Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Suman Chatterjee: Remember When You Were Young

...You were there.In those teenage days, when life as a meaningless, shapeless drudgery was still an unknown nightmare, when each day , like individuality of freshly minted coins, looked different and exciting. In my little room of 'growing-up-days' you came in 1997, and through my 'T.Rex' cassette player, changed my ear for a song forever.

Songs were for entertainment then. A mass production for an half-ass ignorant masses--Indian songs, beyond its classical heritage, was mostly tied to a movie.The scenario was not different for West Bengal where you dared to stand against the tide-and against all those rotten tomatoes.The rest is an oft-repeated history and urban legend which shaped an entire generation(my generation who grew up in uneventful '90's). That generation still roots for you,and an interview like (this)from those days makes them a little moist around two eyes which seldom got a time for tears in their adult life.

But apart from being a legend who somehow resurrected Bengali songwriting for a certain class of people in West Bengal, what did you mean to me?

Many of my friends picked a thousand different things from your songs. Some found it amazing-the second coming after Rabindranath;some found it a copycat's attempt to imitate the great Dylan, some found it highly imitable (and arguably that "man with a wooden guitar", a new addition to Bengali's fantasy-gallery of Romantic male, gave birth to myriad 'Bengali' rock bands whose cacophony died as soon as college was over and lead singer made his voice hoarse by waiting for an interview in the August sun).

For me you opened an window. A very big one. A boy who never lived in a city, it was his first peek at the by-lanes and neighborhoods of Calcutta. It was his first peek at other side of a song which can go beyond that universal vending machine of 'selling' love and talk about anger, hope and heartbreak of contemporary times, of contemporary Bengal. Yet it was the very first time of knowing that love songs can be so much tender yet so much closer to daily life of common people. You gave me imagery which till now no one else in the world of great lyrics been able to give--image of that common man and his eternal war to live another day, image of a rusty, unkempt urban park and so many microcosms around it which left invisible to our ignorant, hazy eyes, image of an ancient writer's walk through the rural roads of beauty--countless image, countless words. Only for you, the crows feet at the corner of my eyes will always teach me a 'trigonometry' of different kind, only for you my hope will always stand like two lovers or like a mother who lost her son and about to make her dead son's bird free from the cage.

In the end, with all these images, with pirouetting of your pen to make a much-used Bengali phrase or adjective sound like first surprise of human kind, you cursed me. You cursed an entire generation who will live with your songs ringing in the head. For them there was no bigger idol, bigger soothsayer who would utter deeper than the ocean emotions, truer than the fire protest songs and tender than a beautiful woman's midday slumber love songs. They will search every nook and corner to find a better pen than yours, they will compare in their head each new form of music they encounter, they will live with your poems in myriad pedantic efforts of imitation. You will be gone then. Pens given its knee down to politics, head given its blue sky to the pit of the stomach. But , on a day like today, when the evening brings some emotions for which all the men of the world can not find a word in the dictionary, my mind reaches out to those years of growing up. Nobody tells thanks to his father, but take a bow for being the guiding light of that threshold of a life which learned to live beyond 'eat-shit-die' because...