Coming back to my roots

I have lived out of Bengal most of my life. I can speak the language but a true local would probably tell you that I am an outsider. Over the years my parents have tried to pull me close to my roots but like any stubborn kid, I did everything to run away from it. However as I grew up my loyalties have gradually shifted.

As two good friends once said "with a little help from my friends" I started to listen to "Western" music. Originally my intention was to listen to loud music to stay awake at night to study (wink wink). There are very few things that beat friends singing after a binge. I was not talented enough to play any instrument but I loved to sing. It was kind of a big deal back then.

My journey to my roots is a little indirect. Let me try to explain. If  you are not a Bengali or don't have a close Bengali friend this might seem strange. At first I was a "Pujo, Maradona, Cricket, Hemanta, Kishore, Gupy Gayne Bagha Byne" kind of a Bengali. Later with the help of friends and alcohol I added cigarettes, Metal, Floyd, Lennon, Eagles, Denver, Basanta Bilaap, Satyajit Ray and Ganguly to the list. We used to sing "country roads" before we went to see our Engineering results, just as a good omen (yeah we were young rebellious men with silly soft hearts).

Later when I traveled through West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah, I understood what Denver actually meant. Slowly but steadily I became a hard-core Dylan fan and also added some more typically Bengali traits like Cohen, Economics, Gitanjali, Ghatak, Anjan DuttAjoy Chakrabarty, Politics,  History, World War ... I now maintain YouTube playlists of popular Bengali songs and listen to them over and over again. As my journey back to my roots continues, I have tried to translate a recent favorite Rabindra Sangeet. Great things have a way to find you. This one was written probably more than 100 years old but still went in pretty deep.

Here is a playlist of different versions of Aakash Bhora that I liked on YouTube (including a German chorus): Click Here

Listen to this version as you read my English translation (from Ghatak's Komal Gandhar):

Also found a video of an old man who has been playing the song on the busy streets of Kolkata for the last 40 years. Probably recorded off a mobile on a local train. Doesn't seem to miss too many notes despite a bumpy ride. Could have been rock star in some other life. 

I have tried to capture the essence of the song instead of a word-by-word translation. Please pardon me, if I made a mistake. Also feel free to comment with your version of an English translation.


Aakaash bhora, shurjo taraa
Bishwa bhora praan
Tahari majkhane aami peyechhi, peyechhi mor sthaan
Bishowye taai jaage, jaage amaar gaan

The sky is full, with the sun and stars
This earth, with life vibrant
In the midst of it all I too have found my place
…born out of this wonder is my song

Asim kaler je hillole
Joaar bhatae bhubon dole
Narite mor raktadharae legechhe tar taan
Bishowye taai jaage, jaage amaar gaan

Through the flow of eternal time
in the rhythm of ebb and tide, the world floats
In the blood running though my veins, I have felt its tug
… and this wonder brings forth my song

Ghaashe ghaashe pa phelechhi
Boner pathe jete
Phuler gandhe chamak lege uthechhe mon mete
Chhariye achhe ananderi gan

I have touched the blades of grass, with my feet
while passing through the woods
Startled by the fragrance of flowers, my mind reaches a state of bliss
Strewn all around are such songs of happiness

Kaan petechhi chokh melechhi
Dharaar buke praan dhelechhi
Janaar majhe ajaanare karechhi sandhan
Bishowye taai jaage, jaage amaar gaan

I have lent my ears, opened my eyes
To the bosom of this earth, I have bared my heart
In the midst of the known, I have sought the unknown
… and in this wonder my song comes alive