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'O Meri Johra-Jabin' Singer Manna Dey Delights Music Lovers

Ritesh Agarwal and Sukanya Basu

On 7th September, R.K. Vision organized a cultural program titled 'An enchanting evening of songs by Manna Dey' at Winchester High School. As is obvious from the title, the star of the night was the renowned singer Manna Dey who has done playback singing for such famous films as "Anand", "Yakt", " Zanzeer" and not to mention numerous Bengali songs.

When we reached the venue, we found the auditorium packed with excited, enthusiastic viewers a majority of who were Bangladeshis and Bengalis and also fans of Manna Dey from various communities in India. The festive spirit was contagious and when Manna Dey actually started singing, people were beside themselves with joy. Manna Dey sang all-time favorite Hindi songs like 'O meri johra-jabin' and 'Yaari hai imaan' and also a host of Bengali songs. When intermission occurred, we got the opportunity to actually interview him. During the interview, we asked him about his liking for Boston, and his reply was "I love Boston because of its educational value and environment". He further tells us that he loves America and comes here every year to visit his daughter who lives in San Francisco. This time also he stayed there for a fortnight before coming to perform at New York and Washington.

We then asked him about the intensity of crowds at various places, where he reiterated the fact about Boston's educational significance and said "Actually, Boston is the place of intellectual people, so people here generally maintain a low key, unlike New York and Washington where the crowd is much more active". Finally we asked him if he is performing any more shows before returning to India, to which he told that he is going to perform at New Jersey the next day and then return back to India. In India too, he has a busy schedule and that during the Durga Puja, he will be going to do a show in Delhi.

Our conversation was short because he had to return to the stage to continue the show. On stage, he was accompanied by Shrabani, daughter of the famous Nachiketa Ghosh in many of his songs. The crowd literally danced to his tunes at times. It is amazing that even at eighty years of age, he sings so beautifully. Towards the end of the show, he sang some of his famous songs a second time because of public demand for the aforementioned songs. Finally at 11 o'clock he stopped singing saying that he had a flight to take the next morning. The crowd was all praise for him and gave him a standing ovation.

We also got a chance to talk to the organizers of the show, the husband - wife duo of Kusal and Roma from whose names R.K. Vision derives its name. They are a jolly couple who organize such cultural programs a few times every year. Last year, they organized a Bengali Conference. They have also organized shows featuring Runa Laila, Sharmila Tagore, Usha Uthup and famed Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee. Bengali plays also feature on their list of activities. Roma and Kusal say that they want to bring singers of Manna Dey's caliber to perform here at Boston because they want to bring people of all communities together. They want to bring about cross-cultural unity, the right thing to do in the present circumstances, as we shall all agree. Kusal says that culture gives a person identity. He says that South Asian countries are still fighting for their identity although they have achieved a lot. He said that he and his wife organized the Manna Dey show to fulfill a sense of nostalgia, which arises from the fact that 26 years ago, Kusal had witnessed a Manna Dey show while as a fresher in College. He had then decided that one day he would organize his own show. His dream finally became a reality that Saturday evening.

We congratulate R.K. Vision for their wholehearted contribution in bringing such brilliant performances to the doorsteps of Bostonian folklore.

(Ritesh and Sukanya are graduate students at Tufts University. )

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