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,
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.
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
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.