Gurudeb Rabindranath Tagore, Bishwakobi Robindronath Thakur - our very own Robi Thakur - was born on 7 May 1861 and sailed into the sunset leaving behind his considerable oeuvre and legacy - for us to savour - on 7 August 1941. This being the month of July - the official rainy season, though Mr. Rain is happily vacationing in Spain; yet the occasional pitter-patter of the raindrops brings to mind Robi Thakur's evergreen songs and poems. And that pretty much helped me to decide on what I want to write next.
I have an old friend, a friend from my schooldays and he is very good at playing the mouth organ. And though he lives in Japan now, he faithfully did his bit as our Cultural Ambassador there - playing Rabindrasangeeth at a concert - last year.
Now, Rabindrasangeeth (or the songs of Robindranath Tagore) is the most melodious of songs ... according to yours truly of course. And if this doesn't seal or giveaway my true blue bongololona roots, what will?! You agree, don't you? [Note: Mind it, I said roots and not grassroots :)]
But let me not digress.
Umm, so you want to know what tune my friend played? Well, he played Purano Shei Diner Kotha - penned by our much-loved poet laureate - and mesmerized his audience.
'Purano sei diner kotha bhulbi ki re hai o shei chokher dekha, praaner kotha shaykii bhola jaaye' - is about the beauty of days gone by. A nostalgic tune that brings you back your childhood, takes you through down memory lane.
Tagore particularly admired the celebrated 18th century Scottish poet and lyricist, Robert Burns (1759-96) - the one who penned O My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. Burns is Scotland's national poet and is also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as The Bard.
He is regarded, as a pioneer of the Romantic Movement, and after his death became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora around the world.
As you may know, Tagore's "Purano shei diner kotha" (Memories of the Good Old Days) was inspired from the tunes of "Auld Lang Syne" - a Scottish poem composed by Robert Burns. Burns did not compose it per se but rather saved it from obscurity.
There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.
Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve very quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (not to mention English, Welsh and Irish people) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.
As for us: much of our culture and heritage - including songs, poetry, folklore, art and music has been lost to the mists of time. Or has been twisted beyond recognition. Much of it - our heritage, that is - now revolves around whether women or girls, I mean the female of the species, should wear jeans. Must say, our self-proclaimed 'sons-of-the-soil' aka dhartiputra-s aka 'defenders of our ancient culture and traditions' are quite convinced that Levi Strauss also moonlighted as Manu's darzi. But ... the dhoti, panche or mundu has absolutely nothing to do with the upliftment of 'our ancient culture and traditions'. This is perhaps because it is difficult to uplift anything else let alone 'our ancient culture and traditions' ... while wearing them. One is too busy uplifting the dhoti, the panche or the mundu instead. Also these are major hindrances when the sundry 'defenders' and the 'sons-of-the-soil' have to answer their call of sacred duty whenever the womenfolk 'ask for it'. Tying them back on after having done one's duty is a momentous task indeed. Therefore selective amendments have been made ... so as to allow the inglees pants, better known as trousers, to sneak in.
Umm, I have been digressing yet again. My apologies. You see the compass is on a vacation. But henceforth I'll stick to the straight and narrow, I promise. So, lets retrace our steps.
In other cultures however, there are composers whose compositions have stood the test of time. Auld Lang Syne by Scotland's best-loved bard, Robert Burns (1759-1796) is one such example. This wonderful pentatonic tune influenced two popular compositions in Bangla. Tagore himself composed Purano Shei Diner Kotha based on it, while Suparnakanti Ghosh did the same many years later by injecting the tune verbatim - in order to introduce the lyrics of Gauriprasanna Majumder's Coffee House-r Shei Adda, that Manna De's golden vocal chords elevated to the status of anthem for the youth. The story of Burns ends here, very little of the rest of the genius of Burns lives on. Be that his poetry or his music. For many other popular Celtic or Scottish songs, the tune or composition has survived while the composer has gone into oblivion ... claimed by that wise, old man with a long, gray beard - also known as Father Time.
"Auld Lang Syne" ("s" rather than "z") is Scottish for "old long ago" or "a long time ago" or "old times". Consequently "For auld lang syne", as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as "for (the sake of) old times".
[Note: "Auld Lang Syne" - the song's (Scots) title may be translated into English literally as, "old long since", or more idiomatically, "long, long ago" or "days gone by".]
In Scots syne is pronounced like the English word sign - IPA: [sain] - not [zain] as many people pronounce it.
As for 'Purano Sei Diner Kotha': The lyrics are so simple and yet so profound. Memories about the simple joys of life, shared with someone you love. Memories that are old sepia-tinted but cannot be forgotten. Memories of meeting of the eyes and heartfelt talks; memories of picking flowers together - early in the morning; memories of swinging on a swing and singing under the shade of a tree. Can one really forget those (g)olden days?
Who did Robi Thakur pen this for? Who did he have in mind - that inspired such timeless lyrics that also tugs at one's heartstrings?
Maybe he wrote it for Kadambari Debi - his much-adored sister-in-law-cum-childhood playmate - in her memory, that is. [Note: I am not completely sure though. The net - particularly Prof. Google - wasn't of much help and none of my friends could throw any light on this. But, if any of you are aware of any more snippets, please do share.]
Tagore composed this song after he came back from England, and it was in England that he first heard this Scottish folk song: Auld Lang Syne. He has captured the pathos of parting, and used the same notes as were used in the original song ... with his amazing, vivid and lyrical imagination. So much so that it reaches in and touches the soul. Needless to say, 'Purano Sei Diner Kotha' is one of my favorite songs.
This song is about nostalgia, about loss of old friends and the hope of meeting them again. It is about the memories that remain in our hearts forever. It is about remembering those old times and wishing them back. It is about the friendships that we have let go of ... while we were too busy with ourselves ... only to realize one fine day what actually we have lost.
Here is the song in Bangla:
Purano shei diner kotha
Bhulbi kii re
Hai o shei chokher dekha, praaner kotha
Shaykii bhola jaaye
Aaye aar ektibar aayre shokha
Praner majhe aaye mora
Shukher dukher kotha kobo
Praan jodabe tai
Mora bhorer bela phuul tulechi, dulechi dolaaye
Bajiye baanshi gaan geyechi bokuler tolai
Hai majhe holo chadachadi, gelem ke kothaye,
Abaar dekha jodi holo shokha, praner majhe aai
And here is the English Translation (not mine though): it is not an exact text translation, but sort of:
Old times' tale - how could they be forgotten?
Lived through our eyes,
Words spurting from our hearts - sweet memories
Come once again ... to the embrace of the soul,
Sharing joys and woes, gratifying our hearts.
We gathered flowers in the dawn, swayed on the swing,
We sang songs and played the flute beneath the bokul tree
Alas we parted then, who knows where we went...
Now that we meet again, friends, let's embrace.
Here is a link to the fabulous Purano shei diner kotha - rendered by the evergreen Hemanta Mukhopadhyay: Link.
The lovely Purano shei diner kotha played in piano [along with piano notation]: Link.
The lovely Purano shei diner kotha played in piano [along with piano notation]: Link.
Link to the iconic Coffee House-r Shei Adda-ta Aaj Aar Nei, Aaj Aar Nei - rendered by Manna-da's golden vocals: Link [Guitar chords: Link.]
[The Lyrics/ Coffee House-r Shei Adda-ta Aaj Aar Nei, Aaj Aar Nei: Link.]
Purano shei diner kotha – By Srikanto Acharya: Link.
Purano shei diner kotha – by the peerless Kishore Kumar (Kishore Kumar Ganguly): Link.
Purano shei diner kotha/ Auld Lang Sine: From the movie 'Ballygunge Court': Link.
(More later ...)
Photograph: Who else, but Winnie the Pooh! Found it while trawling the net. Don't remember the link though :(