Singer and her change: a new song bird.

Extracts from ‘He who summoned the magpie robin’.

‘JOY BANGLA’ echoed through her head, she never in her life had seen anything so powerful. She would always remember the tiger-like roar. She took out the piece of folded paper out of her purse. Words beautifully written with a fantastic penmanship from Shahedul Alam, a transliteration of a song she heard yesterday. The tune was eluding her. She would be able recognise it if she heard it again somewhere. For now….. The tune? Yes, it was eluding her.


Amar shonar Bangla,
Ami tomae bhalobashi.

Chirodin tomar akash,
Tomar batash,
Amar prane, O ma amar prane
Bajae bãshi. Shonar bangla ami to mae bhalobashi

O ma, phagune tor amer bone
Ghrane pagol kôre,
Mori hae, hae re O ma, phagune tor amer bone
Ghrane pagol kore,
O ma, ôghrane tor bhôra khete, ki deckhchi?
Ami ki dekhechhi modhur hashi, Shonar bangla, ami tomae bhalobashi.

The translation was written on the opposite side.

My golden Bangla
I love you
Forever your skies, your air in my heart….
O mother, in my heart it plays a flute.
My Golden Bangla I love you.

O mother,
in spring the aroma of your mango groves maddens me with joy
Ah how ecstatic,
O mother ,
in spring the aroma of your mango groves maddens me with joy
O mother,
In autumn in your full blossomed paddy fields what have i seen,
What I have seen was a beautiful smile.
Golden Bangla, I love you.

The song had so much love. It explained the bountiful beauty she had somewhat witnessed the last couple of months. They respect it like their nationalist anthem now; at least that was what Shahedul had said. Why couldn’t the English have something similar to this? …Oh, we had to be stuck to sing about some medieval institution. Wait what about ‘Jerusalem’. Oh. She folded the paper back and kept it back in the purse where she found it. The car ride back into the hotel-room had been quite an uncomfortable one. She did not know why she felt that way. Not queasy to be exact, but somewhat similar. She had attended a small private cultural function in the evening.  Shahedul wanted the foreigners to take a break from the politics and enjoy an evening of food and music. The reason: Parisa Khanam was in town and would be staying for a month or two. It was this singer from whom Martha had heard that sweet song. Parisa’s voice was like an angel…. No, a sonorous bird maybe… Yes, a song bird. Her beauty, so soft and so graceful, her long dark hair resembling the bird… Ah! The Robin, she resembled a Robin, Magpie. In her blue sari she looked like a bird curved out of Lapis Lazuli, Martha thought to herself, between bobbing every now and then from the lousy suspension system of the 1949 Volkswagen Beetle.    

“Shahedul Sir… Can you take me to the market tomorrow?” Martha humbly asked from the back seat leaning forward. Shahedul Alam from the driver’s seat peered into the rear-view mirror with one eyebrow raised.

“Market?  What market? If you need anything Ma…I will bring it for you. No worries.” Answered Shahedul, concerned off course. The word ‘Ma’, meaning mother, was used by Shahedul to signify respect as Martha was very young, almost as young to be his daughter-like and like Bengalis commonly referred to young girls as mothers, he did so. Martha was a bit ‘weird-ed’ out at first but had gotten used to it and now feels it to be a sign or gentleness and nobility the common man held in these lands.

“She wants to get a Sari, that drape-like thing“, intervened cameraman-Tom, with a reply for a question that was not his to answer.

“Well, in that case I cannot really help you with that, I’m useless in these thing.” stated Shahedul, Martha’s face darkened, “I will have to ask the Supreme Court.”

“Supreme Court?” Martha asked another question, confused.

“’Supreme Court’ is the wife and ‘High Court’ is the boss.  [Laughs] She won’t mind, she’ll be happy to take you”, replied Shahedul. Martha’s face lit up instantly. She had met the alleged ‘Supreme court’ yesterday. Nice lady.


The atmosphere of Dacca is different to that of Lahore. Lahore was dry, airless. Parisa felt as if she had not breathed properly all these years, not finding enough oxygen. Not enough air to Sing and dance. Performers could not wear what they want, singers could not sing what they want, lyricists could not write what they want, and composers could not make a tune however they wanted. A lot of things were a strict no-no. The Pop music scene was dull as ever, Bombay cinema copies. Even the new Zinga group was from this side of the border. Parisa Khanam, no…….. not that name anymore, from now on it would be Bina Bakht, short for Bina Bakhtiyar Doel, her birth name. The Stage name: Parisa Khanam was dead, the famous Paki singer was no more the same, Lahore was not the home,  the honour ‘Gahane-e-Pakistan’ ——–‘Jewellery-of-Pakistan’  —– ‘Jewellery-of-Whatever’ has gone to the dogs. Bina was born again, like Jesus rising from the dead, no one to witness, only to hear about it later, word of mouth. The name ‘Bina’ was perfect, heaven sent, her voice sounded like a flute as it was famously reputed to be.

Bina or Parisa, the once teenage pop-diva turned traditional playback sensation had more changes in her yet to come. Although very young at the age of twenty-two, she was not the lass anymore wearing flashy tights, singing swing beats. “Young boys in love with the dancing girl”, she once used to sing and had mouthed it in remembrance. She yearned for that to come back. Those days were fun, full of carelessness. Times were not so innocent anymore; she had been a woman for a while now. A proper woman should not instil lust in men, dance in body hugging glittery clothes, and sing about free un-married love. It would somehow send the wrong message about her and her singing. She would be branded a slut, even though she was not one. Conservative societies were obsessed with Sex.

She in her trendy Gulshan apartment overlooking the Gulshan Lake had decided to let her family know of the changes she was going through. Her fans had the right to know as well. Even though her family would not like it; her fans would not like it as well, a bad career move, possible career death. She had to let it out. In a new possible country, a new forgotten home, a new stage name, a new genre, a new her.

A song was blasting from her hi-fi turntable set, American imported. Only young ‘Pop-type fancy music’ sounded well played in these players. ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA look at all the lonely people….’ the record sang. There was no one on the streets below. A skinny-malnourished street-dog was howling with the music coming from the trendy apartment above. It was howling at D, the D after 256 hertz C, Bina could tell, all the years of classical music training had paid off. She would listen to British Pop every now and then, a break from her own. This sort of trans-Atlantic Pop music was simple, not pretending to be anything it was not. Sadly the troupe she was listening to had broken off and had gone their separate ways. She had heard the news only recently. Such news travel slowly in these parts or at least does not reach the average listener. People who had listened to this group were still listening to ‘twist and shout’ and had completely missed or hadn’t yet come across the India-noshed metamorphism of the group, the ‘Ha-re khrishna, ha-re raam’- Sitar playing phase. ‘Ha-re khrishna, Ha-re Raam’ craze still had not reached the Indian subcontinent fully.          

Some of the Intelligentsia had already denounced their state given honours in protest. Others were not far behind. Bina was not far behind. She had today in the morning attended an all women’s arms training event, where women were taught how to fire a 303 using mostly dummy rifles. A lot of women, mostly city bred college-goers and housewives, had done the same during the 1965 war with India, emergency situations. Something is about to happen, people can feel it. In these sorts of situations, the current power never leaves peacefully; they with them drag everyone into the depths of seventh hell. It’s always better to be prepared. Bina knew how to operate a rifle from before. Her father was and older brother is in the army. She had once attended shooting school as self defence and fire arms training. Today funnily, she acted as if she had been one of those housewives or city chicks who hadn’t yet lost her ‘firearms cherry’, a virgin when it came to guns and knowledge about it. Very few people recognised her as well. She had very few times come in public, except couple of random television appearances and private functions, after her transformation at the end of her teenage years. She hardly looked the same. Hair was not puffed up anymore. There was no makeup or funny costume to relate her by. Her plain hair and a cheap sari with big framed fake glasses was enough to fool the heartiest of mid-sixties fans. Although she did get asked for coffee by the trainer’s assistant, a young lad in his mid twenties; she humbly declined.

********************************************************************************* 30/06/2012


The Battle by the Poets

This is an extract from ‘He who summoned the Magpie Robin’ by Nirjhor Barua.


The uncertainty had gripped the whole nation into a dip towards frenzy. Stockpiling had become the common mans duties. Although people looked for products home-grown or manufactured, a sense of Bengali nationalism had taken over. It had slowly started during the early fifties when the authority declared Urdu to be the state language where the majority of the population were Bengali speakers. The outburst and protests that followed with police open firing and killing protestors. The dead of the 21st February 1952 movement soon got recognised as martyrs and their death and sacrifice commemorated into a monument known as the Shahid Minar-Martyr minaret. Each year from then on, City-dwellers on the dawn of 21st February would place flowers and sing sorrowful songs as to remember them. Although couple of Muslim Clerics deemed this performance to be hindu-like and as an act of ‘Shirk’, a Sin of idolatry: unforgivable by God- Allah the Merciful. It was not stopped by the people, the decrees got ignored. No right-wing propaganda and manipulation of the state and its minions could stop it. The Language movement as it came to be known as, which the Bengalis were proud of being the ones in the history of mankind to fight for their mother-tongue, was the beginning of the end of Unified-Pakistan. It was a wound which kept widening with every disparity that followed. Martyr Asad’s blood drenched shirt, the shirt that became a banner, the banner that led the mass revolt of 69, bringing down Ayub’s Regime, the incompetence of the government during the cyclone last year and the refusal to hand over power to the people of the east, had been the last nails in the coffin of a unified Pakistan.

Tagore’s works were celebrated more, in defiance and in pride. Tagore had become a symbol, the symbol of being Bengali. The Authorities had declared a Ban on Rabindranath Tagore couple of years ago, but it did not hold any ground, it got ignored as well. There was a constant attempt by the establishment and the Moududi followers to undermine and replace the great bearded poet with Muslim versions or Urdu ones, and that works of Tagore apparently went against the Ideals of the state of Pakistan. Tagore was apparently ‘too much Indian’. But it all fell into deaf ears; he and his works were the cultural centre of the Bengali life, one of the drivers of Bengali nationalism, he, a Nobel-laureate polymath was of more importance then the suggested alternative. His life, death, poems, songs, essays, stories, all, all were celebrated. He would not be abandoned so easily. The Students Struggle Committee recently declaring his song as the de facto National Anthem of the East and also other political and social groups and parties agreeing to it. It had made the poet to be more of a Headache for the Junta then it used to be.

 Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Karar oi louho kopat- The steel doors of prison, Bidrohi- Rebel, became choral songs and poems. People read these in public, sang them in all harshness and bold strength. ‘…I am the cyclone, I am the destruction, I am the grand-fear, I am the curse of the world, I am the overwhelming….’ Symbolic words, words written originally against the British. Now the indicated oppressors were simply changed, the message remained the same—– We will rise against you if you try to take our rights away, or something along those lines. When all the Anti-Rabindranath campaign failed, right-wingers tried to use Nazrul as the symbol for Muslim Identity to sort of put the whole ‘Bengali-Identity’ in the back bench. These right-wingers totally neglected the Secular side of Nazrul. They neglected his words of love, emancipation, and against Bigotry, religious Fundamentalism-extremism, and that his wife was Bhramo-Hindu. They neglected the fact that he even had written songs exploring both Hindu and Muslim values. But no, they only focused on one identity of the rebel-poet which could be exploited to their advantage; it was the poet’s Muslim Identity.

In this land where poets had led mass movements, few smaller ones kept it alive, fuelling it. The poets played their respective part. Asaduzzaman, Martyr Asad, and his flag of a shirt became Shamsur Rahman’s Poem. “… His ageing mother how often had hung this shirt with loving care in the courtyards sun. The shirt now deserted the soft shade cast by the pomegranate tree and the decorated sunlit mother’s courtyard. The same shirt now flutters in the city’s main streets, on the factory chimneys, in the nooks and cronies of the crowed avenues, it flutters…..” the poets played their roles. Shamsur Rahman’s immortalized the legends who take to the streets in Nazrul’s spirit for a cause that revolves around Gurudev Rabindranth Tagore, being led by the Sheikhs poetic words.        

****************************************************************************************     11/06/2012