(Don’t) sing a song of Tagore

| Updated on May 15, 2020

A Facebook user pleads for a Rabindrasangeet lockdown on social media after a musical overdose

Dear Editor,

I’d like to draw your attention to a spectre that’s been haunting me. I refer to Rabindrasangeet. Please do not get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Bengalis.

But when Rabindranath Tagore’s songs leap out at me from the dark corners of the cyber-world, I feel I have to raise my voice. Without a harmonium.

I should have paid heed to a friend who sought to alert us to the dangers of logging on to social media sites in these days of gloom.

Too many people were singing and dancing on Facebook to beat the lockdown blues, the friend had lamented.

April was bad enough. Everyone who had strummed a guitar — or seen Zeenat Aman do so in Yaadon ki Baraat — was singing. John Lennon’s Imagine was the all-time favourite, followed closely by We Shall Overcome. The radicals all sang Bella Ciao; the Hindi Belt, typically irresponsibly, recalled a song called “Arrey bhai, nikal key aa ghar sey” — step out of your homes today, brother.

But that was last month. TS Eliot clearly didn’t have Bengalis in mind when he wrote about April; if that month is cruel, May kills. The season does something to the Bengali spirit. For this was when — seven score and 19 years ago — Rabindranath Tagore was born.

To mark the birth of Super-babumoshai, all of Bengal bursts into song and dance around this time.

Other years were all right, for the festivity was where you wanted it to be — in auditoriums, public parks, residential squares, early morning parades (with the harmonium and the singer perched precariously on a moving cart), television and so on.

But this year, now that Bengalis, like everybody else, are confined to their homes, social media is the stage.

It’s been more than a week since his happy birthday, but the celebrations continue. I open my Facebook page and encounter someone with a quivering voice.

Friends, neighbours and distant relatives, everybody is recalling Tagore. A young woman posts a dance video. If you haven’t ever seen people dance to Rabindrasangeet, don’t extend yourself.

A critic once aptly described the steps: Raise your arms, wring an imaginary towel dry, change an equally imaginary light bulb. Repeat. The young lady did this for seven minutes.

You don’t have to watch it, you may well say. I have always believed in this maxim, too. Don’t like the subject of a book, the script of a film, the lyrics of a song? Then just don’t read it, see it or listen to it. Simple.

But the problem with social media is the very fact that it’s meant to be social. I am on the page already, and have, absent-mindedly, liked a couple of images. Ha ha, I wrote in response to a cartoon — and nosy Facebook promptly clocked me in — I was there so many minutes ago, it said, apropos nothing.

So once I am on the page, and everyone knows I am there, I have to watch every video, right? And see it till the very end.

I don’t mind Rabindrasangeet. I am not like that relative of mine who jumped up in alarm every time he heard someone sing one of Tagore’s many songs on Calcutta Doordarshan, and asked worriedly if Jyotibabu had died. But there is a time and place for his music, I say.

Rabindrasangeet should be broken to you gently: It shouldn’t come hurtling down at you when you are aimlessly scrolling down a page.

I am writing to you, dear editor, with the hope that your exalted columns will encourage the government to take some measures on this.

May we have a lockdown on Rabindrasangeet on Facebook, please? Till we develop a vaccine for it?


Frazzled Facebook user

Yours Sincerely is a weekly record of grudges and grumblings from an anonymous reader

Published on May 15, 2020

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