Of passions, and strange and hidden urges

The famous gramophone, with tagline His Master's Voice, and some long-play record discs displayed in front of shop at Kolkata's Sudder Street in 2018 —The Quint photo The famous gramophone, with tagline His Master's Voice, and some long-play record discs displayed in front of shop at Kolkata's Sudder Street in 2018 —The Quint photo

Sticking to one or another passion is a common human trait. In every cultured society, humans and passions go hand in hand. Except the people steeped in mundane things transient and intransient, everyone is a slave to hobbies. Some allow a hobby or passion to completely get hold of them. Some, however, keep a distance. In the South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, the common passions found among people range from coin collection to that of currency notes of different ages to jewellery. The objects that fall under a passion or hobby also differ among the countries. It's beyond controversy that hobbies and their associations quite often enact the times of the past. In that sense, nurturing a hobby or several other passions at a time harks back to the days gone down the passage of time. Hobbies, quintessentially, centre round the past. They enliven the past, allow the connoisseurs to travel to the bygone days and live through them.

Although many serious adults define passions or hobbies a childish exercise, social scientists are not willing to brand them something confined to adolescent curiosities. Other segments of society downgrade the urge to collect old articles and the time thus spent sheer exercise in futility. Yet as hinted earlier, the habit throws a wide focus on a nation's leanings and the instinctive maps. Thus a culturally enlightened Bengalee is found enriching and honing his or her areas of interest. In this vast domain, music comes first followed by reading. The persons who are connoisseurs of music in general are expected to preserve the notation of a folk singer or his lyrics written in his own hand as long as he can. Preserving the musical instruments once used by scores of 'baul' singers, including Fakir Lalon Shah, Hason Raja et al, is a common passion in this land. Calling it a mere hobby is belittling the artistes and the mentors and disciples. The musical paraphernalia left behind by these immortal artistes, constitute a great part of heritage of this land. Why won't the commoners around them be interested in collecting their day-to-day articles? Just physically possessing them must have lifted the laymen to a transcendental level. It's true, none has the right to lay claim to the musical articles which once belonged to the folk song greats as their own. It's only the state which can lay claim to them. But have the states of least developed countries cared ever to cull them from different parts of the country and preserve them so that they do not rot away?

People keeping their personal interests alive in collecting and preserving them are a blessing in disguise. In spite of the private and governmental entities' ardent interest to preserve a great artiste's musical instruments, handwritten lyrics etc, private collectors in the West are an undeniable reality. In course of time, preserving the music-related objects of singers has been recognised as a noble hobby. The music-loving members of public evoke respect of society for the efforts they have put into the task of the preservation of the noted musicians' memories. It's these people to which the Bengalee classical music admirers feel indebted for preserving the memories of the great classical instrumentalist Alauddin Kha(n) and the folk singer Abbas Uddin.

In the similar way, the Beethoven museum and those dedicated to Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and the other immortal musical legends deserve plaudits from their admirers from across the world. When it comes to the origins of these institutional initiatives, the socio-cultural experts point to the trait of hobby nurtured mainly by the youths. According to them, petty hobbies lead young men and women to get engaged in the tasks of giving shape to the institutionalised tributes. Thus, the hobby or passion culture has the last laugh. When it comes to music records, the topic of the number of these discs and how older they are, crops up invariably. Music lovers-cum-collectors are always in a silent competition as to the variety and quantity of the old day HMV records. Bangladesh is no exception. To the singers and music lovers of the 1930s to `40s in Bengal, records were the most trusted friends. Many connoisseurs spent the fortunes of a generation buying or collecting these records.

It was not until the emergence of the cheap audio cassettes that the disc records continued their dominance in the area of music. Like books, the disc records, old manuscripts etc have always been popular passion items. Even many affluent persons have rare art-works in their private collections. The status of these paintings is far above the works which are found in public galleries. Genuine art collectors go for the uncommon among paintings. They range from the works done by indigenous artists, off-track creative geniuses like a social dropout, a physically challenged boy or a girl, or the inmate of a mental asylum. Normally few private gallery owners sell their collected items. A few of them embark on the drive crossing distances of hundreds of miles to collect a worn-out painting done on a piece of leather. Many go deep into a Cambodian or Laotian dense forest to acquire a Buddha statuette.

These hobby items are worth watching at private displays. Lots of the owners feel delighted to share their aesthetic pleasure over the collected items, and speak about the ordeals and travails they had to undergo in collecting them. People pursuing hobbies are born with an esoteric quality. It cannot be explained the way the general people narrate how they took their Masters exam preparations including their study hours, and got a First Class. Passions are a mysterious instinct, something arcane and beyond the understanding of the average people. Or else, why the collectors traverse the whole Bengal and Nepal to retrieve the lost manuscripts of a celebrated medieval poet writing in the age of the formative period of Bangla. In order to enter the inner world of a collector, one has to travel the whole mindscape of the person.

People who go after a particular hobby, or several ones at a time might evoke the jealousy of others. It's because they can't achieve this feat unless they are possessed by supernatural power. Many such people move about in society, unaware that they have a special power within. They can notice things, see things smell things, and hear things in ordinary objects. They themselves may hardly know about their obsessive love for things of beauty --- which has little value to the people overwhelmed by things and activities mundane. Society finds it a futile exercise to identify them.


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