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Archive for January 3rd, 2019

যখ When I left the St. John’s school and joined the Hooghly Collegiate in Chinsurah, in 1957 in class VII, the new block was being built. It was out of bounds to us for Champaign Sadhu who later became my classmate, had fallen off the unparapetted roof while flying a kite. A muddy heap of dug out clay hadsaved his life, though he missed about a year of academic life to recover from other injuries. I first entered the new building in class Ix, for that class was held on the first floor of the new. Building. We had a clear view of the river from there. Several days during school hours we saw a rolling tide travel upstream. It spanned the rivers full width and had a diameter varying between a few. He’s to about a yard and rolled rather noisily at times, Sukul chacha wa the school daftari (office assistant) and lived in. A quarter assigned to him on the premises. His son, Muklal, was our classmate for two successive years. He was an avid river-watcher and knew the time of high tides. He warned us about the up and coming ones beforehand. But our river was Hooghly(Bhagirathi) , not as wild as the Padma or Meghna across the border. The riverside Pakistanis had suffered several river upheavals over the previous century. The Malo-Kaivartas of coastal East Bengal, the tide country, ভাঁটি বঙ্গাল, broke into a song at the slightest provocation. The men folk sang poignant love songs while rowing their boats, usually after sundown, and composed the lyrics as the sang on. Their yodels were heard from afar for the river carried music or voices very far. Their wives or girlfriends could hear them and start laying out the plates and bowls for them. Women sang without provocation. It was usual for lesson lasses to sing love songs or wedding songs after their customary evening dip. The girls usually sang, or hummed in a low voice, the menfolk knew that they were singing but couldn’t hear them till they came ashore.The wedding songs are no longer sung in modern Bengal, East or West. But the girls continue to sing, nevertheless: I never heard them in situ, this side of the border till I was an adult and East Pakistan had become Bangladesh. One such song was about a tidal wave in the river Padma that had washed away several human habitats.

Comely Malo lasses sang country songs that often sounded like mantras being chanted or mothers singing a lullaby. The tunes and notes seemed familiar but actually weren’t.

“ঢেউ দিল ঢেউ দিল রে, তালগাছের মাথার চেয়েও উচা।/

(নদী) বহে রে, গুনগুনাইযা নিজের মনে মনে।/

ও সুবল মাঝিরে, তোর দরাজ বুকে ঠাঁই দিবি আমায়?

আমার ঘর বাডি ভাসিয়া গেছে তালসমান ঢেউয়ে রে,

ধুযে গেল আমার যত স্মৃতি, আপ্তজন,/

তাই বসে আছি আম্রবৃক্ষের ডালেরে,/

তুই যেখানে ভিডিযেছিলি নাও।/

নদী আপন মনে বহে চলে, নিরবধি বহে রে,

তুই বিহা করবি না আমায়।”

the waves were high, higher than the palm trees along the shores,

It hums it’s own songs under the breath,

Oh, Subal, the boatman will you place me on your wide chest,

I have no place to stay now, no kin’s, not even past memories,

They were washed away by the tidal waves.

So I perch on this branch of a mango tree

Where you tethered your boat for a while.

The river flows on unaware of the devastation in its wake,

It flows without waiting for time, for you refused to marry me.

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