Friday, March 21, 2008

DOWN MEMORY RIVER

I was reading a Bengali nursery rhyme to my younger daughter today (from HASHIKHUSHI by Jogindranath Sarkar), when a particular rhyme made me feel very smiley-weepy nostalgic.
"Gour majhhi haal dhorechhey
Choudiketey paal,
Ei nouka chorey dada
Bou aanbey kaal."
A rough translation (with a few embellishments) would be:
"The boatsman Gour is pulling the oars,
The wind-blown sail moves with the tide,
This very boat will bring back tomorrow
My brother and his lovely new bride."
When my father was young, he used to live with his huge extended family in a town called Naogaon in what is now Bangladesh. During the summer and Durga Puja vacations, they would travel by boat to their native village, Balubhara ('place full of sand' - such an unpolluted, evocative name).
These journeys were long and unhurried and often took several days to complete. The large boat would meander down the river, often stopping to talk to people in other boats, to cook freshly-caught fish bought from passing fishermen, or just to watch something - a sunset/sunrise, the hub-bub of a riverside haat (weekly market).
My father enjoyed these journeys as much as he did reaching the destination. He and his cousins would dive off the prow of the boat, swim alongside it in the glistening water, and get up on it to dry themselves on the deck. And so the journey would continue till they reached Balubhara, sometimes accompanied by a newly- married uncle and his wife.
Those leisurely boat journeys are lost forever. For us, they were second-hand memories recreated through my father's storytelling. For my daughters, they are just hoary old rhymes in yellowing pages. We no longer travel along a river, ebbing and flowing with the tides and the winds. We just hurry across it in motorised-boats, or drive over it via bridges.
The rivers now are full of silt and chemicals. And no amount of dredging can bring back the unspoilt double-joy (of the journey and the journey's end) that my father felt when drifting along the river on the way to his beloved Balubhara.

1 comment:

Archi said...

Excellent!!! I wish i could go back in time to accompany my father in the early mornings for a "polimati" bath in the ganges..