Ever since I was a tween, I wanted to visit Shanti Niketan with my mother and her younger sister, Choto Mashi, my favourite aunt. The reason I love Tagore, Rabindrasangeet and Shanti Niketan so much is these two lovely women in my life. Why, I fell in love with Shanti Niketan before I ever even visited the place! And all thanks to their stories, their memories, their songs and reminiscences.
MaaJanoni was was there for just two years; she did her MA in Bangla Literature there. A phenomenal actress, MaaJanoni was well known for her histrionics and was very popular. She always was and still is one of the most gregarious people I've ever known. The Bro takes after her; I'm a wallflower just like DaddyDearest (was).
My gentle, sweet, introvert of a Chota Mashi studied there for five years; BA (Hons. Bangla) and like MaaJanoni, MA in Bangla literature. My Mashi was known for her vocal talents. Now I may be biased, but I think she is one of the best Rabindrasangeet singers I know!
During Basanto Utsab (i.e. Holi in other parts of India), all the students of the university used to get together and sing and dance. The campus would be aflame in gorgeous shades of yellow and all the girls would don floral ornaments. The tradition was started by Gurudev (Tagore) himself. A photographer's and tourists delight, the popularity for this festival has grown in leaps and bounds. One year, MaaJanoni and her friend were laughing and talking when a photographer came up to them, complimented my very lovely mother on her unusual flower-seed jewelry and requested their permission to take a snap -- they both obliged. By June that year, my mother was married and soon after, she was living in the US with her husband. In a letter from one of her cousins, the following year, the cousin had stated that he wasn't missing her at all since he saw her everyday. How? There she was, in the March section of the 1975 calendar! So that's explains where the photographer was from!
That picture still hangs in my parents' home today. Growing up, listening to these and other such stories, how could I not want to visit this place which held such an important place in my mom 's and aunt's hearts?
So it was always a dream for me to visit Shanti Niketan with them and to see 'their' Shanti Niketan. I wanted to see it all through their eyes.
And finally, two weeks ago, this little dream of mine came true!
I cannot even begin to describe the immense joy and pride I felt as I let MaaJanoni and Choto Mashi take us on a walk down their memory lane. I saw the stage where Mashi received her degree and my mom's degree on her behalf, during convocation. I walked about in their lovely outdoor classrooms. My sons walked upon the open-air stage where their grandmother had once performed.
I had goosebumps as MaaJanoni showed us the famous Shaalbithi, the tree-lined avenue, where Kobiguru would walk, always lost in his magnificent thoughts, hands clasped behind his back. To think that I was walking on the same path...*shivers delightedly*
We clicked so many snaps, they relieved so many memories, my sons ran about reveling in the greenery and fresh air, my cousin and I laughed to see our moms so happy...
It was one of the nicest days we had in a long, long time. Truly a day to remember.