Two decades back she came to our town this day. 19th September. At Burdwan Sanskriti Lokmanch. Very few of audiences knew it was her birthday. I was among the majority. I did not know the significance of the day. I went there with some of my classmates of University.
After the announcement, Suchitra Mitra walked in, sat and took to microphone. The whole stage radiated with her personality. She wore a simple sari. Very simple. She wore no make-up. Yet she looked so splendid. Simpleness could be so majestic. I felt.
The bespectacled Suchitra sang away one after another, taking little pause between songs. She started with “Kothao amar harie jaoar nei mana”. Perhaps she remembered the speeding train which she was born in seventy years back on this very day in a shal-spread jungle. Then she charted out her trademark unforgettables. The musical accompaniment was minimal: one esraj, two tanpuras and one tabla.
The whole auditorium was packed. And they listened to her hypnotized. She made each song come out of the pages of Geetobitan and stand enlivened before them with her immaculate pronunciation and restrained emotion.
She signed off for the evening with “Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe tobe akla chalo re”. It was not a lilting melody. It was rather straight from her heart. Sitting straight, bellowing harmonium with ease, flicking back her crop of boy-cut white hair, she thundered : Jodi keu katha na kae…Jodi sobai thake mukh phirae sobai kare bhoy/ Tobe poran khule/ O tui mukh phute tor moner katha akla balo re….
Years back my mother was humming and murmuring those lines in her bed as she was recovering from her illness at a local private hospital. Her doctor came close to her, held her with both hands tremblingly. “In my childhood I used to walk miles from my village every afternoon to reach my friend’s house at town to request his father to play the record of this song of Suchitra Mitra – Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe tobe akla chalo re…”
“From a village boy to now a renowned doctor of the town, this song has been my mantra. Even in 2001 when my house was vandalized by the toughs and goons of the ruling Comrades (“Unnatotaro”—in their own coinage) only because I did not subscribe to some of their views, I sang this song to myself when they set fire to my study and beat up my aged parents.” The doctor paused with a smile in his cigarette-burnt lips.
“Sing out, didi, loud,” The doctor exhorted his patient, my mother. Ma raised her voice.
My country needs a Suchitra Mitra who could fearlessly sing out “If none heeds to you, then move ALONE… If none speaks out in fear, then speak out ALONE…