MY MOST REVERED FATHER
LATE AJIT KUMAR CHAKRABARTY
A Great Work-Wizard and a Music Worshipper
I have ever known in my little life
Birth : 1917 Death : 2006
My father, ‘Baba’ – a household phoneme in our vernacular, lived a full expanse of 89 years being swayed in the cheers and tears but always slighting all fears till the last drop of oil in his lamp. Even a thousand-page-book may perhaps fall short if I am keen to paint every shade of his skills and geniuses as well as the struggle days on the humble canvas of my papers.
Born to a well-to-do zamindar (landlord) type of family in a nameless village ‘Musuli’ in the district of Maimansingh of undivided Bengal, now Bangladesh, my father fled to Shyamnagar, also a nameless village in the district of North 24 Parganas of West Bengal at his very young age, empty handed, with a lofty dream of being a Musician, leaving behind all comforts and awning of certainty and security of life.
To give a square account of his life in this small ration of space, I know my so unprolific pen can give bellow only a few drops from his ocean full of life.
A great architect of man as my father had become, at a later phase of his life though. He took to teaching at a Free Primary School (Govt. aided) at a small neighbourhood, Basudebpur, under the sub-division of Barrackpore in the district of North 24 Parganas of West Bengal. This neighbourhood was surrounded by clusters of bamboo trees preventing sunrays to peep into the place even today. It was the event of some 40 to 50 years ago when farmers, wood-cutters and wood-reapers were the chief inhabitants of that rustic countryside. Naturally my father had to teach the first generation students coming from many local wretched families, which was, not to mention, a most difficult task that my father had accepted as a piece of a holy service to the society. Some out of many, who received the first light of learning from that school rose to great heights in general academics or other professional careers in the later part of their lives. I myself was also a student of that school.
A mellifluous singer and an opera actor – was my father in his own right. His name as a singer-actor earned a place of high esteem in large segments of enthusiasts spreading over several places of North 24 Parganas, Nadia and Hooghly districts. At his time ladies had hardly an access into the areas of acting in public theatre or opera. My father had sometime filled that void acting in woman characters besides appearing in male characters. His both acting earned him good reputation.
He often used to get invitations to sing Kali-Keertan numbers in neighbouring districts. Later on he himself instituted a band of Kali-Keertan which was a highly respectable trend of vocal music based on Indian spiritualism.
A formal trainer of vocal music : My father had nothing short of a good reputation as a vocal trainer of basic lessons too. Besides my elder brother, who is none other than today’s internationally acclaimed celebrated vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, and myself, at least two other names deserve a mention who are Anal Chatterjee and Reshmi Chakrabarty. We all had our early lessons in Indian vocal music from my father.
It was a period of time when portable tape-recorder was not easily available. My father had created a typical shorthand form of notation (Swarlipi) system enabling students to write down the notation at a very high speed. This unique notation system gave such a useful result that it spread very fast to many of the music fraternity especially music students because it was introduced by my elder brother to his music academy ‘Shrutinandan’ too which has a huge student base every year.
Struggle days of my father : My cross-border itinerant father had only one possession in the beginning in the new land and that was an ‘abject poverty.’ But his indomitable courage drew such success that despite many hurdles and limitations he managed to raise his younger brothers to the status of an engineer, a doctor and above all his elder son a most successful vocalist of the country. All of his vigour, energy and time were so burnt off towards welfare of his so many committed ones in his larger family extending to many non-relative friends and associates that his multi-stream talents had ultimately happened to lose their shiny edge just on the verge of mingling with the ocean of success. But I believe that the weighed down fire of his creative geniuses must remain ever radiant in the loving remembrance of all his near and dear ones.
An exceptional Innovator / Craftsman : In making of various handicrafts and technical artifacts, his keen observation, intellect and a vigorous zeal raised him to an astounding height although he never had any sort of formal training about anything. In all fields like raising an earthen house, work of a mason as well as of a carpenter he had an amazing self-taught competence. Even today, some wooden chairs, almirah and box of different sizes are still in regular use at our Shyamnagar residence bearing witness of his beautiful carpentry. These apart, he could do all repairing works of almost everything. Also he could mend any broken part of both inside and outside of the musical instrument, Harmonium, including its thorough servicing. Once being caught with the fancy of learning Sorode, he collected a required piece of wood and crafted the instrument out of it almost life a regular maker. His such acts would always travel even many odd avenues. One day, to everybody’s surprise, he drew up a complete building map with due measurements and all which is normally an expertise of a Municipal /Corporation Licentiate Building Surveyor.
The interesting part is that as soon as anybody came to praise him for all these skills and talents, he would immediately slight it saying that it was no point of talent but only the dire poverty that taught him all that. Even in that chill penury he managed to buy some bare minimum tools that he couldn’t do without in works of farming, carpentry and masonry. He also made big tool boxes to keep them safe.
An example of a high enthusiast : When I was born my father was 49. Naturally as I became 10 or 11 years old, my father turned 60. But he was so full of life that even at that age he took me out to open fields to guide me how to fly a kite. He spent time to make wooden spool in his own hand to hold the threads of the Kites. His creative thinking would always revolve around many such useful purposes. In my school days he would tell me as to how to take care of books and patiently trained me in the work of book-binding.
A path-breaker for a way of living : In my early youth my father thought of a means of living by way of a cottage industry making ‘Sarees’ worn by ladies and ‘Patched Cloth’ with needle-work on it. With this end he installed a handloom machine in our house. As usual, he himself made in his hands necessary kits like the ‘Shuttle’, the ‘Reed’ to run the machine. He would even mend them when required. Reels of thread would be purchased in bulk from the wholesale market ‘Burra Bazar’ of Kolkata. Such bundles of thread would then be dyed and dried to make ready for weaving which all would be taken care of by my mother. In the beginning my father would run the machine. Later on, my mother learnt it from him. The sorry figure of the sale proceeds of those home grown cloth items would not however always enable my father make both ends meet. But yet small wants and needs could never steal away the smiles from our lips for the blessing hands of our family spiritual guide, His Holiness Shri Shri Premananda Teerthaswamiji and Sadananda Brahmachariji being always there on everybody of us.
A diverse maker and busy like a bee : I can well remember, every year, my father had a practice of buying rolls of cloth from wholesale market and then would tailor one or two shirts and pants for myself and my elder brother, cutting and sewing them all in his own hands which we would wear in pride for the whole year. Cycle, Radio or anything like that had never been given to repairing shops. My father would fix them himself sitting at home. He managed to buy necessary repairing tools one by one over the time. Such was his zeal and he never learnt to accept defeat. He hated idleness like anything. Even being in COPD attack (Critical Overage Pulmonary Disturbances) the moment he would feel a little better by taking puffs of Nebulizer, he would immediately sit up to carve a sweetmeat dice on a piece of a stone with some sharp delicate tool or sometime make a shoe-rack by bending strips of iron wires.
A Green Revolutionist : During his stint as a village school teacher as he had to nurture the first generation students mainly coming of farmer families, my father chose to mingle with many local farmers to know their children better. This brought him an opportunity to gather knowledge how to grow vegetables better and inspired him to turn the surrounding land of our homestead covering an area of not less than 12 to 13 cottas into a green field. The morning light barely peeped when my father would be on lands with a spade and a weeding tool everyday. The school connected farmers of Basudebpur would supply necessary seeds etc. May be my father also had a green finger, producing Potato, Brinjal, Gourd, Turnip, Tomato, Carrot, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Gourd, Pumpkin, Snake Gourd and so many other varieties. These apart, Lemon, Chili and Coconut were for all calendar months, and Mango, shaddock and Custard Apple were the season special items.
In this connection, my father, not to mention, would always take the lead role and my mothers would play the second fiddle in silence in all his doings. Let me clarify the plurality about my mother. Our ‘Maa’ (mother), that is the first wife of my father, had no issue. Hence our family patriarchs of the time married my father for the second time to her younger sister who gave birth to both my elder brother and myself at a difference of nearly 12 years between us.
An Expert Domesticator : My father had a great fancy for purity in every matter in life. With this idea he maintained domestic cattle. We had cows and goats for unadulterated milk. We had cocks and hens too. Cleaning of cow-shed, arranging their daily forage including straw and oilcake etc. for both parts of the day were too hard a task, but my father would do it gladly of course with warm assistance of my mothers. I forgot to mention that my father would also do milking of the cows daily and help them bear their calves and hold the worshipping ceremony of the deity ‘Gorakshanath’ in welfare of the cows – all in his own hands.
Spiritual Attainment : In his school and college days my father had a great respect and inclination for Sanskrit language. As it is, a spiritual environment had always prevailed in our home for all of us being initiated by His Holiness Premananda Teerthaswamiji and Sadananda Brahmachariji. Hence my father took great delight to take all responsibility of holding Durga Puja in our residence taking part of the main priest himself. Durga Puja is a huge phenomenon and one of the national festivals of India but my father would accomplish it so competently with all its thousand nitti-gritties that many of our family friends and relatives immediately put their trust on his priesthood. They began to have him participate in their different family rituals and worship ceremonies in the role of the priest. Thus my father gradually got into the centre of a spiritual circle with a religious clientele. With his long held personal efforts and experience he shaped up a very special and unique familial but mass-participated Durga Puja (worship) system-pattern based on chanting of Hymns, Songs and Music with Sanskrit Slokas and annotations making a great difference from the conventional method of Durga Puja altogether. He tried to compile up all this in a book form at the fag- end of his life but as God picked him up to his heavenly abode, he had to leave his writings and relevant collections unpublished.
An Excellent Writer was my father : But his pattern was never like any of the regulars. Be it for a trifle or a major event, his pen had a rare acumen to paint a word-picture commendably on the canvas of his imagination, which sometimes had even surpassed a professional calibre.
MY CONCLUDING WORDS FOR THIS GREAT COLOSSUS:
Ajit Kumar Chakrabarty was a phenomenal reference of eternal humanity.
With the kind of aboriginal prowess one day man came out of jungles and the stony caves, it looks that the light of that valorous force is ever beaming as a halo around the crownless king, Ajit Kumar Chakrabarty. This loner once bade adieu his birth place, all paternal properties and securities and finally staked all his youth and the prime time but never knew to stop his man-making-mission till the last breath.
His absence from the mortal life did not, however, end up the process I believe. His mission must flow down the time thru’ his faith-following from a life-lamp to the next. As I remember my father’s immortal soul at the auspicious moment of this Holy Mahalaya Day, being the 4th of October, 2013, offering my deepest veneration with the holy waters of ‘Ganga’ to his departed soul, that is my ‘PITRI TARPAN’ (in Sanskrit), a couple of lines from the world poet Rabindranath Tagore are ringing in my heart –
In poet’s own words in Bengali :
“AANDHAARER GAAYE GAAYE PAROSH TABO,
SAARAA RAAT PHOTAAK TAARAA NABO NABO”
My inexpert attempt in English of the said lines :
‘LET YOUR TENDEREST TOUCH
SMEARING GENTLY OVER THE DARK EXPANSE
BETWINKLE THE EVER NEW SET OF STARS
OVER THE ROUND OF THE NIGHT.’