The summer season is notorious for the tyranny it unleashes on the people of the Indian subcontinent. This year, temperatures have reached an all time high and the forecast for the next two months does not offer much respite. Over two hundred people have already died as a result of the intensive heat radiated by the summer sun. Rain is hard to come by, and even when it does rain, the relief is only temporary. As the years go by, summers become more and more difficult to put up with. It is almost impossible to work or function normally in this weather.
It is only natural; therefore, that summer features rarely in songs and poems. Summer, it seems has no melody, no sweetness. It is harsh and ruthless- unlike monsoon or spring, people wait for summer to be over. Poets and songwriters weave their pieces around these two seasons. Monsoon is symbolic of romance, of freshness, and of rejuvenation. Spring, of course, is celebrated as the season of colour, vibrancy and new love. But summer is shunned to the corner. No one feels any inclination to make summer a medium of expression. Summer seems to deter and obstruct the creative mind rather than inspire it.
But one man, born at the end of the Baisakh month, when summer is at the height of its rule, chose to look at summer in a different light.
In his songs, he painted summer as a destructor of all that is old and regressive. He saw summer as a bringer of new direction and new thought. In songs like “Esho Hey Baisakh”, he writes:
“Taposho nishhasho baaye,
mumurshure daao uraaye-
Botshorer aborjona door hoye jak”
In songs like Darun Ognibaane, he depicts common summer scenes in verse. He describes the challenges of living life in summer, but turns them into song:
“Darun ognibane re
Hridoy trishae haane re
Rojoni nidraheen, dirgho dogdho din
Aram nahi je jane re”
In “Baishakher Ei Bhorer Haoa”, he carves out the softer side of summer at dawn, when the Baisakhi wind blows, bringing with it a nostalgia of the past:
“Baisakher ei Bhorer Haoa bohe mridumondo
Ane amar moner kone shei choroner chhondo..”
In “Baisakh he, Mouni Taposh”, he recongises the depth and sombre mood of summer, depicting the season as a sage:
“Baisakh hey, mouni taposh,
Kon otoler baani
Emon kothay khuje pele”
In Rabindranath Tagore’s music, therefore, we find that summer is projected in all its shades, as opposed to only one. This is not just a sign of his immense creativity, but also that of the immense expanse of his mind. He did not view summer as a limitation, but a source of stimulation. To him, summer was a concept to be experimented with, just as he had experimented with the other seasons. As always, he was able to perceive the larger picture.
On his 156thbirth anniversary, we can only hope to imbibe some of this vastness into our own thoughts and actions. At a time when people harbouring narrow, restrictive ideologies are gaining power, we must seek to remember the true legacy of this man instead of blindly glorifying his work without comprehending them. Even from as small a section of his work as his summer songs, we may find a thread to hold on to. This thread has the potential to help us see beauty in everything. It is up to us to spin a new story with it.