Israfil Fakir

Israfil Fakir

interviewed at Jalangi, Murshidabad


- Tell us your name.

- My name is Israfil Fakir.

- Tell us the name of your village.

- The name of my village is Jhargram. My full address is Jhargram village, police station Jalangi, district Murshidabad. We love performing Baul music. We believe in and give primacy to the guru. We ascribe to the philosophy of humanity. Today, you see distinctions on the basis of religion and caste. Yet, we are all human beings created by the Supreme Creator. We ponder upon and theorize this wonder of creation. We consider ourselves blessed to have found an ideal guru. This is what our path entails and what we follow. This is what our guru has taught us. This is how we lead our lives.

- Do you like it when outsiders take an interest in your community?

- Yes, very much!

- What is the name of your guru?

- My guru is Alam Shah Ji.

- Is he the guru who taught you music or the guru who initiated you into the Baul/ Fakir way of life?

-  I have just one guru. He is both my initiator as well as music teacher.

- Would you kindly repeat the name of your guru?

- His name is Alam Shah. He resides at Domkal. The name of his village is Bagdanga.

- Did you learn singing from your guru?

- I learnt everything from him. He taught me music. He also taught me the aesthetic philosophy of the Bauls. I have also learnt from him about the mystery of creation— how were human beings created! Some say humans themselves created fellow humans; others say that a divine creator did so. We research on the origin of human beings. Our guru has taught us to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong for us. Once one gets to the depth of the very process of creation, one can delineate right from wrong.

- What kind of songs do you perform?

- I am not essentially a performing Baul. However, whatever few songs I sing are Baul songs.

- But you know a lot of songs!

- Yes, however, I am not primarily a performing Baul. I love the company of sadhus and ascetics. If someone coaxes me to sing, I end up performing one or two songs. But I would not call myself a performing Baul.

- Do you play the dubki and the percussion?

-  Yes, I do play those as well as other instruments.

- What do you feel about this way of life? Does it give you happiness?

- Yes! It does give me a lot of happiness! It is precisely because I obtain happiness that I have embarked upon this path from a very young age. I do not do anything else!

- Do you have any other occupation such as farming?

- Yes, I do practice farming on my own land. I till my land. This provides just about enough sustenance for my family. I do not do anything else!

- Who are the members of your family?

- My family comprises my three daughters, my wife and me. One of my daughters is married. The other two live with us.

- Do any of your daughters sing? Have any of them taken up this way of life? Or are they into domesticity?

- No, as such none of them have chosen this way of life. My two younger daughters are studying. They are very industrious. They are also good caregivers. They are presently pursuing their schooling. However, they do not sing!

- How did you embark upon this Baul of life? Do you recall any particular incident that influenced you which you would like to share with us?

- From a very young age, I loved Baul music and listening to Baul songs. I would hear sadhus sing and that intrigued me! Eventually, I sought out a guru and chose to embark upon this way of life. As a child, I loved singing and I was greatly influenced by the sadhus who would visit our village. It has been almost thirty years that I have been associated with my guru. I sought him out at a very young age. Since I loved Baul music, albeit without comprehending its meaning, I sought out a guru at a tender age. As a child, I would visit Baul congregations, even if some of them took place late at night! These days, I mostly stay at home, unless there is a congregation of like-minded sadhus.

- Do you have any disciple whom you have influenced to embrace this way of life?

- I have two disciples. ??- Can you tell us something about them? How did they seek you out?

- They are two boys from my village. They used to spend a lot of time with me. They expressed their desire to become ascetics. At first, like most gurus, I refused. Yet, finally I gave in to their diligence. There were others too whom I refused! At any given time, there are around fifty individuals who are at my abode and who have expressed a desire for me to initiate them. Yet, it was these two finally managed to persuade me through their diligence. So, as of now, I have two disciples.

- Thank You! Joy Guru!

- Joy Guru!

Recorded April 2nd, 2013 in Jalangi, Murshidabad

Interviewer:   Ben Krakauer
Producer/Director: Shubra Dutta
Main Camera: Shubra Dutta
2nd Unit Camera: Suman Biswas
Camera Assistants: Asim and Amit
Sound Engineer: Partho Pratim Barman
Sound Assistant: Tarun Mukherjee
Translated by Parjanya Sen