My Tent of Hymns | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 06, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 06, 2017


My Tent of Hymns

Our house rules required us siblings to sit before our father every morning for a session on the literary classics. It was the first task of the morning and an imperative, unless Abba was abroad or hospitalized, which could be for a prolonged period at times. The sessions with him, however, had nothing to do with our school curriculums. Indeed, it was anything but that. Through literature came in glimpses of world history and basic lessons in philosophy. 

Before the sessions began, I used to finish my reyaj or vocal music sessions. By this time the younger ones amongst us would wake up and we would be sitting around Abba for that compulsory session. Done with it, we were free to go for morning walks and breathing exercises. We would then have breakfast before setting off for school. For us, things like studying for school or exams were of little significance compared to such “life” studies. Sometimes we used to have a 'No-Study' day when no one was allowed to read anything. Those were the days for studying Nature - days of watching gatherings of gorgeous looking clouds. Studies and exams could wait, but the drifting clouds couldn't! Before a heavy rainfall when the sky, covered by thick layers of dark clouds, turned darker and darker, wasn't watching them so, so necessary?

One day a house tutor showed up for us. A well-chosen one with a perfect sense of humour! The reason he was chosen was obvious in the very first meeting. He asked each of us, what we were studying and whether we liked what we studied or not. Our conversation went more or less like as follows:

“ How was your last exam?”

“ Not that good!”

“ Why not?” 

“I have no idea!”

“ I see. How  did you do?”

“I was second in my class.”

“ Really?”

And then he said in a calm and composed voice: 

“Ok, tell me, how many schools do we have in Bangladesh? And every year, students who stand first in all the classes of all the schools in our country, what happens to them? Do they all become successful people? Do they grow up as good souls? So, what should we opt for?" 

Since then, I have thought a lot about what  we really should opt for. I still do. But I never again thought of coming first in any exam. Later, that fabulous teacher became a famous person … Don't ask me his name though … 

On one of those 'hermitage days', on the morning of my 13th birthday, Abba was playing music on a record player. It was a recording of Chitrangoda - Tagore's dance drama. Repeated listening had stored the play in my memory by then. Nevertheless, I would still listen to it and enjoy it too! In juvenile joy, Chitrangoda - The Queen, sang … “ My dearest, what rays caress my eyes … “(“Bondhu, Kon Alo Laglo Chokhe”).

We discussed the characters of the play and Chitrangoda's transformation with Abba. Then he said, “Let me know first when the rays reach you …” Only after he had said these words did I guess what rays he had mind. But I wish now I could have told Abba what I had sensed about them then. But some fathers just pass away. Who could have known he would be in such a hurry to go? He had initiated our learning but h never got to tutor us fully in the sacraments. His mentoring remained partial. But we would all eventually be initiated into the mysteries of the world through contemplation, through glimpsing the world of the subconscious, and through the guidance of our mother.

Geography teaches us that the planet earth stays on its route, keeping its balance because of centrifugal and centripetal forces at work. At the two ends of our world, we had our parents. While Abba was offering us a liberal education, we would always  go to back to our mother's very strict and conservative world once his sessions were over. There was nothing in between for us. And our charmed childhood was made out of such contradictory moments. When in our lofty moments we were looking for liberty in light; in the real world we were leading life viewed according to conservative beliefs. Ah, the life we lead! But I have no real wish to return to  childhood. After all, I always wanted to grow up!. But I would like to be with them once more too - the people out there!

But in silence, processions, war and music, in family festivals, professional strife, in embraces and socialization, trust and suspicion, in anger and love - I have this vast panorama at my very own quiet yard. Among the innumerable attainments of life, a sudden small gift made the south breeze blow … my soul-searchings will never end for sure … and I will keep searching for the 'ME' within me. But I will always have Rabindranth's Geetobitan as my guide--always and always--my tent of hymns! It is where I exist most fully, a part of me that articulates my innermost being. It knows what I am, speaks for me, sings of and for me! Its pages flutter in the soft breeze and resonates in my soul … and my days go by in an effort to set my tunes to its scale, unite my past with my present, and take me to the future that awaits me. 

“Can anyone and everyone join in that play of melody … or set tunes to its scale?” 

Shuborna Chowdhury lives in Toronto, Canada









Anandoloke Mongol Aloke 

It's in joy and love's realm that the truly Beauteous One reigns!

Your splendor pervades the vast expanses of the heavens!

At your feet is the entire universe, spread out beauteously

Planets and stars, moon and sun, all keep flowing fervently,

Lapping up your abounding endless gifts and dipping in it.

Your grace is showered generously on earth. You are lovely!

Flower blossoms, songs and delightful fragrances greet you.

You bestow your blessings on our existence endlessly.

And life keeps flowing day after day in ever new channels

Love, mercy, pity and devotion mellow our hearts.   

You lavish on us compassion in our agonies and distress.

The universe turns into a joy-filled place and pays you homage

And unprompted acknowledges you for your benedictions.

Aaj Josnarate Shobai Gechhe 

Enticed by the giddy spring wind on this moonlit night

Everyone has headed for the forest this day

But I'll stay exactly where I am and won't be lured away

    I'll remain all alone in a corner of my room 

        And just won't be lured away by this crazy wind!

I'll have to keep my room all spick and span,

    And must clean it and wipe the dust as well as I can

I'll have to stay wide awake, for He just might come my way

    But that can only happen when I come to His mind

        On this moonlit, windy and giddy spring day!  

Tobu Mone Rekho 

And yet remember me when I have gone far away

And even if your former love has been covered up by a new one's net.

        Remember me if I am still living somewhere close by

And you can't figure out what you see is a shadow or really me

Yet remember me!

        Remember me if one day tears well up in your eyes

And if all play suddenly stops in what had been till then a honeyed night

Yet remember me!

        Remember me if on some autumnal dawn your work hits a snag

And it occurs to you couldn't go on because you had thought of me.

Remember me even if your eyes didn't moisten when thinking of me

                               Yet remember me!    

Boisakh He Mouno Tapash

Oh Boisakh, tight-lipped austere one, 

    In what depth did you discover your profound message?

 With burning forehead, a sluggish cloud drifts in

And casts a deep shade over heated foreheads.

    You seem ready then to harbor in your heart a fierce resolve

To light up a sacrificial fire in front of some oblation spot.

O pitiless one, you put on death's ravenous look,

    Displaying bloodshot, wide open eyes!

Dreadful one, cruelly you seem intent on unraveling life's bonds,

        So vulnerable to hurt inflicted absent-mindedly.

But all of a sudden you will then sound out a message of hope

    And donning youthful green garbs pour down soothing rain!


Aamar Moner Koner Baire 

Every now and then I keep peeping from a window,

Taking in the outside world from a corner of my mind.

    Whose presence do I sense in the sad tune

Drifting in from somewhere far away?

Is she really there or merely an illusion?

Quite lost, my eyes soon begin to stray

    In which sphere will they find their evening star

    And whose shadow caresses me so fleetingly?

        My heart begins to flutter, 

        And all aglow, I start humming and singing.


Aakash Aamay Bhorlo Aloy 

Since the sky fills me with light I'll fill it with my songs.

I'll hurl the tints of my tunes at the wind and lilt it. 

        All you palash flowers glowing oh so brightly

Make your petal tips flame in brilliant hues everywhere

My mind has been lighted up by their radiant tunes.

The south wind makes the flower garden quiver forever

Young leaves chime like bells under the blue sky's golden light.        

        All you shirish trees swaying oh so softly

With a serene smile you weave fragrances that suffuse the air

Your scents fill my heart and overwhelm my soul with songs!

Translated by Fakrul Alam.

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