Monday, June 01, 2009


I think I was about 6 years old. They’d come down the road a little before 7 in the morning, when I was just about awake, and from the bedroom where I lurked under the covers for those oh-so-sweet ten extra minutes of sleep on a schoolday morning I’d hear them coming. They always sang the same song – Bhojo Gourango, koho Gourango, loho Gourango’r naam re”. “Sing of Gouranga, speak of Gouranga, take Gouranga’s name.” The tune that has been used by Chandrabindoo for the satire “Aaji ei Boshonto diney”.

An old man and a boy. The man seemed infinitely old to my 6-year-old eyes; when I review my memory, I realise he must have been about 50. The boy would have been a year or two older than me, or perhaps short rations made him look younger. But his clothes were always clean, unlike the draggled rags of his bearded companion. His voice was very sweet, soaring above the man’s tenor in a tracery of song. I’d run out to the balcony, lean over the railing to hear them. They always walked from the Raja Basanta Roy road crossing towards Lake Market, perhaps to sing for a cup of tea and biscuit before the tea stalls on Janak Road. The first few times, they’d look up at me, the boy would put out his hand with the palm upwards without interrupting his song. I went and asked my mother for a coin. She gave me 25P, a denomination that I don’t see these days and yet a fair amount for alms back then. The boy caught it deftly as I tossed it from the balcony, raised the hand to his forehead in salute and walked on, still singing.

It became a habit. Twice or thrice a week I’d hear their voices raised in song and run out to the balcony with a 25P coin, then watch them wander off towards the market. In the year or so before we moved to Delhi, I never spoke to them, never asked them any questions. They never broke off their song to speak to me. But it lingers in my memory like a grainy shot from an old film. Complete with slightly scratchy soundtrack.


km said...

Perfect little piece.

Please mine that hippocampus for more such grainy shots.

Unknown said...

No one sings on the streets anymore .They dont play that scratchy old violin on winter nights either.

Poorna Banerjee said...

Dear lord... the same thing used to happen near my place. It would be around six-thirty in the morning, and I used to give them 50 p at that time (which was pretty decent for 1988).

I don't see them now.

Lazyani said...

I remember the old baul in Durgapur who used to cross our home early morning singing 'Rajani Probhat holo----'.

Somehow , he used to make the mornings feel quieter and purer to my young mind.

Anamika said...

Happened to stumble upon your the middle of tight deadlines and deliveries...promise to come back here and go down memory lane.

Never really go away
Never really fade away
Just turn a beautiful sepia
From mere black and white

Kum Chini said... such tunes or dilapidated harmoniums...but wasn't it Bhojo Gouranga, koho Gouranga, loho Gouranger naam re?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

KM, you my main man!

E Lungs, more like summer afternoons, that ektara

Panu, you and I both

Ani, think of the red earth of Birbhum

Anamika, "everything looks bare in black and white"

Kum Chini, you're right. Corrected it. Thanks.


Anyesha said...

Ah! that song. My little sister would insist on eating her breakfast in the balcony so that she could listen to the "Hori-Hori" she called them. A conversation of some sort would usually ensue and end with the sister offering them a banana or apple or whatever it was that she was eating. The "hori-hori" men on their part were rather delighted by the attention they got from the little kid on the third floor.

Unknown said...

No not an ektara .A violin - but that would have been much before your time

Anonymous said...

This is me leaving a comment. Now write!

Anonymous said...

same here.. the tune was lingering in my mind.. so I rushed home to find it in youtube.. only in land in some remixed version of it!