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Iftar Of Wisdom- Bankim, Jamini, Majaw

Iftar Of Wisdom- Bankim, Jamini, Majaw

What could be the relationship between Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Jamini Roy and Lou Majaw? Read this story and find out.

By Somashis Gupta

Do you know the relationship between Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Jamini Roy and Lou Majaw?I mean besides the fact that all of them are renowned figures in their respective fields. Well neither did I until …

Kurshid and I are friends since our college days. An invitation during Ramadan in his house for iftar is atradition we maintain since our student life. This year was no exception.

By the time I arrived, it was time for the MaghribNamaz. I let myself in and waited at the huge living room. Their house at Metiabruz takes you in a time warp with antiques all around from the Nababi era. My thoughts were interrupted as I saw the domestic helps arriving with eclectic delectable, and I found my sublingual glands showing their presence in my mount.

Kurshid walked in after them and greeted me with a big smile,“Ah! You have arrived buddy, great! Salam Walekum.

“Walekum Assalam, how have you been? I did the customary adab.

“Oh life is tough these days because of the heat,” he replied.

“Indeed, Ramadan in the true sense,” I was referring to the word ‘Ramadan’which means ‘beginning of the hot season’.

“Oh Yes, you know what I do? I just seat in my study, put on the air conditioner and read a book,” Kurshid said forwarding me the plate of fruits.

“What books are you into these days?” I asked helping myself with some sultat fawakih (a spicy fruit salad).

“I am reading Bankim these days,” he said sipping the sharbat. 

“Oh good choice, so how do you find him?” I asked.

“He fascinates me. He is extremely bold you know,” Kurshid expressed.

“Which one are you referring to?” I asked.

“In Durgeshnandini have you seen the way he spoke about love triangle? And that too at a time when the society was all hush-hush speaking about love, not only that in Kopalkundalahe challenged the prevailing social norms,”  Kurshid was excited.

“I agree, Durgeshnandini was his first novel, isn’t it?” I asked.

“No actually his first work was a volume ofpoems titled Lalita O manus in 1858. His journey in the world of fiction started with an English novel Rajmohan’s wifein 1864,” Kurshid corrected.

“Oh is it?” I was unaware of that.

As we were speaking the maids brought in the horderves. Bengali fish fry, Sish Kabab,Galutis, and Tundays. I was tempted to fill my plate but opted for knowledge instead of food for a change. I asked, “Have you read Bishbrikhya?” 

“It is the one where he speaks about widow remarriage?” Kurshid asked.

“Yes, I think his works are true examples of the Bengal renaissance,” I could not resist any further so filled my plate with the kababs,and continued,but you know what, I feel his works in Anandamath , and Rajsimha though intended to unite, actually helped the British in their policy of ‘divide and rule’.”

“Well that is one point of view, but the same novel gave us Vande Mataram which united the country against the British, and remains the highest used slogan in any revolution across the world,” Kurshid argued.

“Yes that is true,” I went for a second helping of Galuti kabab and continued,

“Talking of Vande Mataram, I saw a video the other day where some teenagers when asked who wrote Vande Mataram replied saying A. R. Rahman.”

“What? This is ridiculous,” Kurshid was furious and surprised.

“Can’t help it, Mera BharatMahan.” Both of us were sad but then the smell of Haleem touched our nostrils to cheer us up. “I think that is Haleem, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes,” Kurshid confirmed with a smiling face.

“How is your son doing?” I asked.

“He is good. Currently his new obsession is Lou Majaw. Throughout the day Moidul is only listening to Lou,” Kurshid said.

“Lou Majaw? You mean the Bob Dylan of Shillong?” I was surprised to know that Lou, the legend of my birth place, is so popular amongst this generation and that too in Calcutta.

“Yes, Lou from Shillong. But do you know he started his career in the city of joy, our Calcutta?” Kurshid proudly said.

“Well frankly speaking I did not know this. All what I know is he is extremely popular in the North East and known as the Tambourine Man,” I said.

“True he sings Bob Dylan songs, but he also has his own compositions, wait let me call Moidul he will tell us better.”

Kurshid called Moidul “Moidul, Moidul …”

In a while I saw the young boy in his early 20s, walk into the room. His father asked, “Lou Majaw has his own albums no?”

“Yes Abbu, ‘Breaking Through’ followed by ‘Dance your ass off’ these are the two albums that I have heard,” the boy said.

“So what made you interested in Lou Majaw?” I asked.

“My Dada always used to speak about him and…”Moidul could not complete when his father interrupted him and said, “Abbu was extremely fond of Western music. He used to visit all the pubs and bars of Calcutta where he was introduced to Lou’s music.”

“Yes,he used to sing with bands like Dynamite Boys, Vanguards, Supersound Factory and Blood and Thunder way back in 1960s,” saying this Moidul picked up a piece of  SishKabab and continued, “ he had organized  Dylan’s birthday concert in Shillong on 24th May 1972.

“Yes I am aware of this and since then he has been organizing the concert every year,” I added.

I wanted to say that he was the recipient of ‘Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’ award in 2016 but then wewere served with Biryani, Murg Massalam, Shirmal, Rann e Kabab which diverted my attention.

“I hope you like the Biryani, I got the mutton from Ekbal Meat Shop,” Kurshid was anxious to see my reaction.

“How very clever of you, Pakki Biryani is best with Riwaji Gosth you knowI said filling my plate with a hefty spoon full of Biryani and wondered why my appetite increases when I see Biryani.

“You were not much into western music were you?” I asked leaving my thoughts on Biryani aside.

“No I am more into RabindraSangeet and my recent interest includes paintings. Paintings especially of Jamini Roy,” Kurshid informed.

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“Ah! You remind me of the Google Doodle of 2017, to celebrate his birthday,” I said.

“Yes he is the highest searched artist in India, but do you know why?” Kurshid put me in an awkward situation.

“Hmm …well…Is it because he was a student of Aban Thakur?” I guessed.

“Well he was one of the most famous pupils of Abanindranath Thakur, but that is not the reason. I think his works were a perfect blend of his Western art training and his adoption of a new style based on Bengali folk traditions,” Kurshid corrected.

“Oh! Okay. I am not much into art, tell me more about him,” I was keen to know about Jamini Roy.

“Roy had produced 20,000 paintings in his lifetime, which makes 10 paintings on an average per day. Each of them different yet his artistic aims remained the same,” Kurshid continued after his last bite of chicken, “he was a man who had made art accessible to a wider section of people by incorporating the art with simplicity of folk people.”

“I read somewhere that his works were even exhibited in London?” I asked.

“Yes, in fact his main clientele was the Bengali middle class and European community. His first exhibition was in British India Street, Calcutta, in 1938, and later in London 1953,” Kurshid added.

“Now that you tell me I remember a display of his art in Victoria and Albert Museum London,” I recalled.

By this time the serving plates were almost empty, except the last course murrabba, sahi tukra and firni. As I was about to approach the table I saw Mahazabin, Kurshid’s wife, enter.

She said, “Bhaijan, hope you enjoyed the little preparation?”

“Oh yes, of course! Waiting for Eid invitation,” I joked.

“I heard your discussion from the other room, but you have missed out one major aspect,” Mahazabin surprised us.

“What?” asked Kurshid.

“All the three personalities you discussed had something in common. Do you know what that is?” she asked.

“They are all humanists?” I asked.

“Yes of course all of them are humanists and express their views by writing, singing or painting, but did you know that the month of April is special for all of them?” Mahazabin put us in further confusion.

“Why so?” Kurshid asked.

Mahazabin walked out by saying, “Jamini Roy was born on the 11th of April, Bankim died on 8th of April and Lou Majaw was born on the 7th of April.”  

“The first of April is a day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year!”-Mark Twain

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