As kids, we were encouraged to write poems. We ended up with ridiculous rhymes – even on trivial issues like the first time, I fought with my best friend, elephants, birthdays for siblings and parents. My sister and brother would also compose loving rhymes and write them on b’day cards. Gone are the days of innocent creativity. Now no matter how much I rake my head, I can’t replicate the ease with which, I wrote a 6 stanza amusing rhyme which I composed when I was 10 years old.
So composing rhymes - we did. Singing other’s songs - we did. My sister and I used to sing in unison, while my dad drummed the tea poy to add some music. But I found only in novels like ‘A Suitable Boy’ where people composed rhymes spontaneously as a matter of conversation.
While going through Indian National Movement, I was curious to know about Vande Mataram and hence Anandamath. This will be more of an eisegesis. I downloaded the hindi translation from scribd. In Anandmath, the protagonists, the instigators breaking into singing now and then, kind of made the whole affair theatrical. Yet in those times, Vande mataram was THE, the song. It set the stage ablaze with other patriotic words like Tum Mujhe Khoon do... Yet to antagonize one section of the junta (muslims) till the very end was kind of discomfiting. Shanthi actually says to the englishman, we don't have enmity with you, it is the muslims we are targetting. Set in period of famine, oppression and exploitation by various factors, the confusion was understandable.
Kalyani chose not to eat till she saw her husband! What sanyasins - to lit fires to muslims’ houses, where young babies, women and old folk might be there? How could they wrongly identify their oppressors? What use of personal sacrifices with personal moral values citing larger causes? Yet, to realize that there were herbs to revive those who had taken poison or suffered fatal wounds in a battle is revealing. Bhavanand atoned for his misdemeanour, yet the leader of the brotherhood had to die with such open secrets. Nehru's story is well known, but i was surprised to see even Mahatma had wanted a spiritual marriage. Well history is mostly written by the victors, it is so hard to discern the truth.
Feisty Shanthi's childhood was quite a surprise. Her calmness in the face of her husband's mistaken infidelity, her physical and moral courage, yet towards the end of the battle, her lamenting like an ordinary woman, made Shanthi quite a lady. And Shanthi and Jeevanand were hailed as the exemplary couples. Well, wrongly channeled patriotism. Of course, being a minority in those days, they retaliated for the sufferings, yet it was towards the fag end that the author chose to reveal the futility of their efforts.
In school days, we sang this song numerous times, as part of prayers, competitions, classes, dramas. In Bengal, there is something about glorifying Shakthi - be it Ramakrishna Paramahamsa worshipping Kali, Aurobindo attributing all creative endeavours to The Supreme Mahashakthi (Mahamaya, Paraprakruti), or BC Chatterjee visualizing Mother India as Malayajasheethlaam, Shasyashyamalaam... etc.
In the this nationalist novel, wish the heros and Shanthi had directed their zeal and vigour in a better way.