My parents, like all middle class Bengali parents, believed that an extra training in fine arts was an additional shot in the arm along with the traditional education imparted in the school.
As a result, I was inducted in the drawing class conducted on Sundays in the local club. It took me 3 weeks (that’s 3 classes actually) to understand that I hated sitting in a room staring at an object and that I could never ever have a co-ordination between my mind, my eyes and the pencil in hand. I bunked the next class to join the cricket coaching class being held outside. It was obvious when my father came to collect me from the class that no amount of effort in drawing would create a bruise in the knee and the knuckles simultaneously. In short, I was caught red handed and we came to attend a ‘gol table boithak’ (round table conference) with my parents.
They reasoned with me that everyone my age had some ‘EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITY’! Playing in the sun and rolling in the mud or climbing trees was not qualified to be taken as such. So, I had to learn something!! Playing the tabla or guitar was suggested and harmonica was the compromise solution. Not even my otherwise doting parents dared to suggest singing as they knew that I would probably create disharmony in the neighbourhood through my ‘hende gola’ and lack of understanding of ‘sur’! I was gifted a harmonica and there I was trying to blow my lungs out. My friend/brother next door played this instrument like a dream and when I heard him play better with every passing day, the harmonica took the shortest route to my drawer.
Well, that was the end of my tryst with fine and performing arts!
It brought a relief to me and my energy was shifted to my love of cricket and football. My parents knew when to retreat and they never tried to convince me again.
However, there was a time every year when I really regretted my inability to play the instruments or sing or get involved in such ‘cultural activities’. Come the month of Baishak with the ushering of the Bengali New Year and every corner of the then Bengal would have thousands of cultural programmes commemorating the new year and the birthdays of Rabindranath , Nazrul and Sukanto. These would be ‘para’ based and all local ‘para’ artistes would get to showcase their skills in the stage created in the local grounds. The rehearsals would continue for about a month before the D-day.
This was the period of romance.
All ‘eligible’ boys and girls would get to meet and showcase their talents to impress the chosen one. The hot and often humid air of April would hold an additional burden of such budding romances and the heat wouldn’t seem so oppressive! But this was limited to those who could perform and people like us would watch from a distance and go green with envy. As one of those who indulged in outdoor games and lacked the fine arts, we had the duty of volunteers. It was to keep the outside crowd at bay on the day of the programme, or function, as we called it then. Other jobs would be to carry heavy articles, collect chanda and other such odd jobs! I would stop near the rehearsal area, listen to the songs or discussions or the strains of music emanating from behind the doors, cringe at the bonhomie between the boys and girls and curse my inability to be a part of it. This feeling would last till the start of the next cricket season when all such things would be drowned under the sound of the willow hitting leather.
I would reason that after all someone has said that cricket was the poetry of the willow!
Today, I wonder whether such tender moments still spring in the summer under the guidance of the three bards of Bengal! Or whether, poetry- fuelled romance has vanished like the romance having vanished from cricket!!!