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For my mother on her birthday

  • Published at 04:50 pm May 15th, 2017
  • Last updated at 04:31 pm May 17th, 2017
For my mother on her birthday
I love the fact that people sing Rabindranath Tagore's songs on my mother's birthday. It's on May 8, the 25th of Boishakh according to the Bangla calendar here in Bangladesh, which of course coincides with the great writer and philosopher's own date of birth. So people dress up in bright reds and whites and most other shades of the rainbow on that day, recite his poetry, read from his prose, sing his words, dance to his melodies. There can be no better way to celebrate lives well lived -- neither the poet's nor my mother's. So every year when I get off work on that evening, I go to Chhayanaut's Rabindra Jayanti celebration. They have a beautiful red brick building these days, and the event takes place in an auditorium with excellent acoustics. It's not too large, the theatre -- and it has gallery seating where you have to sit on the carpet which is a bit difficult on my back of late. But I try to get there early and sit through the entire event.
In a world where everything seems to be going full tilt all the time, it is therapeutic to be in a place that gives the illusion of permanence, if only fleetingly
I always go by myself, and there's hardly ever anyone I know in the audience. And it's not like a lot of the music is new to me, nor are the performances extraordinary. But it feels good to be there -- reassuring and steadying somehow. In a world where everything seems to be going full tilt all the time, it is therapeutic to be in a place that gives the illusion of permanence, if only fleetingly. I sit there in the darkness, and wonder which young minds are being touched by the poet's words, which souls stirred by his melodies. Surely some young women and men will go home this evening subtly transformed by Rabindranath's particular enchantment, just like I felt I was many years ago, or my mother and father must have been a few years before me? Surely that magic still endures? I sit in the dark, close my eyes, and try to feel my mother's presence beside me. I think of the one time I took her to a musical performance of an elderly and frail Hemanta Mukhopadhyay -- this must have been in mid-1989 -- and the joy on her face at seeing her childhood idol again. Hearing “emono diney taarey bola jaie” for the first time that drizzly evening, in that faltering, but still incomparable voice. Softly singing along, my mother and I. Hemanta babu passed away a couple of months later. My mother left us the following year. But in that darkened hall in Chhayanaut, after all these years, I imagine I feel some lingering trace of her spirit. For those two hours, she does not seem so distant after all. And although I know that this universe is indifferent to our joys and our sorrows, on evenings like these, I am grateful.

Tanvir Haider Chaudhury has spent most of his career as a banker and is now running a food and beverage company.