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SONALI PUPU BMUKHERJEE

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 5/15/2015 |




SONGSOPTOK: Most Bengalis are introduced to Rabindranath through ‘Sahaj Paath’. With that introduction, people become familiar with him in their own ways.  Can you share with us how you developed that relationship?
PUPU:  SahajPath was the first book series that I  started to read on my own. Though I had began my preliminary introduction to Bengali with Barna Porichoy of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and Adarshalipi, Sahaj Path with its bold lettering, and unique  illustration by the great artist Nandalal Bose attracted my two year old heart like a magnet. As it was so scientifically written and printed for children it was fun to complete my independent reading tasks. I went from letters to words,from words to simple but picturesque sentences within days. And it all felt like such an interesting game.

SONGSOPTOK:   If we analyze carefully, we will see a gradual unfolding of Rabindranath in us through different stages of our life, from childhood to adulthood. We may not be prepared for this evolution, but Rabindranath leads us through this developmental process to the blooming of our lives. Can you share with us how your personall development was influenced by Rabindranath?
PUPU:  I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying alone without my mom ,he spoke about it so fluently in lines of Shishu, the book of verse. He knew my heart's fluttering when the clouds came down grey and heavy at the end of scorching summer day. He knew about my fears as I faced the exams where I had to come out at the top without fail. No matter what I felt he had written about it already in those lovely yellow pages of Rabindra Rachanabali.was on the lips of my parents all round the day,humming while I brushed my teeth, getting ready for their offices, packing my school bag. Even when we met at the evening ,my father would inevitably quote a few lines of Tagore's poems while taking off his sweat drenched shirt, and my mom would add the next lines while handing him his large glass of water, with a twinkle in her weary eyes. That's what Tagore meant to me, a twinkle in the eyes, a cool refreshment in a fatigued day, a royal richness in a small middle class residence.
I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying alone without my mom ,he spoke about it so fluently in lines of Shishu, the book of verse. He knew my heart's fluttering when the clouds came down grey and heavy at the end of scorching summer day. He knew about my fears as I faced the exams where I had to come out at the top without fail. No matter what I felt he had written about it already in those lovely yellow pages of Rabindra Rachanabali.Well, I have always loved his music unconsciously, as it was on the lips of my parents all round the day,humming while I brushed my teeth, getting ready for their offices, packing my school bag. Even when we met at the evening ,my father would inevitably quote a few lines of Tagore's poems while taking off his sweat drenched shirt, and my mom would add the next lines while handing him his large glass of water, with a twinkle in her weary eyes. That's what Tagore meant to me, a twinkle in the eyes, a cool refreshment in a fatigued day, a royal richness in a small middle class residence.
I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying alone without my mom ,he spoke about it so fluently in lines of Shishu, the book of verse. He knew my heart's fluttering when the clouds came down grey and heavy at the end of scorching summer day. He knew about my fears as I faced the exams where I had to come out at the top without fail. No matter what I felt he had written about it already in those lovely yellow pages of Rabindra Rachanabali., I have always loved his music unconsciously, as it was on the lips of my parents all round the day,humming while I brushed my teeth, getting ready for their offices, packing my school bag. Even when we met at the evening ,my father would inevitably quote a few lines of Tagore's poems while taking off his sweat drenched shirt, and my mom would add the next lines while handing him his large glass of water, with a twinkle in her weary eyes. That's what Tagore meant to me, a twinkle in the eyes, a cool refreshment in a fatigued day, a royal richness in a small middle class residence.
I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying alone without my mom ,he spoke about it so fluently in lines of Shishu, the book of verse. He knew my heart's fluttering when the clouds came down grey and heavy at the end of scorching summer day. He knew about my fears as I faced the exams where I had to come out at the top without fail. No matter what I felt he had written about it already in those lovely yellow pages of Rabindra Rachanabali.Well, I have always loved his music unconsciously, as it was on the lips of my parents all round the day,humming while I brushed my teeth, getting ready for their offices, packing my school bag. Even when we met at the evening ,my father would inevitably quote a few lines of Tagore's poems while taking off his sweat drenched shirt, and my mom would add the next lines while handing him his large glass of water, with a twinkle in her weary eyes. That's what Tagore meant to me, a twinkle in the eyes, a cool refreshment in a fatigued day, a royal richness in a small middle class residence.
I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying alone without my mom ,he spoke about it so fluently in lines of Shishu, the book of verse. He knew my heart's fluttering when the clouds came down grey and heavy at the end of scorching summer day. He knew about my fears as I faced the exams where I had to come out at the top without fail. No matter what I felt he had written about it already in those lovely yellow pages of Rabindra Rachanabali.Well, I have always loved his music unconsciously, as it was on the lips of my parents all round the day,humming while I brushed my teeth, getting ready for their offices, packing my school bag. Even when we met at the evening ,my father would inevitably quote a few lines of Tagore's poems while taking off his sweat drenched shirt, and my mom would add the next lines while handing him his large glass of water, with a twinkle in her weary eyes. That's what Tagore meant to me, a twinkle in the eyes, a cool refreshment in a fatigued day, a royal richness in a small middle class residence.
I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying heart's fluttering when the clouds ca

SONGSOPTOK: Which aspect of Rabindranath most impacted your young adulthood?
PUPU: Well, I have always loved his music unconsciously, as it was on the lips of my parents all round the day,humming while I brushed my teeth, getting ready for their offices, packing my school bag. Even when we met at the evening ,my father would inevitably quote a few lines of Tagore's poems while taking off his sweat drenched shirt, and my mom would add the next lines while handing him his large glass of water, with a twinkle in her weary eyes. That's what Tagore meant to me, a twinkle in the eyes, a cool refreshment in a fatigued day, a royal richness in a small middle class residence.
I was a lonely child of working parents. Books were my only friends ,surrounding me lovingly in our oneroom small flat.
He became my secret best friend within the age of five.He knew my sorrows of staying alone without my mom ,he spoke about it so fluently in lines of Shishu, the book of verse. He knew my heart's fluttering when the clouds came down grey and heavy at the end of scorching summer day. He knew about my fears as I faced the exams where I had to come out at the top without fail. No matter what I felt he had written about it already in those lovely yellow pages of Rabindra Rachanabal

SONGSOPTOK:  How would you explain the rediscovery of Rabindranath at different phases of life? Won’t you agree that this rediscovery is a consequence of journeying with him? Or do you feel that this rediscovery happens mostly at the intellectual level instead  of being soul-bound?
PUPU:  Rabindranath evolves with different shades at different stages of life.A child finds it's resonance in his dramas of hasyokoutuk etc, poems of Shishu, Shishu volanath, khapchara, even Jibonsmriti, Tagore's own childhood memoirs.
A rebel teenager finds solace and support in his calls to fight convention and praise to the young blood's craziness in search of truth, vivacity and every thing new.
And of course the discovery of that great beauty called love.The glory of it.The pain of it,and the spirituality.
With the passage of time ,the battle of life, the scars, the wounds, the heart wrenching pain bewilders one's soul. We come back to Rabindranath. We discover how much loss,how severe pain he has endured, and gather courage from that. The spirit of mankind which keeps on singing the songs of light and joy defying death and sorrow,helps all of us to fight the darkness called destiny.

SONGSOPTOK:    Which aspect of Rabindranath attracts you most and why?
PUPU:  he was no old sage. Rather, he was the rebel who challenged the set protocols. Whether it was dress codes of a Congress meeting or a social gathering, he invariably broke rules and wanted to bring about changes. In thoughts, in logical thinking, in day to day life, in relationship equations, everywhere.
That is why I loved him.
My fellow rebel with a gentle heart,and aesthetic expression. Oh, and his herculean capacity to endure pain. Pangs of separation. Agony of nearest one's death. One after another. And still the daring to sing. Yes , I drank from his spirted lines like a drought parched tree sucked water from far beneath the ground, grabbed his words of courage as swords to fight battles where love turned into betraying masks, friends turned into scheming foes, and fought. His words bathed my wounds. Made me stand tall inspite of belittling jeers. Reminded me not to tarnish myself by becoming vengeful or malicious. He gently murmured in my ears to carry on my journey. To become a beautiful wandering ministrel, a diva.
The day my uncle came back in a coffin at the age of fortyeight , leaving behind my cousin sister of sixteen years, the same age as mine, my dad sang Tagore's song through out the night after coming back from the burning ghat. When my pa prepared for his own departure he sang the beautiful songs to me, one after another preparing me for the pain. I walked down the steps of Ganga with the warm bones of both parents holding the hands of Tagore's words. And he never left my side.

SONGSOPTOK:    Can you comment on the influence of Rabindranath in your personal life and on your cultural engagements?
PUPU: From my view towards life,to my experiments in dresses,from my lack of taboo,to my courage to choreograph and dance in recitals on stage at the age of fortyseven with a couple of teenage children, every thing is the influence of Tagore,and that of my parents and teachers of my school Navanalanda, who engraved Tagore on my brain and soul ,so lovingly.

SONGSOPTOK: We are all aware of the immense influence that Rabindranath exerts on the modern Bengali society. However, the guidance that he provided about societal development has not been pursued. He emphasized rural economic self-reliance. He wanted to establish cooperative system as a way to counter capitalism. We chose to ignore his views. How would you address this topic?
PUPU:  The research that Tagore conducted was and still is  very relevant in socioeconomic arena. But whether that can be implemented by politically handicapped government agencies ,I really do not know.

SONGSOPTOK: There is another issue that Rabindranath unequivocally championed – the importance of mother language in education! He argued that children should be instructed only in their mother tongues till the age of twelve. On the other hand, Bengali parents would like to send their children to English-medium schools if they can afford to do so. What is your opinion on this issue?
PUPU:  I beg to differ.I have been brought up by an English medium school,which paradoxically has a branch in shantiniketan, and followed Tagore's principles in all other aspects. Having the arrows of both English and Bengali in my quiver helped me immensely in the battlefield of life.

SONGSOPTOK: We are all too enamored about globalization, yet we lack interest to (re)introduce Rabindranath globally. What is your opinion? How and who can be trusted with that responsibility?
PUPU:  This I am not really in a position to answer.I donot have sufficient data input in this field.

SONGSOPTOK:   Is Rabindranath’s relevance among the younger generations on the decline? If so, what is the cause of that?
PUPU:  We are. We who for a couple of generations tried our level best to encase and cage this firebrand evergreen personality inside an iconic straight jacket of closed eyed reverence and close lipped style of vocal singing and most non-rabindric  dull and traditional lifestyle. I always feel disgusted to see lifeless dressing and spiritless non radical  lifestyle being advertised as Rabindric. In my opinion if Tagore was alive in flesh and blood he would have lead a huge revolution against this pattern. Thank God, at least some experiments are being done with Tagore after the end of copyright era.Some of them are horrendous. But experiments will always produce some disasters. That should not stop us  or  the youth from  the delights of trying fresh outlooks. Now , genext is rediscovering Tagore. Bless them.

SONGSOPTOK:    Rabindranath emphasized the need to develop egalitarian views instead of egocentric ones. Unfortunately, we as a society are receding into our impenetrable egotistic armor. How much has this behavior impacted you?
PUPU:   Our journeys are being restricted every day by the shackles of materialistic consumerism. It's tiring. It is sick. Reminds me of Tagore's oracle,"rat koto holo uttor mele na.." Wecan not fathom the depth of this darkness, but as we see in this paricular poem, Shishu thirtho, am optimistic, am a friend and disciple of Tagore , ultimately, the glory will be of the new born. Humanity will win.

SONGSOPTOK: What is your optimism about the relevance of Rabindranath in Bengal of the future generations?
PUPU:  " joy hok manusher,oi nobo jatoker, oi chiro jibiter......" Let glory be for humanity, for the new born, for the eternal life.....



[SONALI PUPU: POET WRITER DANCER AND MEDICAL PRACTITIONAR]


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