MY wife and her friends, all 60-plus, decided they needed to do something new to remain young at heart and picked on re-learning how to sing. Soon, a group was formed and a teacher found. The women meet once a week to sing, chat, laugh and feel rejuvenated.
From their schooldays, they all had taken lessons to become amateur singers before the demands of raising a family put paid to their learning. Some of them had also taken to dancing by joining groups which performed locally.
The singing, then and now, mostly covers songs of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. The dancing is confined to group numbers performed to Tagore songs.
My chore is driving my wife to her weekly singing meet and sitting at the back of the room to listen. The teacher, an accomplished singer who runs his own music school, gives the singing a professional touch. An added attraction is the light snacks, invariably tasty, arranged in turn by the group members. Everyone finds the experience hugely refreshing and great fun to boot.
Soon, the members began to feel that they needed to perform some of what they had learnt. Thus was born the occasional show with the audience made up of friends and relatives, held at the homes of members who had large drawing rooms.
Each event has a theme around which songs and dances are woven. Early in the year comes Bashanta Utsav, welcoming spring. Then comes Rabindra Jayanti, Tagore’s birthday, celebrating his songs and dances. Thereafter comes Barsha Mangal, welcoming the rains, and finally the most elaborate Agamanee, to welcome the devi just before Durga Puja.
Last Sunday, we sat through and hugely enjoyed Barsha Mangal celebrations. The singing and dancing were enjoyable in themselves, but what was special was how the women were seeking to beat age and illness through song and dance.
Buru (her nickname) is nothing if not portly. But what was special was her self-confidence and success in overcoming shyness to sing and dance with great positivity.
What took everyone’s breath away was a song by Jaya, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. The determination with which she sang in her frail voice held everyone captive.
The next dance number was by Dipali and her daughter Tinni. What they lacked in professional expertise, they made up by the spirit of fun they radiated. Particularly eye-catching was Tinni, who is a software engineer!
When the show was over, the main organiser came up with a request: ‘We want a song from her’, pointing to the 94-year-old mother of one of the women; she had been brought in a wheelchair. In her time, she was a pretty good singer and after hesitating a little, she rendered a ragpradhan, a semi-classical genre among Bengali songs. It goes without saying that she got the loudest applause!
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