I first came across Salil Chowdhry’s composition when I read in class four. The reason of knowing the exact time is because of my primary school, Burdwan Town school’s annual programme (on the first day of February) which coincided with the last year of my primary school days. A girl sang, Na jeo na rajoni akhono baki. Her riyazi, supple tonal quality effectively hid the otherwise bland rendition of song. It is a given that the girl sang the song without knowing what she sang. But she sang and it made the audiences agape. Perhaps she felt the melody and the feel carried her song and audience right through.
I got to home humming the song all the way from school. Ma, whose little finger I clutched onto on the way back, told me that Lata Mungeshkar sang the song and the record was in our home.
Reaching home I literally ordered Ma to play the record. The moment the pin of record player touched the circle on the surface of black record, melody oozed out from all sides of the player box. I realized if there was heaven, it could and should have been in the song and voice!
Years later I learnt a Rabindrasangeet from my father: Tumi jeo na ekhoni/ Akhono achhe rajoni. This song is formed in Teen tal of sixteen beats, while Salil’s is of eight beats; kaharba.
The difference in beats makes Tagore’s a melancholic persuasion to ladylove not to leave so soon as the night is still young. Salil, on the other hand, rejoices in his request to ladylove. The tempo doubles each time Lataji comes back to the beginning of the song, Sthaee, after navigating through other stanzas in Antara, Sanchari and Avog.
Contents are the same. Treatment is different. Salil shows to the world that he can be counted after Tagore, or on a par with Tagore.
One day at a poila boisakh morning programme on Kolkata Doordarshan, I found him sing Ai roko Prithibir garita thamao/ Ami nebe jabo. I was bit shocked.
Salil got off the train of life within a few months.
He preluded his departure from life with a song.
It is Salil. Salil Chowdhury. A melodic traveller on the path of life till death. Or beyond.
Rangila banshite ke dake ghumghum nihjhoom raater mayae……