The Bong and his"gojol"

Yesterday a fair turn out of Bongs attended a ghazal recital at a club by the lakes by a maestro , Ghulam Ali . A personal favourite from the time I learnt to appreciate shairis , it was a truly beautiful experience .

However I digress since the objective of the post is the Bong and the gojol. So there were about a thousand Bongs of all shapes and sizes in all manner of apparel from the subtle to the bizarre , the latter predominant amongst women of a certain age which is unkind to discuss. The setting was beautiful. A shamiana on the club lawns , with pretty lights and as I have said , a fair crowd jostling for seats along the aisles and front , to catch a sight of Ali .

The average Bong's knowledge of the Ghulam Ali ghazal is limited to "Hungama hai kyon badpa' and "Chupke chupke" also rendered in a very nasal voice by a lady in a film which starred Deepak Parasher and which I saw , but cannot recall the name. The said maestro , perhaps guessing this exhorted his audience to applaud whenever they felt like it and not to wait for him to finish his song . Thus instructed the audience at ease , settled down as did the maestro .

In mehfil ( basically , a gathering where the audience appreciates the shairi or ghazal with strong words of encouragement such as "wah wah" meant to convey appreciation and "ershad " or "mukarrar" which encourage the singer or the poet ) therefore , one needs to concentrate , understand , appreciate and love whatever one is listening to . However, after the first ghazal , the audience ducked out - and the rows which were so full even half an hour back looked alarmingly empty .

The Bong as ever disconcerted with the Unfamiliar had decided that the food tent was a better option than the concert venue , so off he went and to hell with "wah wah" and "ershad". Glass in hand and a dig with the plastic fork into the kabab and the biryani ( to lend ambience to the music at hand ) , the Bong lok lined up on the boardwalk and moved his collective head in appreciation , then got bored and concentrated on getting drunk .

The leftover Bongs sighed as the maestro sang . Familiar with jugalbandhis and the need to applaud widely at the climax, he did so , leaving the second lines of the shairis disconsolate and loose and unappreciated .

My daughter , unacquainted with mehfils was intrigued (?!) and AG was in the food tent with a doctor friend and his drunk compadres , a glass in hand and a plate of kababs which he , being hungry , had ordered . The glass belonged to his doctor friend - the kababs which belonged to him were eaten up by the drunk compadres while AG's stomach growled in protest . And Ghulam Ali's mellifluous voice flowed on as the Bongs , mine included made merry .

Ah me .

The Bauls were a different story . All of Kolkata congregated at the Calcutta Club to attend Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar's recital. The ones who had no passes , stayed at home . People like us who had neither passes npr isues with loss of face , listened to the Bauls of Bengal. The Bong however , does not know the Bauls too - horror of horrors . Mine does since he was weaned on Sanatan Das and Purna Das . Anyway the collective Bong which did not , asked for "Chol Mini Assam Jabo" and that folk song to beat all folk songs "Saadher lau". That was when I , a snob if ever there was one, downed the dregs from my bottle of wine, collected the purse,mobile,car keys and AG and left.

So much for culture and the common or garden Bong .


hillgrandmom said...

:)About the same everywhere!

Hip Grandma said...

I agree with hillgmom.The purity in Carnatic music or classical hindustani is a thing of the past.'chori kiya re' or kajra re is on everyones lips and these have to be rendered in appropriate style with hair falling all over the face.

Unknown said...

HG & HHG - Most reassuring , your comments . I thought I was being cynical . Most people seemed interested in their drinks and food - oh the quantities they ate.

La delirante said...

Hi!! I don't know anything about Indian music :( but I visited the web site of the sitarist artist and there is a lot to see :) How interesting! I will find some videos of Indian songs. Which ones would you recommend?

Have a great weekend!!

Usha said...

And if this is the case with a community considered very culturally inclined let us not even begin to talk of some other places. But this came as a HUGE surprise to me - Is it just a non inclination to learn about anything non bengali? but that doesnt hold either - if it was the same kind of apathy to BAUL. SIGH

Spin said...

The number of people sitting in their places and listening was more than the number of people drinking/eating. I liked it even if I didn't know when to clap or whatever, I'm sure there were more people like me there. It's a little sad, yes, that there are people a lot older than me who are as culturally challenged but then they might be interested in other things, right? I might think Shreya Ghoshal sucks but I cant really sit in judgement on the many people who would rather hear her than Basu Baul. Culture is relative.

Unknown said...

Usha - yes it is sad . But there are people and there are other people who might not appreciate the same music as I do.

Opaline - I disagree. But then I dnt like Shreya Ghoshal and I did not go hear her warble. Why be masochistic- I am not sitting on judgement nor am I saying that the people there were culturally challenged- I dont know their cultural inclinations , but then without professing to know a lot about music I certainly would not go and ask a Baul to sing Chol Mini Assam jabo if I did not know what mudical genre he was from. Dont be so flippant.

Thinking Cramps said...

Heh heh..sarcasm, sarcasm and some more. This was funny reading but obviously very annoying for you :)

You're tagged.

Elendil said...

I agree with Opaline regarding culture being relative. Everything is relative in fact. The very fact that you find others' lack of interest in what is their own culture irritating, comes out of your own passionate interest in it.

But I agree. Bongs can be very embarrassing sometimes. :P

Rimi said...

Far be it from me to disagree with the ever-agreeable Opaline, but it seems to me that the whole point of of cultural relativism is a little superfluous here. The point of the post, as i saw it, was NOT whether the lack of an average Bong's interest in gojol (which reminded me of the probashi Bangali housewife in Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, incidentally)is symbolic of his otherwise-inclined tastes, but of the irritation and embarrassment a conoissure may reasonably feel when he or she is surrounded by unappreciative peers who disrupt their full enjoyment of a peformance.

The way I see it is, if you don't like it, don't come. And if you do come with friends or family, leave and don't be disuptive. This is not to say that the very act of not being interested or the lack of discretion is not annoying -- I myself find little children playing in the lobby of theares or cinema halls supremely annoying, not because they're loud, but because their parents/guardians lack the sense of leaving them behind when they go to peformances which cannot and do not the interest of an average child -- but that is a personal grouse which anyone is allowed to have.

The Weekend Blogger said...

My late father-in-law was a great fan of Ghulam Ali. He died of heart disease when he was barely 36. The day before he passed away, he had attended Ghulam Ali's concert and had remarked "Now that I have heard the Ustad in person, my life seems fulfilled".
My husband gets disturbed whenever a Ghulam Ali ghazal is played. Somehow, whenever I hear a Ghulam Ali ghazal I feel closer to a man I never will know and yet who has touched my life so much indirectly.

Anonymous said...

Nice reading this post...I can't agree more with your thoughts...I have also done a post on the Bauls...You can check it!