough to sing, though.

Tough? You mean they are like rap? Have to sing the whole song in one breath, like Shaggy?

Hell, no. I mean the words are tough.

Very tough words?

No, not really. Confusing words, you know. Take that song, for example, the one my elder sister sings very often-“Mone robe ki na robe amare; she amar mone nai mone nai”. What does it mean? I can’t remember if you will remember me-slightly confusing, isn’t it?

Ya, he could simply have written-“I don’t know if you will remember me” instead of getting so confusing.

Then, take that other song my mom sings-“noyono tomaye paaye na dekhite royecho noyone noyone”. As in, my eyes can’t see you; since you are in my eyes.

Good God! That’s like a riddle.

Almost. You know, he sang it to his dad one day-this was way back in the British times, remember- and, his dad was deeply moved. The old man said, “If only the Brits understood your music, they’d give you a big prize.” This pissed off the Britishers, of course. They thought, “What do these bloody natives think-we can’t appreciate their art?” And they gave a real big prize for one of his songbooks.

What prize?

The Nobel Prize, you ass. Another man got it a few days back-this guy stays in Shantiniketan, a picture of his bicycle came out in the papers, he got it for Economics….

Oh, so Robithakur wrote songs, but got the Nobel Prize for Economics?

No, no-he got it for literature. Excellent songs he wrote, but. Even today, half the cassettes and CDs you see have his songs. My uncle bought two devotional cassettes on Thakur’s birth centenary.

Ok, so that song-“Allah ke Bande” is Robithakur’s then?

No, no, that’s not his. But that film, “Yugpurush”, had two of his songs.

Which are the other movies where he was the music director?

(After deep contemplation) I don’t think he was ever a music director for movies. More like Indipop bands, you know. Only that he was solo. But there have been many movies from his books, mind you.

Like?

What’s that movie-you know, this other guy made it, who also got the Nobel Prize for movies-he made the movie on one of Robithakur’s stories, but changed the name. Smart ploy, huh-if he hadn’t changed the name, people would know what they have come to watch.

True, true.

And this guy made another film-that has three of Robithakur’s stories in it.

Three stories? In the same movie?

Yeah, but one of the three is very scary. So scary, they don’t screen it sometimes. But think about it-for thirty bucks, you get to see three stories. No wonder people respect him so much.

Do they?

Of course they do. So many people take his blessings before their boards.

Have you seen that movie-the one with three stories?

No, I haven’t. But I once went to an exhibition of his paintings.

What, he was a painter as well?

Oh, a great painter. But his style was very different. He would write a poem first, then cross it out so stylishly that it’d become a painting.

Wow!!!

Once, I was told to draw a papaya in my drawing school. I also scribbled four lines from one of his poems and criss-crossed real well. It didn’t look like a papaya though, but looked a lot like a Rhino. But that stupid teacher had no appreciation-gave me a big zero.

So, Thakur drew papayas?

No, no, he never drew papayas. His art was very abstract. That exhibition I went to had a self-portrait of his as well. I looked everywhere for his famous white beard and the black gown, but couldn’t find it-must have been sold off, I guess.

Oh, so his works are bestsellers?

Big time.

So who reads all his books?

Why, the researchers. There are separate Ph.D. theses on each of his 206 bones. I once memorised an essay on him for my boards.

So, he only wrote and painted all his life?

Of course not. He was a homeopathic doctor. And sometimes doubled up as a teacher….

Where?

In his school-where else?

But you just said that he never went to a school.

No, no he didn’t-but he opened one.

Where?

In Shantiniketan.

Ok, so an Economics school?

No, no-that Economics guy is from Shantiniketan; this school teaches everything.

He must have been real strict.

It’s not a typical school; no one gets thrashed around there. But things have changed now, I heard. Students thrashed the teachers the other day, demanding that they be allowed to cheat in the exams. Funny place, though-the classes are held in the shades of trees.

Why about birds shitting from the trees?

The birds are trained, usually in the same school. They never shit.

I heard that even his letters are famous.

Every letter is a legend. Hundreds and hundreds of them-new letters surface every year. Though some doubt whether these unpublished letters are actually his.

Why? Maybe he still writes unpublished stuff.

How will he? He died over sixty years ago.

What? Thakur is dead? Why? How?

He was old-almost eighty years old. The whole city came to his funeral.

I’d have gone too-had I been there. What a man! Even the British gave him a Nobel Prize because he didn’t go to school…

Who told you that?

You, of course. He bought a bicycle in Shantiniketan, criss-crossed unpublished letters and sold them as self-portraits…..

Goodness me! Please go home and check the Who’s Who-they have 21 lines on his life.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Arnab said...

Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not

Presidency College recently published a list of its celebrity alumnis.Rabindranath Tagore grabbed the top slot!

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great site »

6:32 AM  

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