interviewed at Bagan Para, Shantiniketan, Bolpur, Birbhum
Tell us your name. My name is Dhananjay Khyapa.
Where is your house? My house is located in a village under the Amodpur post office near Kagaj Road, Chholanipara. That is where I have been living.
Have you been living there since childhood? No. I was born in a place called Nanu-Bazaar. There were some problems I faced as a child in Nanu-Bazaar. As a reason, I was intitiated into Baul from a very early age. I had to travel to and from Amodpur by bus. And that was a time I could not even afford to pay the bus fare. Some days the conductor would be kind enough not to take money from me. It was too long a distance for me to walk up and down from Nanu-Bazaar everyday. So I relocated myself to Amodpur. There I began living on the footpath in a makeshift hut. And this makeshift hut has been my home ever since.
So how were you initiated into the Baul way of life? My father as well as my brother would perform kirtans (chants) extolling Hari (Krishna). But they did not perform Baul music. They would travel round villages, performing these kirtans. Often, his disciples would ask my father to perform these rounds in the early hours of dawn when it was still dark. I would often accompany him on his musical rounds. When I was small, there was no electricity in small villages such as ours. I would hold up a brass hurricane lamp and walk ahead of him. Often, I would also perform one or two songs. After a while my brother, Manohar Das, started learning Baul music. Observing him, I felt even I could take it up. So one day I picked up my brother’s iktara and began practising. But who would I learn Baul music from? My first music guru was Gobind Das Goswami of Nanu-Bazaar. After his death, I became a disciple of Narottam Das. And after his death, Dulal Das was my next guru. One after another, they have all been my gurus. I never gave up the practise of Baul, as you can see.
Are you also a disciple of Bhoba Khyapa? I consider myself crazy. I had once traveled to this place, where a great one gave me this (points to an object in his garb). It was his will that I wear it. (He makes a gesture of reverence towards this person he mentions). I wear it still. It has been a long time since I last showed it to someone.
All right, then.
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Translator: Parjanya Sen
Camera: Shubhankar Bhar, Ashesh Mukherjee
Sound: Dhiman Karmakar, Sudipto Mukherjee