A good poem or a good song has a way of seeking you out, at least unexpected places. I had never heard of Lopamudra Mitra; a fairly well-known Bengali singer. I had heard of Joy Goswami, considered to be the best Bengali poet of his generation, but never had a chance to read anything by him. And suddenly, I discovered both.
A friend has given me her pendrive to copy some material. The pendrive also had a folder containing several mp3 files. I clicked on one. Just curiosity! Soft stringed music filled the room. Then Lopamudra Mitra started to sing "Benimadhab, Benimadhab..." and I was hooked. I forgot what I was doing, just sat there and listened to the song, and then again and again and again. I played the song for the entire day, with Lopamudra Mitra’s haunting voice filling my head.
According to what I found on the net, the text is a poem by Bengali poet Joy Goswami. It talks about the unrequited love of a girl for the person in the song, Benimadhab, how she was in love with him since she was in school and how the love did not come to fruition.
(Benimadhav is also the name of Lord Krishna, isn’t it?)
Lopamudra Mitra sings with such pathos you cannot just describe in words. The text of the poem is difficult even to recite, but Lopamudra Mitra sings it, changing rhythm, uttering each word with varying degree of passion, and without much help from the musical accompaniment. The music in the song is minimum, just barely there. It’s Lopamudra Mitra’s assured voice that conjures the magic.
Update: According to the friend who gave me the song, apparently, Joy Goswami did not like how the song ended earlier, with the refrain "tomar bari jabo," coming several times in the end. These days Mitra ends the song the way the poem ends.
Text of the original Bangali poem:
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, tomar bari jabo
Benimadhab, tumi ki aar amar katha bhabo
Benimadhab, mohanbanshi tomal tarumule
Bajiyechile, aami takhon Maloti iskule
Deske bose anko kori, chotto classghar
Baire didimonir pashe didimonir bor
Ami takhon nabam shreni, ami takhon sari
Aalap holo, Benimadhab, Sulekhader bari.
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, lekhaparay bhalo
Sahar theke berate ele, aamar rang kalo
Tomay dekhe ek doure paliye gechi ghare
Benimadhab, aamar baba dokane kaaj kare
Kunje oli gunje tobu, futeche manjari
Sondhyebela porte bose anke bhul kari
Ami takhon nabam shreni, ami takhon sholo
Bridger dhare, Benimadhab, lukiye dekha holo.
Benimadhab, Benimadhab eto diner pare
Satti balo, sesab katha ekhono mone pare?
Sesab katha bolecho tumi tomar premikake?
Ami kebal ekti din tomar pashe take
Dekhechilam alor niche; apurbo se alo
Sweekar kari, dujankei maniyechilo bhalo
Juriye dilo chokh amar, puriye dilo chokh
Barite ese bolechilam, oder bhalo hok!
Rate ekhon ghumote jai ektolar ghare
Mejher upar bichana pata. jyotsna ese pare
Aamar pare je bon chilo, chorapather banke
Miliye geche, janina aaj kar sange thake
Aaj juteche, kaal ki habe? - kaler ghare sani
Ami ekhan ei paray selai didimoni
Tobu aagun,Benimadhab aagun jwale koi?
Kemon habe amio jadi nasto meye hoi?
(I thought I knew Bengali well. But I was proved wrong. I tried to translate the poem, but just could not.)
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, I would be your bride (Literal: Will go to your house)
Benimadhab, do you still think about me?
Benimadhab, when you used to play your celestial
Flute, I was in the Maloti school
Did maths sitting on the bench, a small classroom
Outside my teacher's groom stood next to her
I was in class nine, then I was in the line
and I met you, Benimadhab, in Sulekha’s house.
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, good at studies
Have come from the city, and I am dark
Seeing you I sprint and hide in my house
Benimadhab, my father works in a shop
I struggle with the sums during homework in the evening
I was then in class nine, and I was sixteen
We met under the bridge, hiding from everyone
Benimadhab, after such a long time
Tell me, do you still remember those days?
Did you tell those things to your beloved?
I just saw one day near you
I saw that bright light, that brilliant light
I agree, you two suited each other
my eyes are blinded, my eyes are burnt
and returning home, I said, let them be happy!
What would happen if you too turn into a bad girl?
Translated by Barnali Saha:
(found in the net)
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, I want to visit your home
Benimadhab, do you still remember me?
Benimadhab, when you played the flute of romance--
under the lush green canopy, I was a pupil at Malati School
Sitting at my desk I solved math problems in our small classroom
Outside the class our teacher alongside her groom
I was standard nine, I was sari
We met, Benimadhab, at Sulekha's home.
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, well-read and smart
When visiting from town I am but dark
Just one glance at you and I ran to my abode
Benimadhab, my father works at a store.
Despite it all hums the whining little bee, in the arbor blooms life decree
And in my evening study hour I miscalculate my sums
I was standard nine, I was sweet sixteen
Clandestinely we met beside the bridge.
Benimadhab, Benimadhab, tell me the truth
After all these years do you still remember our past?
Did you ever tell your girlfriend about us?
I saw you just once together with her
Under a light, a marvellous light
I tell you I thought you two looked smart
The sight quenched my eyes, the sight burned my eyes
I came home and wished you good luck.
At night when I go to sleep at the basement chamber
Silvery moon rays illuminate the bedding sheets spread on the floor
My other sister, the one younger than me, is lost in the barbed thoroughfare
She just disappeared; I don’t know with whom she now resides
Today you have, what will happen tomorrow? Tomorrow is the devil
Nowadays I am the neighbourhood needlework tutor
Yet fire, Benimadhab, why the fire does not lit?
How will it be if I end too up being another fallen woman?
Lopamudra Mitra singing Benimadhab in youtube.