Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flute Music

My hands smell of school. The classrooms, the textbooks, the corridors, the desks and chairs. I spent a considerable amount of time cleaning out all my stuff. I now have only one-third of what I had in my room before it got painted! Can you believe that?! There was so much of junk.. old copies, books, clothes, pencil boxes, stuffed toys, comic books, notes, stationery, SUPW stuff, and many, many little things with so many memories attached. I read all my old notebooks where I’ve had entire conversations with my friends in classrooms during lectures. I read old slam books, saw all the school photos and read through the notes. I even saved some of my exam answer sheets. It was such a different time and place. Can’t believe it was the same city.

I’ve started setting my room up and I’m so psyched. I’ve given away many of my toys and books and so it made a lot of room to keep other prettier stuff. My books look so good against the purple wall. And I’ve put posters of my favourite bands (S&G, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead) They are those small ones, with a matte finish. I’ve put a huge CafĂ© Coffee Day mug on one of the shelves, and a scented candle on the other. Oh, and I’ve put pot pourri in a glass bowl and I’ve kept it next to a picture of my sis and me. It smells glorious! It smells of springtime, and monsoon, and little babies, and puppies, and love, and laughter and sunshine and cotton candy clouds, and kites flying in the blue sky, and mom, and chocolates, and friends and the good ol’ memories, and well, flowers :P I’m just waiting to put the curtains and set my wardrobe and I’ll be good to go! Psst, on a completely unrelated note, I love popping bubble wrap. It's so satisfying. Throwing it away before poppin' all o' 'em bubbles in a crime! 

So, while going through my old notebooks, I came across my explanation of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore that we had in out twelfth standard ISC poetry book. And I remembered how much I used to love it. It is called ‘Flute Music’. It goes like this:

"Kinu, the milkman's alley
A ground floored room in a two storeyed valley
Slap on the road, window barred.
Decaying walls, windows crumbling to dust in places
Or strained with damp.
Stuck on the floor,
A picture of Ganesha, Bringer of Success,
From the end of a bale of cloth.
Another creature apart from me lives in my room
For the same rent;
A lizard.
There's one difference between him and me:
He doesn't go hungry.

I get twenty five rupees a month
As junior clerk in a trading office.
I'm fed at the Dattas' house
For coaching their boy.
At dusk I go to Sealdah station.
Spend the evening there
To save the cost of light.
Engines chuffing,
Whistles shrieking,
Passengers scurrying,
Coolies shouting.
I stay till half past ten,
Then back to my dark, silent, lonely room.

A village on the Dhalesvari river, that's where my aunt's people live.
Her brother-in-law's daughter -
She was due to marry my unfortunate self, everything was fixed.
The moment was indeed auspicious for her, no doubt of that -
For I ran away.
The girl was saved from me,
And I from her.
She did not come to this room, but she's in and out of my mind all the time:
Dacca sari, vermilion on her forehead.

Pouring rain.
My tram costs go up,
But often as not my pay gets cut for lateness.
Along the alley,
Mango skins and stones, jack fruit pulp,
Fish-gills, dead kittens
And God knows what other rubbish
Pile up and rot.
My umbrella is like my depleted pay -
Full of holes.
My sopping office clothes ooze
Like a pious Vaisnava.
Monsoon darkness
sticks in my damp room
Like an animal caught in a dead trap,
Lifeless and numb.
day and night I feel strapped bodily
On to a half-dead world.

At the corner of the alley lives Kantababu -
Long hair, carefully parted,
Large eyes.
Cultivated tastes.
He fancies himself on the cornet:
The sound of it comes in gusts
On the foul breeze of the alley -
Sometimes in the middle of the night,
Sometimes in the early morning twilight,
Sometimes in the afternoon
When sun and shadows glitter.
Suddenly this evening
He starts to play runs in Sindhu-Baroya raag,
And the whole sky rings
With eternal pangs of separation.
At once the alley is a lie,
False and vile as the ravings of a drunkard,
And I feel that nothing distinguishes Haripada the clerk
From the Emperor Akbar.
Torn umbrella and royal parasol merge,
Rise on the sad music of a flute
Towards one heaven.

The music is true,
Where, in the everlasting twilight-hour of my wedding,
The Dhalesvari river flows,
Its banks deeply shaded by tamal-trees,
And she who waits in the courtyard
Is dressed in a dacca sari, vermillion on her forehead."

Do you see? The beauty? The depth? The sadness? The loneliness? I love how many of Tagore’s poems have this lonely, melancholic, dreamy, theme about them. His poems talk of longing, and love and separation and music. I especially like the line “And the whole sky rings with eternal pangs of separation.” It’s so beautifully heart breaking. You can’t help but feel for the poor fellow. His lifestyle, his broken relationship, how he still thinks about her, how he tries to hide himself from the world, how he has an almost non-existent existence. How listening to the flute music is his only respite from his dreary life. It shows how hard surviving is for some people. How terribly dull, meaningless, insignificant living is for them. And how they are born poor and how they die poor. Sigh, it makes me so sad. It makes me lonely and dreamy as well. But this kind of loneliness, I like. That is why I like the night time so much. It is so utterly quiet. There’s no one to disturb you. No door bells ringing, no phone calls, no one to remind you of some important work that you’re supposed to do. It is just so peaceful.

I’m looking at the collage I just placed on the wall opposite me. It makes me smile every time I look at it. And every time I look at it, it makes me excited at the prospect of living an entire lifetime of blissful, crazy, days filled-with-random-acts-of-stupidty; singing soft kitty; writing every sentence ending with a colon and an asterick; long laughter sessions; completely inappropriate and astonishingly profane jokes and innuendos; and extreme, shameless PDAs and mushiness and chocolate covered cuddling. It will be similar to the pot pourri in the glass bowl. No, it will be exactly like the pot pourri in the glass bowl! :D


  1. a) my room is painted purple too :)
    b) ur new d.p is sexo !!
    c) beautiful tagore poem :D :D

  2. a) that's AWESOME! it looks girly and classy at the same time, no?
    b) thank you! I love it as well! :D
    c) I know! he was a genius!

  3. Take my advice!!you should seriously consider writing!!

  4. Geeee! Oh come on now, stop it! :)

    (Translation: I love your comments and they're great ego boosters! thaaaank you!!) :D

  5. I have never really been able to appreciate most poems because I somehow fail to completely understand them. But on reading this poem once again after reading your explanation, I actually loved the simple but powerful use of words. Your explanation made me see the deeper meaning of the poem n I actually sympathized with the character due to his loneliness, lack of something to look forward to, monotonous life, sadness, his lingering feelings towards the girl, etc. The flute music being his only solace reminded me of Solitary Reaper.

  6. I know what you mean. Although I like poems which are open for interpretation, it's always better to read poems which are simple yet moving. Like this one. Ihe choice of words couldn't have been more ordinary, and still it is so beautiful!

    Thanks again! And I'm glad you've stopped commenting anonymously now! :P

  7. I love interpreting the deeper meaning out of anything, rather than just taking the face value...but not via poems...don't know how to explain this, hope you get it. I love doing so in movies n other forms of art. But this one, thanks to you, I saw what I would have surely seen if it were a movie. Maybe I should be more patient when it comes to poems :D

    N I take the last line of your comment as a subtle way of telling me 'stop commenting as anonymous ;)'...the words of a woman can have infinite meanings depending on context...see, I do try n interpret the hidden meanings...lol! kidding.

  8. koool! ur room is finally clean! i can breathe after reading tat uve managed to clear up some junk in ur room (my ex room :p) ... acha just tell me what the pot pourri does not smell like ... uve mentioned everything possible ... and chinkooo u r so so crazy!

  9. Manu, you're so cute!! :D

    Doo, it's not clean. but it's cleaner! :P
    peechkee poochkoo! I know I'm crazy! :D
    And I'm super excited! because of the reaons I told you about on the phone! Weeee! :D

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