There is the primordial which comes with any remembrance of Rabindranath Tagore. Go beyond the clichés, the ordinary, the stereotyped. Yes, Tagore remains the foremost figure in Bengali literature. That only opens up a whole range of discussion, in the academic sense of the meaning of course.
His place in history, in the overall Bengali scheme of things, then takes centre stage. But leap across all that and in your own individual way try feeling Tagore in the soul. As the day wanes in the steep decline of twilight, sing 'amar je deen bheshe gachhe chokher-o jole'; and a slight thump in your heart will speak to you once more of the eternal loneliness of man in a forbidding universe.
And yet there is 'gogone gogone aponar-o mone ki khela', a veritable celebration of Creation. In Tagore, therefore, subsisted a man for all seasons, a being in whom came encompassed an entirety of life and thoughts of what lay beyond it. Listen to Himadri Shekhor recreate that Tagorean ambience with 'tumi robe nirobe', with 'aami ki gaan gaabo je bhebe na pai'. You get the sense once more of why the Bard continues to exercise such a powerful hold on the Bengali imagination.
And that imagination, you will have noticed by now, is but a seductively charming combination of the lyrical and the romantic, interspersed with the magical. Debabrata Biswas brought it all out in his renditions of Tagore's songs. Go looking for his 'gaaye amar pulok laage' or 'aji joto tara tobo akashe'. Hum, if you will, 'gopone dekhechhi tomar byakul noyone bhaaber khela'. Chances are the universe will come to be symbolised in you; or you will move away, even if momentarily, from the banalities that afflict the world you are part of.
In our times, here in Bangladesh, if you have not heard Mohiuzzaman Chowdhury sing 'diner sheshe ghoomer deshe', you have missed a whole lot. His is a voice which brings deep pathos with its flow; and there is then Mita Huq, for this generation a symbol of everything Tagore should be for all generations. When she sings 'tumi kon bhangoner pothe ele shupto raate', it is the coruscating stillness of the night that begins pounding away in your soul. In an earlier time there was Papia Sarwar in our part of the world.
And, to be sure, individuals of a high calling --- and you have Waheedul Haque, Sanjida Khatun and Kalim Sharafi in mind --- responsible for a preservation and enrichment of the Tagore heritage have always been there. On the other side of this large pasture there has been the overwhelming presence of Suchitra Mitra, of others. Chinmoy may not have appealed to the perfectionists, but his songs have generally been our initiation into the world of Tagore music. Think of 'amar mon kemon kore'. And Sagar Sen? All these years after his passage into nothingness, he remains our claim on Tagorean romanticism, at least part of it. His soul comes searing through in 'prokhoro topono taape akash trishaye knaape'.
But you do not really recall Tagore without letting the mind travel back to the world of Subinoy Roy. In 'tumi daak diyechho kon shokale', in 'hridoy amar prokash holo ononto akashe', you get a sense of the pristine world that once defined life around us, in us. It was again pristine, soulful romance that came alive when Hemonto sang 'tomaye gaan shonabo tai to amaye jagiye rakho'. It is all part of the Tagorean ethos, this ability to raise love to the heights of sublimity. You appreciate the beauty that defines womanhood, you sing paeans to the beloved and then you give it a push of Olympian proportions to make it come level with the heavens.
It is the gods who stand transformed into objects of your love. Close your eyes and hum 'chiro bondhu chiro nirbhor choro shanti tumi he probhu'. You will get a fairly good idea of things. Or there is that pure buzz of romance, as in 'amar praaner pore chole galo ke boshonter batash tukur moto'. Remember how in all the callowness of our youth we made amends, somewhat, by lipsing that evergreen number 'amar-o poran-o jaha chaye tumi tai go'?
On 25 Baishakh and 22 Shraban, therefore, we celebrate Tagore in his absence. In 'noyon chherhe gele chole' we bring him back, or go back to him. We celebrate the cultural traditions we are heir to. As the evening descends and we make our way to the banks of the river to rue over the loss of another day, the strains of a song are heard along the waltzing waves. Aaji shaanjher Jamunaye-go toruno chander kirono tori bheshe jaaye-go rekindles the sensibilities in us.