I was sent to an English medium school because my mother thought the language will give me a boost to move ahead in life. Both my parents were schooled in our vernacular – Bengali. They had enough English to get by but they were not, by any means, fluent. Since I was very little, I was exposed to Bengali music, Bengali stories, Hindi music, Bengali plays on the radio with a few English nursery rhymes thrown in. I have very fond memories of sitting around our transistor radio on a mat on our terrace under a star lit sky with both my parents, listening to a murder mystery in the mesmerizing voice of Gautam Chakraborty. It was summer, we had regular power cuts but in those days cool breeze from the Ganges cooled down the scorching city in the evenings. Those were pre television , pre sky scrapers, pre KFC, pre Barista days. Those were the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Bottom line, I had no exposure to English music, plays, literature. When I went to school, I learned English alphabets before I learned to read and write in Bengali. Being a lover of books, I picked up both languages quickly and devoured, I mean, read anything I could get my hands on. But when it came to music, I stuck to my loves – Bengali, Hindi. As I got older, peers introduced me to Western music. I tried to listen to a few and did not understand the lyrics – at all. Not at all. The instrumentals sounded like noise. I went back to what brought solace, music that I understood, music that soothed my soul.
The man I fell in love with happened to come from a English speaking country. When we first started seeing each other as friends, we exchanged our music. He sang along with the tapes he played for me. I sang and translated Rabindra sangeet for him, sitting in front of the magic fountains in Victoria Memorial.
I learned to love certain artists and their songs in English although I still strained to understand the lyrics. My partner made it easier to follow by singing along. I tried to translate some of my favorite songs for him but a lot was lost in translation. Through the exchange of music we conveyed our culture, our feelings. Exchange of our music was also exchange of our hearts.
I listened and loved some songs that Sean sang for me – Peter, Paul and Mary, Kenny Rogers, Don Mclean, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, R.E.M, Simon and Garfunkel and several others. But I still did not listen to them on my own. After our marriage, I brought my music and he brought his to our lives. He jived to some Bollywood numbers and I slow danced to “You look wonderful tonight” with him.
Then we saw Sting in Varanasi one year in a small bed and breakfast. When my husband wondered that he looked like Sting, I said, Who’s Sting?” And thought, what an odd name. The rest is history.
If you have not read my blog on Who’s Sting, this may be a good time. 🙂