Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | February 12, 2016

Ma and Music

I have inherited my love for music from my mother – Ma. She sings all the time. She sang much more when she was younger and I was younger too, but having said that she still sings when she is walking inside the house, cooking, sitting on the bed, in shower – most times. Singing rejuvenates Ma and she encourages everyone (especially kids) to sing. Ma was never trained in music but many have acknowledged over time that she is a beautiful and mostly correct singer. Never shy of singing in public, over the years Ma has performed on stage on various occasions. She has led young kids and adults to participate in dance dramas, quite common in “old fashioned” Bengal. Surprisingly, despite her not being a trained singer, I have seen many trained singers relying on her judgments and acknowledge her talent in leading those events. As I write, I understand she is still rehearsing to perform on the auspicious occasion of Saraswati Pujo. This is a special talent and I wonder how Ma could gather so much confidence in singing in public. I am sure more than anything else, she feels most confident in singing. I am aware, Ma’s interest in singing have been inherited from her grandmother, her uncles and her elder brother, but still nobody was ever as confident as Ma in this aspect. Brilliant!

As a child I spent a lot of time with Ma. Being a homemaker, she was the one who entertained me during the day. Now that I am a parent of a 5-year old, I realise how big a deal that was. When I was a toddler, my father was away overseas on work for nearly a year. Given those days we did not have skype, internet etc. it literally meant I just knew one parent during that time. I am sure Ma was singing most of the time to me that time and over time I developed a keen bond with music. Nothing could soothe me more than songs could.

Baba returned from US and brought us a Panasonic tape recorder. We already had a Bush radio! For Ma and me, these became our most favourite toys. Mind you, we did not have television and we did not mind that. As I returned from my kindergarten in the afternoon, Ma and I spent time with the tape recorder – not really listening to songs, but singing songs to record. We did not buy lot of tapes, but Baba brought a few blank tapes. We used to record songs on those blank tapes and listen afterwards. We recorded a lot of songs and it was a part of our lives, our biggest sport. We were singing, Tagore songs, Bengali modern songs and Hindi movie songs.

I am not a confident singer as Ma is, so I hardly ever sung in front of anyone outside our family. Occasionally, due to Ma’s encouragement I did participate in school functions as part of a choir but that is about it. Despite Ma’s encouragement I could not muster the courage to perform in front of an audience. That is what perhaps is so special about Ma’s confidence in this area. However, Ma did gift me the love for music. Every time I have felt happy or even low I still resort to music. I listen to my favourite songs over and over again, I study them, read about them, think about them, analyse them, want everyone to listen to them and look for people who will discuss them. We “untrained” lovers of musical duo of mother and son, do not understand the classical aspects of music but we love music as it is, in its purest form. In todays’ technologically advanced world, I hear there are a lot of easier ways to access music. I am not sure whether they are inexpensive or not but that age-old radio and tape recorder helped us immensely to build our legacy, which I will try to continue.

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Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | September 8, 2014

Playing with bricks

Auckland Art Gallery is hosting “The Cubic Structural Evolution Project” a hands-on installation by Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson for next 6 months. Essentially, the project comprises of thousands of pieces of white Lego bricks on a long table. As a part of the project, the visitors to the Gallery can use these bricks to create whatever structures they feel like using their imagination.

We spent some time playing with these bricks on Sunday and it is quite engaging. The Gallery had a free screening of “The Lego Movie” as well to celebrate Fathers’ day.

Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | September 1, 2014

Shingara

Even if my wear my colored goggles, the wet and windy never ending winter in Auckland looks pretty horrible. It makes me slow, tired and depressed. I miss home the most during this phase of the year. At least, if not anything else in Kolkata, I could eat “Shingara” when it rained! I miss “Shingara”.
Let me first clarify here, that Shingaras are not Samosas. Samosas are variances and sadly may have beaten the good old Shingara in their global reach. Shingaras have a much thin skin and is rich in potato and are much smaller when compared to Samosas. As far as I am concerned, Shingaras are much more delicious as well.

As I was growing up, I may have tasted Shingaras made by thousands of people. Starting from the ones made by Keya Mishtanna Bhandar in Sodepore, Hindustan Sweets in Tollygunje, sweet shops opposite Durgapur Main Hospital, Kalpana Sweets in Lake Gardens to the ones sold on the sub-urban trains in Bardhhaman/Howrah route, school/college canteens, Daker Lane, Shingaras’ that I have tasted were mostly good. In fact, I don’t even remember even once Shingaras giving me heartburn, which I can guarantee Samosas will give you.

Another excellent piece of Bengali creation that I miss are the “Chops” – i.e. the brothers in arm’s, vegetable and Aloo (potato). I was never very fond of Brinjals or Eggplant and hence, never liked Beguni. However, my dislike for Beguni made my love for the Chops much more. I wonder till date, whilst the Aloo Chop definitely had potatoes in it, whether the Vegetable Chop had anything other vegetables than potatoes and beet root in them. Who cares, as they tasted delicious in whatever form they came, especially the crumbs that lay on the Vegetable Chops skin.

I am sure, in today’s “proper” world, the above patronage will seem like promotion of junk food but in my childhood, these snack made evenings special. And mind you, this is coming from a person who was never fond of eating and still is very conscious about what he eats. Imagine then, what the connoisseurs will tell you.

And I have not even mentioned, Jilipi..

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