Friday, April 06, 2007

16. Messages: From Prophets to Poets and on to the Public

The Bauls believe like other monotheist that the messages of all Prophets, which came from the Maker, needed dissemination to the public at large if this could be of benefit to Mankind. More that counting rosaries with our fingers, or parroting the ‘holy books’ we had safely tucked in our homes away from anybody’s reach but the select ‘faithful’ among us, who apparently ‘understand’ its texts, we have reduced them to non-entities in our willful neglect. It was perhaps the will of the Maker that Man in the Natural world be guided in methodology easier and useful to reach, and not by means where ‘fear’ is the key to the discovery and appreciation of the Omnipotent or the Omnipresent. Among those suited to deliver Messages and undertake this responsibility of great acumen, were Poets, for they had the ability and talent to introspect and arrive at deliverable conclusions and make clarifications at the shortest possible time. This was long before the radio had been invented, and there were no other avenues available other than word of mouth. They combined poesy with music, as mere recitation or incantations could affordably not interest anyone. Bards and rural minstrels were the Poets of the time, who traveled on foot, on bullock carts and boats, carrying the Makers message in their hearts and in their songs.

With his simplistic Ektaara (one string pitch instrument) to signify the one Maker of Mankind, and the Baaya (meaning a left handed bass drum, strung to the waist, to keep time and rhythm) he was a one man band who could move faster with the message than anybody else. Other that his minimalist musical talents, he was usually a singer of some repute, his competence as a Poet, who could compose at will at any location, and pass on a message as and when it crossed his mind was his intrinsic talent. His acceptability came from his instant streaks of wisdom as he was more attuned with Nature than most else. In Bengal’s tradition of Kobi Loraai (or Poet-Bard duels) that lasted all night-long and sometimes continued for days, challenges were thrown, and theological debates interspersed with music left everybody in states of mixed emotions from euphoria, humor, and anger to tears. To this day most couplets are composed impromptu and in the heat of ‘battles’ of the village Poets, fascinating arguments usually leaves the uninitiated to the phenomenon at a complete loss in wonderment. So powerful and intense is the display of Extelligence of those we consider rustic, frugal and not worthy of our urbanized ‘respect’, that benign respects overpowers us into submission and helps us relate and appreciate many unanswered questions in our quest for Bauliana. Let us make no mistake here that Bauliana is not a quest that is so fragile that it can not survive the spirit of inquiry. Blind faith is prejudicial faith, and the Baul is not afraid if he is ever challenged, for he has always been respectful to differing opinions, and believed in Democracy, free speech and expression, even before these now ‘holistic’ terms were invented. He never believed that what he said was the truth and his only yearning was for WORK that was true.

As time moved on, and life reached a pitch in its sheer speed, attention span in humans faltered. On the other hand a constant reeling back and forth in this esoteric exercise of keeping the mind thoroughly engaged on thoughts ONLY of ‘messages’ from the Maker in relation to Man i.e. life could well….become very boring to say the least! With the struggle for daily survival in rural Bengal, our denizens of yore simply could not afford this ‘luxury’, especially when putting a square meal for the consumption of the family at the end of the day was a priority that overtook all else. It is thus not unusual that most Baul compositions have references to, or have pointers based on what we may term in today’s context: ‘market dynamics‘.

Much as society moved away from a collective cooperative spirit of survival, to a vulgar ‘perform or perish’ preponderance towards materialism, the compositions were thus designed to cater to those with a ‘cursed sense of simplicity’, a reminder that life and living is going through spins of extremities where more often, exploitations were as a direct result of ‘intelligent’ humans spreading the tentacles of hate, divisions and willful yet deceitful capture, nay stealing of others wealth, whether material or immaterial is not important here. A new set of filter down institutionalized hierarchy of Oppression of the British imperialist had made their presence felt in the tyrant class of Zamindars, (landlords) Jotedars (lackeys of landlords) to the village Muttabors (arbitrators, read village head man) not to forget the sacrosanct Mullahs (Islamic clerics) or the Puroheets (Brahmin priest’s) who gave a ‘spiritual angle’ to exonerate the injustice they skillfully perpetrated.

The Bauls were then as to this day, the butt of ridicule and rancor, as they had the ability to see through the charades being perpetrated on the innocent, all in the name of religions and its many Gods. For the poor and marginalised it was the power of the Spirit, which had to be revived and rejuvenated to fight Oppression in all its forms. Let us be clear; Bauliana remains a socio-political-cultural struggle, with its only ‘weapon’ the Spirit of Man and its latent power to overcome all extremities, which sometimes capitulated to limited calamities, but never bowed its head in defeat. “To resist is to WIN” has always been the Baul credo.

It is in such complex situations that the Bauls reminded its audience that only when we juxtapose examples in nature in relation to the Makers plans and schemes of things, would anybody be able to overcome the serious odds that seemed to challenge rural Bengal. The quest for Bauliana today is no different, for it is a revolt against the hackneyed order of medieval thought processes, permeating and afflicting the sensibilities of Man, in its unflinching brutalization of fellow Man. It becomes all the more important that we stop and ponder, because all Wars today, all conflicts, all our anger to fellow Man, is directed NOT because we disagree on fundamentals of the Maker, but because we have allowed ourselves to be conducted on implied Superiority or Inferiority of our respective ‘Gods’. We never hear of any attempts anywhere in the world about a ‘Consensus on God’ while we debate about ‘clashes among civilizations or religions’ when civilization is nothing more that an extension of hate, for whatever we may have inherited, we have failed in inheriting a civilization of ‘good’ as we go looking for ‘Axis of Evils’ – which allows only the devil and not Man to smile. The Maker knows best.

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