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Monday, August 29, 2011

Facebook Discussion with a faceless scribe: The Corporatization of Lalon

[Sharing an interesting ongoing discussion with a ‘faceless anonymous scribe’ on Facebook – Despite his anonymity, which I respect, he appears to be not only knowledgeable but very curious about recent developments, corporate exploitation of our culture and its possibilities, and the future of the Baul movement in Bangladesh. Anonymous Scribes comments are in red.]

Mac Haque

I think the larger problem is the middle class always stepping in into issues concerning the Bauls (or for that matter anything!) without having done their homework. It has always got to be so-called 'conscious activists' who are indeed the elite with pro-people hypocrisies and are one way or the other connected to the Media Mafia who are set upon to project themselves rather than the issue in hand or Bauls really - that can and will lead on to a major calamity.

Piece meal solution or tokenistic solutions can never be part of a larger solution. The solution espoused by the Bauls is a.) Confront the monsters by making mincemeat of their interpretation of 'holy verses' and b.) Confront the monster lurking deep within our souls.

To imagine that some of us urban folks even dare say that we are around to 'protect the Fakirs and sHADHUs' is patronization of the worst kind. The Pangsha incident was caused by an inept Fakir who couldn't handle or had the merits to handle the 'morar agey morey jawa' (die before death overtakes you) philosophy. He sent his wife to the village to collect money for his 40 day ritual - when rituals as such are not in any way part of our belief system.

When challenged by the Mollahs he couldn't defend himself - what a crying shame for someone claiming to be a ‘Fakir’? Left unreported was post the incident, the Fakir was reprimanded by other Fakirs and sHADHUs and he begged apology.

For centuries the Bauls have had their own 'secret defense system' in place. You need to study the Fakir Sanyasi Rebellion , indeed the catalyst for all the pre-partition anti-Brit movements. It has learnt historically that security is never discussed in public.

I see your point about the buzz post the protest, but in all practicality, there is no guarantee that something similar would not happen again and no one understands that better than the Bauls themselves. No one needs to come forward to defend the Bauls, cause the Bauls themselves do not believe they are vulnerable...there is no such thing as a 'death proof security'......... and if that's what our middle class worries about, its really their worry, and their problems.

Bauls have nothing to do with pretentious people and can clearly and literally see through them :)


My bad. Pangsha. I see your point about Lalon philosophy being a meticulous lifestyle practice and not the latest fad the urban youth are treating it as. I read your piece from the attached link. Enlightening to say the least.

I stand corrected on the point that Lalon philosophy was never in danger of extinction no matter how things looked from here. I also value your concern that unwanted attention could jeopardize the Bauls. But what about the political value of the urban enthusiasm? I mean no great justice was achieved but it created a buzz and people spoke out for the rights of these agnostic Bauls 'living in the periphery'. In the term of a Islamist govt. (read BNP-Jamaat) the assault on Bauls could become widespread and would go unnoticed by the authority if the middle class do not interfere. The incidents in Raajbari may cause the oppressors to think twice. So the unwanted interest may not be all that unwanted or could it?

Mac Haque

I am enjoying your queries and have never at any stage considered them rebuttals :)

To be honest, Bengal's bhaabbad is unique and unparalleled in the history of the world, and perhaps one among many reasons that the UNESCO in 2005 listed it as an "Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" and just not Bengal!

That said, there has always been a genuine curiosity in our belief system in the West and many academic works available. In the short run we may feel that it is being 'obliterated' due to the influx of foreign media, but Lalon simply cannot be viewed in isolation. He was never an island in the first place, and I think we should rather avail this opportunity that is coming our way and do all we can to spread his 'message'. That message is really not about his music, but the complex and hard to understand philosophy, the syncretism of faith and belief which is embedded within his gems.

Being at it for 28 years, let me assure you I have just been able to scratch the surface - perhaps. My study for the last 4 years have been to understand the first three recommended chapters in understanding Lalon i.e. the Trittotyobad or 1. Noor Tattya (Discourses on Light) 2. Nabi Tattya (Discourses on the Messengers) an 3. Rasool Tattya (Discourses on Prophets). Just getting through the first 3 chapters (and around 50 songs in the process) I had to not only study the kORAN, but also try and understand Maarefot and Fakiri Islam...all within the Sufi i.e Tusawwuf Schools of Thought. I have another 8 chapters to go before I can say I have learnt anything - and don’t ask me how many years it will take me :)

It really wasn't to Seuria that our city bred "Baul Supremacist" went to. They would have been thrown was to Pangsha in Rajbari and you may like to read this piece:


Well, after correcting a faceless guy's overzealous assumptions, you're certainly due to get some answers. A very general query at that. I am a student at NSU doing my BBA. I should have finished it two years ago. :-)

Just to clear it up, my role in this discussion is that of an ignorant fool who can only ask questions and expect to learn things if you care to reply.( Thanks for the link btw) So please do not take my counters as rebuttals, rather they are more of queries.

To repeat a cliche, our culture have been invaded by Indian and Western elements. More so in the past 10-15 years than the whole of last century. Had it not been for this renewed interest of the urban middle class in Lalon, don't you think it would inch towards a solely academic and regional existence? Taking into consideration the fact that many of our native cultural aspects are being obliterated as a result of people's exposure to foreign media.

Groups of urban people went to Chheuria to ensure the continuity of the Baul rituals a few months ago, after the shadhus were impeded by local authority. Do you see the renewed interest playing some part behind the formation of public opinion?

Mac Haque

If you are talking about survival than Lalon and his music has done so for over 200 years without any need for sponsors or patrons. It goes against the very spirit of our belief system to think that Lalon needs to be on anybody's piggy back. Indeed quite on the contrary, it is doubtful whether the corporations themselves will survive another 50 years? What they are essentially doing is enlarge on their client base - and we are talking here of over half a million active Bauls, and over 2 million adherents to the belief system. And they are just too arrogant not to admit it :)

With the intense studies and research going on sHAJI, I seriously doubt the corporations would be able to take on the rigor of the philosophy and life style. You can take a peek at my work here.

If I am not being too curious - what do you do for a living?


I've been thinking about it albeit with very limited knowledge (not being modest). To justify our indifference, art can be viewed and practised separately from lifestyle and for the survival of any art form, people must get involved, one way or the other. Guess I’m being the devil's advocate here. :-)
Mac Haque

The corporatization of Lalon has been going on for well over 5 years, and the sHADHUs have precious little to say about it. Neither do I :)


Thanks for taking the time out to reply. I had read this letter a few days ago but could not make out the hints properly and thought maybe the coporatization of Lalon in our country was behind your grief. Thanks again.

Mac Haque

Not at all – please read this link:


akta proshno kori. onumannirbhor proshno. hashshokor shonanor shombhabona achhe. ichchha hole uttor diben.

apnar BAMBA chharar karon hishebe ki corporate'ra mainstream band diye lalon gawano k money korte pari?

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