From the time I was five, until the time I understood the meaning of death anniversaries, 20th June meant only one thing for me. My sister and I would take part in the All Assam Jyoti Sangeet and Rabha Sangeet competitions that used to be organized by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), and were held in the District Library of Tezpur on 20th June each year. The day long program would be a culmination of our weeks of rehearsal and skipping school homework to make time for the singing. And our mother would patiently wait with us the whole day long while we watched young people from all over the state perform songs we knew by heart. Winning was important, but only to make the running shields a fixture in our drawing room. But before that happened, we stopped participating because the competitions started clashing with the half-yearly exams.
Decades have passed since then, but even now when I think of Bishnu Prasad Rabha, before anything, my mind conjures up the vision of an amusing personality, and the songs that he had composed; the songs I had sung since I was three. I remember once asking my father who Rabha really was, and why we called him Kolaguru. I must have been four years old, which explained my father’s reply, “He was an artist, and he created those beautiful songs that you love singing, but he was also a soldier who had a vision of an independent future”. A lot could be written about the Kolaguru, but no words can describe how colorful and romantic his life was. A master of disguises and a nomad, a brilliant academician and a singer all at the same time, Bishnu Prasad Rabha believed in enlightening the masses through songs and dramas.
20th June, the Kolaguru’s death anniversary, is commemorated as Rabha Divas. And it would be apt to say that this day is as much a tribute to Bishnu Prasad Rabha’s ideals, as to immortal romance, because the “Bishwo Premi” that he was, nobody could portray the pathos of romance better.
“Porojonomor xubho logonot, jodihe aamar hoi dekha,
Puraba ne priye, ei jonomor, mur hiyar opurno aaxa”
(If we meet some blessed moment in the next life,
Will you, my love, fulfill my unfinished desires of this life?)
Speaking of romance, this thought suddenly struck me the other day, about how writers can romanticize practically everything. From stifling scorching summers to squelchy muddy monsoons. From the bugs and the bees to the grass on the ground. Or maybe it’s not just romanticizing stuff. Words are that magical touch which can make anything out of anything. Turning the banal to something dramatic, concocting stories out of the commonplace, and even making the extraordinary sound trivial. And all this, from mere words. Like seven colors making up the rainbow, or seven musical notes making infinite tones and songs, the same words used by different writers can paint totally different portraits. And as writers (and editors) we hold a lot of responsibility to bring out just the right picture in front of our readers.
On this note, leaving you hanging between surreal romance and immortality, and then gently bringing you down to reality, spanning across musicians and photographers and ardent book fans to shopaholics and much more that this issue is about.
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