My interest in writing poems came about after I read “Collected Poems and Plays by Rabindranath Tagore”. I have heard that a great body of his works translated into English does not do full justice to the beauty and meaning embedded in his work. Apparently, his songs also loose the musicality, when translated in English. And yet, his writings have a breadth of fresh perspective and though his verses are simple, crisp and clear, they convey deep meaning, humanity, and idealism that is so appealing at a young age. I also took classes and learned vocal Rabindra Sangeet for some time. While a lot of his work has been translated into English, there was not much that was translated into Gujarati. When I learned Rabindra Sangeet, I learned to sing, without understanding the meaning because I did not have English translations of what was taught in the class – those were pre-Google days :).
It was therefore pure delight, to hear Rabindra Sangeet, translated into Gujarati on the occasion of celebration of Gujarat Day. The words were beautifully translated, and music was enchanting and lyrical. Bay Area Gujarati Samaj of Northern California celebrates Gujarat Day each year, on June 30 with presentation of Gujarati literature, poetry, and music. This year the celebration focused on recognizing Tagore’s genius and giving it expression in Gujarati. The celebration ended with recognizing a dedicated community volunteer Shree Harikrishna Mazmudar, lovingly known in the bay area, by one and all, as “Dada” or grand-father. Here is a little synopsis of the celebration and some information to familiarize you with enormous contributions of these two great entities – Tagore and Mazmudar Dada. Many people question why Gujarat Day was celebrated with Tagore’s music.
Tagore’s contributions and achievements are many and hard to summarize. Tagore was India’s Nobel Laureate and his compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India’s Jana Gana Mana and Bangladesh’s Amar Shonar Bangla. Tagore was a humanist and an internationalist and strongly advocated independence from Britain. Tagore’s perspectives and his enormous body of work were not restrictive in nature. A poet, playwright, essayist, composer, and painter, he crossed boundaries of language, cast, creed, and nations. Bay Area is very fortunate to have enormously talented artists who can recognize, translate, and give expression to the works of such a legendary figure.
Bay Area’s talented artist Asim Mehta translated some of the compositions and set all of the translated compositions to music. Twelve highly gifted singers included Asim Mehta, Madhvi Mehta, Amish Oza, Ratna Munshi, Ran Muni, Anjana Parikh, Gaurang Parikh, Minu Puri, Sanjiv Pathak, Neha Pathak, Parimal Zaveri, and Darshana Bhutta Shukla. Shree Dada’s wife and well known writer and poet in her own right, Shree Premlataben Mazmudar also translated many of the compositions. Premlataben never ceases to amaze and inspire everyone with her brilliant poetry, her beautiful style of recitation and now this 84 year old woman was instrumental in translating many of Tagore’s songs. The program began with patriotic song, “akla chalo re” (walk alone, if no one responds to your call, then walk alone), translated in Gujarati by Asim Mehta and was sung by Minu Puri and Darshana Bhutta Skhula. The group of twelve, honored Rabindra Sangeet, and sang one song after another that included “eso shyamalo shundaro”, “aaj jemon kore gaiche aakash”, “mon mor megher songi”, all beautifully translated into Gujarati. As Pragnaben Dadbhawala, chief organizer and DJ of the event observed, it was a dilemma whether to compliment the writer, composer or the singers. Truly, Tagore crossed the boundaries of language and the event on this day extended the reach to bring this beautiful music to Gujaratis, in the Bay Area.
Harikrishna Mazmudar “Dada”
Next, Mazumudar Dada was recognized on the event of his 94th birthday. Shawl was wrapped around Dada and Premlataben (his wife). Dada has led an amazing life. He was born in 1919 and practiced law in India, after graduation. He came to the US in 1985, at the age of 65, and joined community college to study calculus, and then co-wrote a book “Factorization” on mathematics. He also later deeply studied Shakespeare and aspired to write in Gujarati on Shakespeare. Dada routinely also contributed articles in Gujarati publications on various topics, including law. He then began to provide social service and legal help and counseling to seniors and other immigrants. He wrote and published the book “Mapping the Maze” to help immigrants navigate through the maze of legal challenges. To date, he keeps himself well versed with changes in laws and is always ready to extend his help. His philosophy has been to remove the focus from “me” to “all of us” and to live life in the service of others.
Another group of Bay Area’s finest singers, Piyushbhai Mehta, Darshanaben Bhutta Shukla, Hemlataben Bhrambhatt, and Rajubhai Solanki, accompanied on Tabla by Balabhai, entertained the audience with some well known songs like “madi taru kanku kharyu” and some newly created compositions like “kagal lakhyo pahela pahela, kasturi shabdone chandama gholyata”.
The beautiful program ended with superb meal of shrikhand, puri, undhiyu, and kachori, that was sponsored by Chaat Bhavan. Kudos, Pragnaben Dadbhawala and talented artists of Bay Area for yet another fantastic program.