Tagore and the Hills
A brief personal story about a young writer’s school memories of Bengal’s illustrious poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Accompanied by a sketch of Tagore drawn by the writer himself.
Distinct melodies layering the winds passing her straight hair. Musky smell. Chilling breeze. They were busy helping each other out. In between them, I was feeling the anxiousness.
Suddenly I remembered that within 7 days a special day will be in my arms, a special day celebrating a person whom the school and the valley knew as ‘A bearded man’. His melody erupts in the valley whenever my mother sings “আমারো পরান যাহা চায়, তুমি তাই” (What my heart wants, is you). A song very close to my heart after she transferred it to me. But after 7 days the remaining days will be scaffolded with His songs. My school won’t organise it. My valley won’t organise it with a big stage where young chaps will feel Him. I just wanted to take her with me that day, in the valley within the valley. A valley where melodies keep multiplying themselves.
Suddenly our class teacher came near me. “Where is your mind? I was asking you a question but you weren’t answering. You want to go out of the class?” My eye lids fell after about 6-7 seconds. I felt that I was in His grip with that song inside me. She was looking towards me. I felt that we won’t be friends any more. May be the embarrassment will dominate us whenever a conversation will start. Tagore’s song and her face were constantly meeting each other. With a fragile tone I replied to her: “Sorry Madam, Actually Rabindra Jayanti is coming so I was just thinking about that”. Madam smiled “Okay, but now concentrate on your English class. Rabindranath is not going anywhere.”. I smiled back and for the very first time after 10 minutes I opened the textbook. I looked towards her and she was flashing a mischievous smile. “Uff! Tagore always makes good environment!” I thought to myself.
After the class my best friend, a Khasi, came with curiosity on her face and asked: “Hey why Madam was smiling after scolding you?”. I narrated the whole story and she asked: “What is his name?” “It’s Rabindranath, but you can say Tagore”. I replied.
She said “But why suddenly Tagore came when Madam was teaching? You must be careful in the class”.
“It was just that my conscience couldn’t resist myself from thinking about him. Actually his birthday is coming, and being the only Bengali family here, my Maa celebrates this day with His songs.” I said.
She said, “Oh how do they sound? The songs. I never got the chance to listen to his songs or any Bengali song. Plus why aunty only? Where do you live? And there must be other Bengali families, right?”.
I said “No, we have one Oriya family, one bachelor man from Sikkim and another Bachelor man from Chandigarh. They are my father’s colleagues. So ya, we are the single Bengali family. But it’s fun when they listen. They love his songs”.
She said, “Wow, may I come? I can ask my family to come. (What? I was going to ask her. You just spoiled everything)
I said, “Obviously, you will love him and his songs. They are just like a jar of honey which keeps refilling itself. Okay, I don’t wanna spoil the suspense. Hey, you can help us in organising the programme?”
She said, “It would be my pleasure Kabir. But first I want to listen his songs. Can you sing?”
I said, “I can’t but ya I have a Walkman in my bag. It’s filled with his songs. Let me take out the headphones.”
I took the Walkman out of my ‘almost empty’ bag and pushed the play button. “তোমরা যা বলো তাই বলো, আমার লাগে না মনে” (You can say whatever you want, my heart seldom gets hurt) started playing. She was moving her head with eyes closed like a parrot on a tree.
She said “It’s really nice. Oh this man is great. Hey listen, I will be going through the Bird Suicide Spot today as the road has been closed due to some conflict. Would you like to come? I know the whole valley so I can point out the shortcut for you.”
With fear in my heart I said, ” Ya. But when did the conflict take place and why?”
She said, “Oh it’s just a conflict between the Mizos and the Nagas”.
After the school we started our stroll, with the headphones in her ear and Walkman on my hand she was walking with wings behind. I said inside my heart “That’s Tagore.”
As the hills became distinctly visible before us, I said “Do you know Meghalaya was named by Tagore as it’s the Valley of Clouds”.
She said “Don’t talk, Let me hear.”
We passed the watch tower where we saw a old Khasi man singing a Khasi song. Tagore just met Haflong and I framed the whole meeting inside me with her face within it.
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