A PILGRIMAGE THAT WAS
Our trip to Shantiniketan was more like a pilgrimage! The main reason being the Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore! And it was a double joy because I got to live and experience the Santal Tribes, away from the Bolpur Town.
For some reasons, someone suggested me to take a train to Bolpur to go to Shantiniketan intead of going by road. That came as a blessing in disguise. There are two reasons for that. One, I could see an all new Howrah Railway station compared to what I saw way back in 1977. I would not get into the detailing of what I remembered seeing as I do not have any good feelings about the Howrah of that time, especially the surroundings of the Howrah Railway Station. Hence I will abstain from describing something which doesn’t matter now. Two, I got a chance to listen to a live Baul song performance by a Baul. That was a great experience. The beauty I saw at the Howrah Railway station is very unique. You could take the car inside and park it alongside the Railway Platform where your train starts! WoW! On one side you see the Cars and small vehicles parked and on the other side of the platform you see your train waiting for you! I traveled by Shanitiniketan Express.
At the next stop which was Bardhaman, I saw a queerly dressed person wearing a Sunglass and carrying a musical instrument. I asked my daughter to take his photograph quickly. But unfortunately, she missed him. The train started and here comes the same person towards us within our compartment. I noticed the little bells tied to one of his feet and also the instrument which seems to be the modern version of Ek-Tara which is actually the original instrument used by Bauls. My joy knew no bounds when he started preparing to perform a Baul Song. He was indeed a Baul! I got my Mobile Video Camera ready. I am told that most of the Baul performers and Santal Folk performers are nowadays in the US or in Europe all through the year and very difficult to get them perform for Indians in India. Here we have an authentic Baul singing a Baul song in the train. He sang two songs and they were really fantastic!!! Please see below an edited version of the song I recorded using my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Mobile. So excuse the poor video quality. Better to watch the video rather than I explain what I felt. So here it is. Enjoy! This song is on Poet Dhwija Bhushan’s devotion to Lord Krishna.
THE SANTAL TRIBE
We reached the village Baitijol, a Santal Adivasi settlement where we were supposed to spend two nights. The language spoken by the natives is Santali and their Script is Olchiki. Though ride was pretty bad as there was a communication gap with regard to the conveyance what we experienced there in the Village was unbelievable. A very different world indeed! Very simple people! You would feel proud about the fact that the most famous Adivasi clan live a decent life and education seems to be very important for them. There is a nursery school and Pre-primary school run by the government.
I had a stroll in the early morning 5.30 and the scenes you see are unforgettable. You get to hear all kinds of melodious singing of the birds, high frequency chirping, and smell of the cow dung. Hand-made huts with haystack roofs neatly arranged. A soap vendor comes by to sell home-made soaps for the villagers. Elder males sit on sand hills and brush their teeth with teeth stick. Ladies busy cooking the breakfast. Small kids getting ready go to the nearby school. Elder girls go to school by bicycles ringing the cycle bell indicating us to clear the road for them.
SHANTINIKETAN – The Abode of Peace
The next day was very special. We had a fantastic tour of the Shantiniketan Campus. We could feel the positive vibrations of Gurudev. Though the visit to the Museum was an amazing experience, I felt a pang in my stomach when I realised the theft of the Nobel Medal. Now they have kept a replica of that. Felt really sad. I got really amazed at the pedigree and how he used his prize money of his Nobel Prize for establishing the institution! And the symbol of that Prize, the Nobel Medal is stolen! Pathetic state of affairs! One might say what is in a piece of metal when the institution itself is living and throbbing with life! Yes. One way it is indeed true.
Entry to Shantiniketan was restricted for Tourists till 1.00 PM as the regular classes gets over only by that time. But as we were not really like a tourist and more like pilgrims, we decided to give it a try. We had a good walk around and saw the awesome abstract modern sculptures by the great Sculptor Shri Ramkinkar Baij who studied and later taught Sculpting at Shantiniketan. He used the locally available sand, cement and gravel. After all art is that matters not the materials or the tools.
I really wanted to be reborn instantly at the age of 16 and go straight into the office and ask for admission. Without disturbing the rhythm and harmony inside, we slowly walked around. It looked as though we came there to see the campus for admission for my daughter. We were not seen as tourists may be because of the attire on all three of us. I was thrilled to see young brilliant boys and girls moving around. I also noticed some professors who can be easily identified by their wisdom written on their faces. We felt one among them.
Please see the below video created with the visuals of the campus with a background music of a Rabindra Sangeeth sung by a man in the train on our way to Shantiniketan.
We got back to Kolkata by the same Shantiniketan Express and we again saw the same Baul Singer and the same Rabindra Sangeet Singer! We sensed a sort of immense satisfaction and a huge lot of energy after this visit to the sacred place…
We could not sleep that night thinking about what we just experienced and what we are going to experience in the next 4 days! the AMAZING SUNDARBANS!!!