The Twenty-Fifth of Baisakh

BanglaPress Desk
May 13, 2018

The twenty-fifth of the month of Baisakh flows on—

Another birthday coursing

Towards the day of death.

Seated on his movable stand

At the border of minuscule births and deaths

Who is the artist weaving

A garland out of innumerable Rabindranaths?

Time’s chariot moves on—

The traveler treading on foot

Lifts his drinking vessel up

And receives something to drink

By the time he’s had his fill

He’s fallen behind in the dark

While his vessel lies smashed to smithereens

Under the wheels of time.

Pursuing him comes one

Who has found something more to drink

Someone who has his name

But in reality is a different being.

I was once a boy.

The image built up now of the man

Through the mould of a few birthdays

Doesn’t resemble the boy he once was.

Those who knew him well

Have all passed away.

That boy no longer exists in his own mind

Or in anyone else’s memories.

He’s left forever—as has his world.

The laughter and tears he knew

Are not echoed in the wind anymore.

Even the shards of toys he played with

Have disappeared from sight.

He’d sit by the small window of life

Looking at the world outside.

His world limited

To what he could see through the opening.

His naïve eyes would open wide

Taking in everything till they reached their limits

In the coconut tree rows canopying the garden wall.

Evenings were intense because of spells

Cast by fairy tales; no fence stood

Between fact and fantasy.

The mind crossed effortlessly

From one to the other.

In the play of light and shadow in twilight

Shadows melded with substance

As if they were kins.

His birthdays were islands

Basking in sunshine for a while

And then disappearing in Time’s ocean.

At memory’s ebb tide from time to time

Their peaks would become visible

As would their sunset-red coral fringes.

The twenty-fifth of Boisakh showed up next

In another era—indistinct

In the flush of Spring’s early morning sunlight.

The mendicant Baul singer that is youth

Strung a passionate tune on a one-stringed ektara

Articulating some obscure pain

Seeking the invisible man in him.

Listening to those tunes in a heavenly abode

Sometimes the muse would respond.

Sending some of her messengers

Through shaded paths lit up by palash trees in bloom

Seemingly drunk in a riot of colors

On days when work didn’t matter.

I’d listen to their soft accents

Some of which I could catch.

I could see their dark eyelashes

Glisten with tears;

I’d read on their quivering lips

Intimations of intense agony.

I’d hear in their tinkling bangles

The tingle of intense anticipation.

Unknown to me

They’d leave behind

At first light of the twenty-fifth of Baisakh

Garlands woven out of newly bloomed jasmine

Overwhelming morning dreams with fragrance.

The world of those youthful birthdays

Lay in the vicinity of fairy land,

Poised between certainty and uncertainty.

Occasionally a princess would sleep there

Her overflowing tresses all around her

Occasionally she would suddenly stir

At the touch of a golden wand.

And so days went by

Till the ramparts of the twenty-fifth of Baisakh

Once daubed with spring colors

Came falling down.

The young man now entered paths where shadows quivered

Because of bakul leaves rustling in the breeze;

Where the wind sighed

And afternoon ached

At the plaintive note of a lovesick cuckoo

Imploring its mate to come back;

Where bee wings thrilled,

At the subtle call of fragrant flowers;

And green and grassy groves

Ended in highways built of stone.

The young man now would add

String after string to the ektara

He had strummed to play his tunes.

The twenty-fifth of Baisakh

Next brought me

Through rugged paths

To the shores of a sea of people

Whose waves swelled and roared.

I cast my net in their midst

Negotiating sound after sound.

Throughout the day

Till I was able to net some souls

Though some of them eluded me.

Sometimes the day would cloud over

And disillusionment set in

Making the mind stoop in ignominy

But when afternoons became unbearable

Images arrived from some blessed land

Through unforeseen ways,

Making the fruit of labor look beautiful,

Offering nectar to the exhausted soul.

Mocking apprehensions

With waves of ringing laughter.

They rekindled valiant flames;

From a fire almost consumed by ashes;

They retrieved heavenly messages

Giving them form.

Through sheer devotion.

They lit up again my fading lamp

Tuning strings that had slackened

Till music flowed again

Crowning the twenty-fifth of Baisakh

With garlands they had themselves woven.

Their magic touch

Still remains in my songs and writings.

Then my life became a combat zone

Erupting in conflicts every now and then

There were thunder-like rumblings

All across the battlefield,

Forcing me to fling aside my ektara

And pick up a kettle-drum.

Even in the intense noon heat

I had to speed on

Moving through currents of success and failure.

In the process thorns pierced my feet.

My heart too bled profusely.

Relentless waves tossed my vessel

From one side to another

Aiming to drown the freight of my life

Till it was submerged in lies and libel.

My ship of life stuck to its course

Past hate and love

Envy and friendship

Discord and harmony.

Crossing billows of steaming emotions.

In the midst of travails

Amidst conflicts and commotion.

Where you find me now is in an autumnal twenty-fifth

When light is fading and age weighing me down.

Do you realize

In what I have written

There is a lot that is unsaid

A lot that is disjointed

A lot that has been evaded?

In your respect for me,

In the love that you show

In your ability to forgive

You’ve built up a complex image

Compounded out of the good and the bad

The innermost me and what you see externally

The fame I have attained and my failures.

This construct is what is now on show.

He is the man you’ve come to garland

And the man I’ve become publicly

In the winter of my life.

Even as I leave behind for you all

My blessings.

As I take my leave

Let this image remain in your thoughts.

I certainly won’t be smug

Because it is now the property of Time.

And then give me leave

So that I can retreat

Beyond the black and white warp

From which life is woven

Beyond what I’ve become officially

To a lonely and private existence;

Let me mingle different tunes

Produced from diverse instruments

Till I reach the source of all music

And meld with the primal melody.

(“Panchishe Baisakh,” from Sesh Saptak)