A Bengali, more often than not, strikes up conversation with a comment on the weather. Yours truly is no exception. So: a student of nephology would have categorised it nimbostratus. Or, was it cirrocumulus? One refers to the cloud canopy over much of Kolkata on the morning of Wednesday, the 15th of August, more popularly referred to as Independence Day. And to prove the forecast true, a smart shower swept Courtyard@DI to give it a freshly scrubbed look. The twin masts stood a yard apart on the lawn, -- lent a lush verdant nap with two months of rains, -- the one a proud staff holding at its heel the Tricolour, the other a white ensign with the bays encircling the familiar characters, D I.
As if to prove wrong the Thomases known for their sceptical inclinations, the President, Jayajit Biswas, arrived with half a minute to spare. All who had scampered inside Indoors@DI to seek shelter from the rain, trooped out and assembled dutifully in front of the poles that spired into the now sunny sky. Jayajit, to the accompaniment of applauds, rolled the halyard to raise the national flag to full mast, the bunting first wrapping itself coyly around the pole, and then, on a little tweaking, unfurling to its full flaunting glory. Heralding the seventy second year of our liberation. It was next the turn of the club jack to take up position atop the second spar. This, again, was greeted with plaudits. The anthem that followed, brought everyone to starchy attention and lumps in many a throat.
Flag-hoisting over, all retired indoors once again, the commodious hall festooned gaily with tricolours, and the function commenced anon. The narration, -- pithy just as it was moving -- scripted and declaimed with evident passion by Tapashi Mukherjee, touched on the long, tortuous and punishing road to freedom. Her Ek Guccho chabi was poignant. The oratorio wended its way through the national airs, Vande Mataram, Dhana dhanya pushpa bahara, Aloker ei jharna dhara and Muktiro mondiro, all in chorus. Presenter, Deepak Dutta’s Akash bhora surjo tara and Bipode more rokkha koro, amplified with tannoy, elicited his baritone best. Ei akashe amar mukti sounded especially sweet with the lilt of Samita. Janani janmabhumi, recited by Aditi Dutt, was soulful. All of the above in Bengali, save for a particularly melodious rendition of Ai mere pyare watan by tenor, Vijay Singh. And everybody thought his passion lay in darts! The trilingual, “We shall overcome”, saw the audience lending their voices with enthusiasm. The chorus comprised, beside the above, Minu Roychowdhury, Sulagna and Raja Mukhopadhyay, Tripti, Bisakha Sen Das, Raju Raman, Shubham Poddar and Georgie Guha.
Tarry a while, dear DItes, the merriment isn’t over, -- not yet: the dance number presented by the cubs, some all of five years, to the strains of Jai Ho, was an agreeable change for eyes afflicted with sore. They swayed, they pirouetted, they leapt, -- an arabesque of young limbs and bright, adorable faces. They were spirited, they displayed discipline, they exuded confidence, just as their performance exhibited diligence. One could discern the promise of some maturing into accomplished dancers in the days to come. Young Natalie Shaw merits acclaim in generous measure for having choreographed and painstakingly groomed the kids over the last couple of weeks.
The national anthem, reprised this time with accompaniment and for that reason crispier and closer to its playing time of 52 seconds, brought the curtains down. The President thanked the children, the choir, as well as the audience and enlarged on the true import of the word Independence, just as he warned against parochial proclivities that cloud judgements.
The judgement regarding the brunch, however, was unanimous. Scrumptious, lip-smacking, toothsome were some of the attributes wafting among the attendees – a not unimpressive count of nine score, if the number of plates served was any indication. Francis at his consummate, culinary best. Luchi, chholar daal, aloor dam and gulab jamoon flushed down with the inevitable tea.
Raju Raman echoed the general sentiment when he summed up the morning with the refrain, “Aaschhe bochhor aabar hobey”.
The author expresses his sincere gratitude to Bisakha Sen Das for providing a meticulous low-down on the performance.