I was a college student then. We used to gather under the open space of the Circuit House. We would do silly and fun things, quite fitting for our age really. We sang, wrote poetry, we formed bands. We would read Shirshendu, Shamaresh and thought to ourselves that we gained deep insight about life. We would exchange our critique with each other about these things. Some of us fell in love, some had their hearts broken. We didn’t have any money either. We would buy a cup of tea and two parathas and share them among ourselves.
One day my friend and uncle (chacha-bondhu) brought a guy along to our cool hangout. He had very light skin and was small in stature. The ring finger on his right hand was bent and he had the face of a Chinese person. So, naturally we named him ‘Chinku’. We later found out he actually was a ‘chinku’. His dad was Chinese. Chinku was a mysterious character.
He seldom spoke, if at all. Even Nasir’s gut busting jokes would bring out a mere chuckle in him. He used to sit quietly and listen to our talking. My uncle-friend who brought him there told us that Chinku has a dark past. He was moved in local politics in his area. During a fight over control of college campus he had killed someone.
There was a criminal case against him and his family was trying to have that case withdrawn. His family was trying to pull him out of his past friend circle. That is why my ‘chacha-boondhu’ brought him into our circle.
I’ve always felt attracted to the odd and the weird who cannot blend into society. Taking my uncle's cue I, too, dove into the public service of steering Chinku away from his bad influences. So, I said to him “Hey Chinku! I've decided to teach you to play guitar. I will teach you how to play and then you will practice at home.” I started to bring him home with me and he started to take lessons on how to play chords and songs.
Slowly, we formed a closer relation and friendship. I realised he really was mysterious; and dangerous too. He started to do drugs and carried arms as well. He was inexorably attracted to everything that was forbidden.
But he had a deep sense of gratitude toward me because I was spending time with him and took the trouble of teaching him guitar. This was kind of odd. Teaching guitar for free was not a big deal then. The society wasn't so materialistic like the present.
One day he brought drugs for me to try, apparently as a part of showing gratitude. I was totally taken aback. Anyway, my friends were alarmed by this and I finally ended my closeness with him. I could have turned out a lot different had I not moved away from him.
As his last attempt to say thanks, he brought a TDK cassette for me. That was a best of compilation of Bob Dylan. Even though I had heard a few songs before, that album was my first real Dylan experience.
If I were to divide my whole life into two factions then one part would be before listening to that album and the other is after listening to that album. It did not resemble anything I had heard. Three songs in particular moved me the most. These were "Mr. Tambourine Man", "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall", and "The Times They Are a-Changin'".
Everything I had heard before that was mainly polished pop music. I had never heard songs so honest. I had no idea music can be so penetrating. A guitar and a coarse voice...that was it. No dressing up, no pretense.
Discovering Dylan was among the greatest gifts of my life. So many memories with Dylan's songs, many are unfit for recollection in public, but all are preserved in my mind like gleaming pearls!
After my son was born I decided to sing “Forever Young” at an office picnic. It generated much guffaws and sniggers. “Why are you singing English Rabindra sangeet?” I laughed. They could not grasp the unearthly beauty of Dylan.
Dylan has now won the Nobel prize in literature. Many are criticising his political stance. In particular criticism has been leveled against him because he supposedly wrote the song “Neighbourhood Bully” in support of Israel.
Dylan is often called “the voice of a generation”. This was the generation of beat poets, hippie movement, and anti-war movement. But if you read Chronicles, Dylan's authobiography, you will find that he always distanced himself from that characterisation. He wrote anti-war songs, represented counter-culture movements, his songs gave fuel to the Civil Rights Movement, but he always refrained, taking the role of an activist. This was because Dylan is politically an anarchist.
Dylan has spoken about the controversial song: “You can’t come around and stick some political-party slogan on it [the song]. If you listen closely, it really could be about other things.”
The Dylan I know will be unaffected by getting (or not getting) a Nobel Prize. There is no reason for him to reject this either. Because, I think he is above the politics of accepting and rejecting. From my perspective, the Nobel prize was honoured to have been able to adorn him with this accolade. Dylan's significance has not increased or decreased because of this. Because Dylan is much bigger than the Nobel Prize.