GENESIS OF THE ROMANCE IN SANTINIKETAN
Romance is almost synonymous with Santiniketan, and hence difficult to locate specifically. Someone spending some amount of time in Santiniketan and not feeling the romantic urge in some form or other is a genuine rarity.
As for me, I can distinctly recall, even at class 4 or 5, on my afternoon stealth expeditions at Khoai, barely 100 meters from my backyard; I would often wonder why this flower was called ‘Nayantara’. Even from those early days of initiation to various facets of life, the girls’ eyes were, to me, the most beautiful, mysterious and hugely notorious medium of expressions to get bemused at. Even at that pre-teen or just teen age, along with other boys, I also learnt in no uncertain terms that girls can use their eyes with deadly effects. Naturally, eye or eyeball, or ‘Nayantara’ was a very real thing for me.
I can vividly recall that I would observe this flower ‘Nayantara’ at the age of 12 maybe, and wait there for 15 minutes or so, and wonder that if any girl’s eyes would ever be so attractive, in fact rather crazily seductive as Nayantara! I must note here that at the age of 12, with very fleet feet and ever flying mind prone to get distracted at anything fanciful, 15 minutes of observation and contemplating time was quite something for us, almost a wealth of time by the then standards.
I always searched for such a ‘Nayantara’ among the eyes of the girls I came across. Well, you may think, it is impossible to find a girl with such eyes! But, well, some girls did have such mysterious eyes, almost undecipherable ones, like the flower Nayantara. Unfortunately in our times, there was not a single girl named Nayantara in Patha Bhavana; otherwise I am quite sure that I would have been rather desperately attracted to her.
So, romanticism of Santiniketan was duly initiated in me by this flower ‘Nayantara’, and I remain steadfastly fascinated by the flower even today.
An epitome of romance was always been the ducks for me. Floating on water, in genuine slow motion, these ducks invariably stayed together for hours and hours, bound in an inexplicable bondage not allowing them to float away too far from each other! Honestly speaking, in those age of 12 to 15, spending 2 hours with a girl was a pretty taxing job for most of the boys. Soon we, the boys, would get lost into an inexplicable maze of words weaved by the girls, slowly our intelligence will evaporate, and we would feel like fools. Ofcourse there would be the great 1 or 2 boys who could outwit the girls in their own game of weaving sentences, even at that age we respectfully called them “guru”. In short, girls were pretty difficult animals to handle for me sentence by sentence, and they invariably managed to make me a confused soul with their crazy talking. So, naturally, even with romanticism deeply rooted in my mind, I really could not gel with girls in my early teens. And I never spent hours with a girl in my school days for sure.
These ducks on the other hand leisurely spent an ocean of time, or rather a ‘jhil’ of time, just being together, without any hurry what so ever. I always have a huge regard for such brilliant epitomes of romanticism. Lovely creatures, indeed. Even today when I watch them floating together with all the leisure time in the world, I just cannot avoid feeling spell bound at this kind of romance.
Then around college days Romanticism found a real vehicle of expression- the bicycle. Carrying the girl friend along with, where a bit of physical touch was just natural; cruising in a leisurely pace was the in thing in those days. It was easy for us to pick up girlfriends who came to study at colleges of Santiniketan from Kolkata or elsewhere, as almost none of them were able to ride a bicycle. In such circumstances for the Kolkata girls, a boyfriend with a bicycle was almost a godsend. Naturally we had a field day. So, in college days, the bicycle was the most romantic possession I had.
We used to meticulously note who was carrying whom at the back, and interestingly even if the girl friend changed, the bicycle remained faithfully, or let’s say romantically glued to us.
A huge lot of expeditions, romantic trips, utility carriages—we spent a lot of time with our bicycles. Infact life without the cycle was purely unimaginable.
Even today, I always feel hugely romantically aligned with the bicycle, perhaps the dearest friend of ours.
Like me, others in Santiniketan would have different dimensions of romanticism etched in their souls for ever.