The evening smelled of the springtime flowers, and one or two fireflies were popping their heads up the grass as the sun vibrated orange hues and turned the sky crimson. Evening drew close and the vernal wind carried with it a sense of nostalgia. Memories from the past came to life; the bitter-sweet moments that now resemble a grey ghost. Far from the maddening crowd of my city of my Kolkata. I was drawn closer to nature in this pretty countryside of Bengal that hoards Tagore’s memories - the soil bears his footsteps and nature stands as a witness to his art, his talent.
Prantik, located in the outskirts of Bolpur in Bengal, serves the delicacy of nature untouched, unaffected by the progress and developments of the city. Moreover, the place happens to be culturally rich - the air, the firmament, the sun and the moon breathes Tagore. An evening walk in Prantik before the Holi celebrations in Bolpur, more accurately termed as ‘Basantutsav’ by the locals, enriched my mechanical body formed of dust, smoke, race against time of concrete walls and heartless people.
A walk along the rich red soils of Prantik, amidst the small well-decorated bungalows, trees and the springtime merriment, drew me closer to the truth, away from the life controlled by Facebook or Android. The evening was sublime and serene. Roads were without streetlights. Never amidst the hustle and bustle of the city did I notice the beauty of the sky until that very evening, when the firmament resembled crystal and the moon shone bright like a diamond. Treading along the uneven path was indeed easy. Looking at the bright moon gave me immense pleasure - the sky seemed to kiss the ground, and walking along the fields staring at the moon, took my thoughts away from the present, back to the past.
The moon must have been the same when the Earth was created. It must have had the same brightness when battles were being fought, leaders were made and places were being conquered. Diane must have had the same chastity I thought when Shakespeare, through his window viewed the same moon (that thus created the creative impulse in him) that urged the madness to arise and thus, he penned down the dream that was born away from the civilization of the city, in a forest, due to the spell created by this very same moon that had shone with the exact same strength in a ‘Midsummer night’ of Elizabethan England.
While returning back to our bungalow after the brisk walk, the evening grew deeper. From a distant fair, the choral voices of the Bauls (the vagabond singers) were audible. Their voices were shrill beyond the normal human scale, and yet it was music – soulful, selfless and divine, which struck the chords of our hearts. Under the bright vernal moon and the soulful singing of the Bauls, I could imagine them dancing in their groups, with their ektara in their hands; playing on the strings, their arms stretching out towards the sky, calling out to the divine.
What gripped my attention more were fields filled with fireflies. As we were walking across the fields, we saw that we were gradually being surrounded by clusters of fireflies and they started to grow in numbers as we were treading deeper and deeper. That appeared like a fairy tale to me and to my fellow companions from the city as well. It seemed as if stories were coming back to life from the pages of the Romantic dramas and novels. Buzzing all around us were innumerable fireflies under the bright moon, and it was all diamonds and emeralds. The reason why India produced her bard, the reason why Tagore still touches our heart. That’s when I felt his lyrics, his writings, his poetry being justified, feeling fresh and alive. He lived closer to nature. To him simple pleasures of life meant walking along the fields filled with yellow mustard flowers, feeling the warmth of the moonlit nights, these fireflies, the sunrise, the boatsmen, the ruffian village kids, stealing the mangoes from a nearby mango tree that perhaps belonged to some disgusted-looking, pot-bellied, bald-headed middle-aged man sitting with a stick, waiting for the ruffian boys so that he can run after them once he catches them in the act and beat them with his stick. But alas, all his attempts turn out to be a failure. Life is much easier this way, isn’t it? It’s more meaningful and we actually get to live the moment.
To sum up the whole thing, our life - the human life - is a rush and a race against time. Honestly, do we win this race? The answer is ‘No’. Our day starts with the ringing of the alarm and with a breakfast that doesn’t really break the fast. We rush to our respective institutions, compete with one another to garner the best position. In this competition we do become selfless and end up losing our friends. We work like a machine to support our family. Gradually, we find our hairs turning grey and then arrives the wrinkles - our grey hairs turn silver and one fine day we return back to dust from where we originated.
Time is a constant element, or perhaps a shrewd guy in black, probably decked up in a ‘Godfather’ like attire of Al Pacino, bearing a pistol. It probably had a great laugh when the dinosaurs became extinct, even witnessed the evolution, perhaps filled in Caesar’s ears against Antony and still stands strong, and expresses its hysterical laughter when he sees us petite humans trying to be the victor, when it knows that we are mere puppets in its hands.
Our race against time is futile. This competition has made our lives monotonous and mechanical. Pleasure to us means Whatsapp, Facebook, e- book reading, listening to music and everything that is within the concrete walls of our houses. Pleasure can also mean travelling, it can just be a brisk walk at a park, or playing with the stray dog that often sits near the tea stall of our house. It might mean walking up to the terrace and staring at the sky, enjoying the rains or even having ten gol-gappas. It can also mean satisfying the sudden urge to have the 5-rupee coloured ice-cones on a warm summer day, it can be just sitting near a lake and simply observing the way people walk and how they talk; at times, how they fight over unnecessary issues. Pleasures can be simple but meaningful.
That evening in Prantik, with the fireflies and the moonlight I saw the village kids in a joyous mood. They were smiling in spite of not having a Facebook, or a movie hall or pretty clothes. They were jumping and running around trying to catch the fireflies. The glow on their faces touched my heart - they share an unspoken bond with nature, nature is their healer, their protector. Being closer to nature - catching fish, plucking flowers, running along the fields - is pleasure to them. Pleasure to us is simply performing an action to either kill time or do something fruitful. Pleasure to them is that particular thing that makes their heart jump up with joy. We ‘do’ pleasure, whereas they ‘feel’ pleasure.
Taking a break from this lackadaisical world of technology, of reading, press meets, movie releases, dates at CCD and sitting in front of the laptops and growing like a ginger from all sides, why don’t we experience the simple pleasures of life? Why do we not talk to our beloved or just stare at them, feel and convey, why do we not take our kids to the terrace and show them the firmament filled with stars? Or the sunrise? Or for doing that, do we always need to be in a Tiger Hill or the beach of Goa? Can we not make our concrete world natural? Taking a break from this cacophony, sitting on the stairs of our terrace with our friends and family, looking at the old photographs, jogging around the lake, sipping a cup of tea at a nearby tea stall, or simply talking (which we hardly do) can be pleasing. These simple pleasures of life teaches us to be humane, teaches us to live the life and not always follow the rules, to be an outcast, to be the person that you actually are, to feel for a moment and not act, to see the beautiful life around you, to pause in the race and just observe how beautiful the world can be when complexities are simplified, when people care and when they feel. Pleasure need not be expensive - they should be simple, so that when you grow old you can look in the mirror, at your silver streaks and wrinkled cheeks and say to yourself – “Yes dude, I lived life!”
Photography By: Zubair Alam