Tulika Blogathon 4

This is for the Tulika Blogathon 4 .

When we were small there were these six page books of "chhoras"or rhymes printed by a Bengali publisher . There were 3 or 4 volumes and they had a rhyme a page with very colourful and detailed illustrations. When I was a child I remember Ma and Thakuma reading out these rhymes When my older daughter was about a year old I was browsing through some books at a magazine stall when I chanced upon the books and promptly bought them to read out to her . My mother followed this up with “Chhorar Boi” a seminal collection of popular Bengali rhymes , with beautiful line drawings that have continued to enthrall children and grown ups alike through generations .

Khoka Ghumolo para jurolo

Borgi elo deshey

Bulbuli tey dhaan kheyechey khajna debo kishe

Dhaan furalo paan furalo
Khajna debi ki?
Aar kota din shobur koro
Roshun bunechi.

Like most old Bengali rhymes this was a direct hit at the Maratha marauders who terrorised Bengal at that time for revenue against the paddy harvests. The paddy was harvested , sold and the money hidden so that when the Maratha hordes , called “bargis” came the excuse was that the birds had destroyed the crops and the villagers had planted garlic which would take a relatively short time to be harvested . Whether the hordes murdered the Bengalis for their blatant lie or waited till the garlic was harvested for a meagre return,is lost to history .

The painting shows a mother rocking a baby to sleep on her lap - the khoka of the rhyme and there is a hazy dreamy background of marauding dacoits on horseback and fields of paddy being harvested .

Another one goes like this

Chaand uthechhey phool phutechhey

Kadam tolay ke

Haathi nacchhey ghora nachhey

Shonamonir biye

An elephant and a horse dance hoof to hoof in a grove of kadamba trees on a moonlit night , possible serenading Shonamoni who is getting married .

Khokababu jaye

Laal moja paaye

Boro boro didira sab unki mere chaaye

Khoka phirey na takaaye

It is ironic and predictably so , that Shonamunis or Ranis always got married or got their leg pulled because they could not cook “payesh” ( kheer / rice pudding ) or gazed admiringly at the brother(as in the rhyme above) - a chubby little boy in short dhoti, a red jacket and bright red socks and turban going off to war with a wooden sword and a scowl , thereby occupying a role that was secondary to the boy, small though he was . But given the time in which they were composed women did play second fiddle and therefore this condescension was to be expected.

The fact however , remains that generations of Bengali children have grown up listening to these rhymes which have stood the test of time and I can vouch for the fact that almost every Bengali parent has sung at least one or the other as a lullaby and most children can recite them pat from memory.

A popular sit down game we played as children was

Ikri mikri chaam chikri

Chaam kaatey Majumdar ,dheye elo damodar

Jagannath er haanri kunri, duware boshey chaal kaari

Chaal kaartey holo bela , bhaat khao shey dupur bela

Bhaatey porlo maachhi , kodal diye chaanchi ,

Kodaal holo bhonta , kha chhutorer maatha

We sat in a circle with our palms down on the floor and one person did the counting , going from finger to finger while chanting the rhyme . The finger where the rhyme ended was "out" and one had to fold up that finger .And so on it went ,till one person and one finger remained and that person won the game . There was no skill, no dexterity ,maybe a little cheating but wholly absorbing in a world where only the print media ruled supreme !

Roughly translated the rhyme hints at a a lot of activity wherein a Majumdar is cutting a skin off an animal , which if you go by the caste hierarchy strictly , is not his work and Damodar,therefore , rushes up to prevent him from doing it . The rice takes so long to be cleaned for the pot that afternoon has rolled by before they can eat . But there is further travail in store because there is a fly in the rice which has to be dug out with a spade . The spade gets blunt so intense is the ordeal of removing the fly and everyone collectively swears at the carpenter – now why ? I I have no idea ! But it is great fun to sing it out .


Jaya M said...

I remember those lullabies/choras.My little one still goes to sleep listening me singing these "Choras".
Hope she can recall these when she grows up..Never knew "Bargis" were Marathas.Thanks for mentioning all, such a sweet post.
hugs and smiles

Sue said...

Rahul has two of these chhora'r boi and he has them read out to him. Ironically enough, part of the reason behind this gift from my Pishithamma was for me to practise my Bengali reading!

Thanks for the background and explanations. I tend to sub "khoka" with "Rahul" like I once subbed odd words in English rhymes with "Bhablet". It makes him laugh and also pay attention!

Sue said...

BTW my agency recently did a Global Handwashing Day TV ad that took off from the Oriya version of "Ikir mikir". Great fun.

Banno said...

There's so much phonetic beauty in the rhymes, though the meanings are often so violent.

hillgrandmom said...

I remember my Bengali tuition teacher bringing me a 45r.p.m. record with 4 rhymes on them, one of which was "Chaand utechey, phool phutechy' and there was one "Hatti ma deem (teem?)" something like that.

Bong Mom said...

Ami roj ontoto du bar kore proteykta ar aro kichu ei rokom shuni, shuntei hoi ghumonor shomoy ;-)

Unknown said...

Jaya /Sandeepa - I know most chhoras by rote , not because I memorised them as children but from repetitive bedtime bak bak ! Sandeepa - amar gulo ghoomonor aagey aabdaar korto :)

Sue -there's another volume which has
very pretty line drawings
Banno- I guess they used these rhymes for word of mouth propogation for want of any other media and to disseminate information. Also , the old English nursery rhymes which sound so innocent are often deeply rooted in political and social backgrounds
HHG - Hattimatimtim :)
Sandeepa - :)))

Arundhati said...

Good read. Interesting rhymes and I'm sure they would sound very good too

radha said...

Vernacular nursery rhymes are always so interesting. Probably because they have a local flavour to it. But they are so much more fun.