RANDOM THOUGHTS
Singing together in Slovenia
Ranjita Biswas | @twfindia | 24 Dec 2019
Singing together in Slovenia
Ljubljana is a beautiful city. The capital of tiny Slovenia, once part of Yugoslavia before it broke up in the 1990s, sits cozily on the bank of the river Ljubljanica. I had heard much about its charm but even then couldn’t help being pleasantly surprised by its air of serenity and casual air, unlike in many capitals today.

I had arrived early from Zagreb, its neighbour, Croatia’s capital . The receptionist at the hotel apologized; the room was not yet ready and why didn’t I explore the  town meanwhile and catch a coffee and snack nearby by the riverside? It seemed a good idea. The day was sunny. The riverside with numerous cafes and eateries spilled over with tourists, perhaps locals too as it was a Saturday.  The  city’s old parts are spread over the two banks of the river and bridges like the Dragon Bridge (strange isn’t it since it’s not China?), Cobbler’s Bridge, and the most famous, the Triple Bridge join them together. Since the last is quite famous with three pedestrian paths - by the way this part of Ljubljana doesn’t allow cars, I decided to head towards it.

 

The people around -  young boys working in restaurants, older men enjoying a drink, were all very friendly- thank God, they speak English, (I was informed later that English is taught from school level) and helped me find the direction. In the exuberant holiday mood I walked on the cobbled path to check the eateries scanning where I wanted to have lunch- and dinner. By the weeping willows shading the open air restaurant definitely, I decided. As I crossed the Triple Bridge and walked towards the government tourist office to gather information on the tours, I heard the strains of a song- Kali, Kali..ma Kali...

 

What, did I hear right-in this far off from home Slovenia, the strains of a Bengali bhakti song? Like one mesmerized I went looking for the source of the song. There, on the footpath in the front of the tourist office, a man European by the look of him, was sitting wearing a dhoti Bengali style, his hair tied in a knot, and playing on an ektara and singing the song. With other tourists I too stood and listened, wondering inwardly where he had learnt  this shudh Bengali pronunciation. As people walked away, some after dropping a few coins on the try in front of him, I lingered on and asked him, ‘Aapni Bangla janen?’ (Do you now Bengali?). In reply,  he smiled happily and counter-asked, ‘Aapni Bangali? (You are Bengali?) and then followed  a conversation in the language.

 

He informed he used to be a disciple of a Vaishnavite sect  in Bengal which has followers all over the world. His name was changed to Lalit Kishor Das from Leon after diksha. Bit later, he was disillusioned  with the infighting he witnessed in the ashram and left it. But his love for Bengal and the folk culture and spiritual pursuit did not leave him . ‘I started interacting with the bauls, the mendicants, and loved their philosophy. How many times have I been to the baul congregation in Patuli! I love it there.” But now he is getting on years and his son goes there.

 

Then he suddenly said, ‘You’ve come from Kolkata. I’ll sing a song specially for you’ and started on the much-loved Bengali folk song,  tomay hrid majhare rakhbo chere debo na (I’ll keep you in my heart; I’ll not let you go). I joined him as I knew the song. And there we were, a Slovenian and a Kolkatan singing together  on  the streets of Ljubljana while the passersby looked on curiously. You never know where the hearts meet.