Have you ever been to Bengal?
Dry in summer. The earth, still green but beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Little cracks on the ground.
Ponds on the side of little village roads that run for miles. Through dry patches with shrubs and lone trees.
The smell. Heavy in the air. Mangoes mixed with cowdung with smoke with open sky.
Far away, a young boy walking a cow.
Small clusters of village houses. Hibiscus growing wild. Wet earth mixed with cowdung mixed with fish mixed with yesterday’s fermented rice.
Last night, five bauls, or wandering minstrels came to our house. All of them were wonderful.
One was the famous Paban Das Baul. Who made me want to weep with joy when he sang Tomar Dil Ki Doya.
But two, they touched my heart in a way nothing has in years.
One was blind, the other was the someone I saw, and felt I had loved all my love. Kanahi Khepa and Deb Das Baul.
When they sang, I felt like someone had put me on a conference call to god. Their voices were pure, unspoilt, innocent and so beautiful.
They call themselves Khepa, as in mad. Beautifully, happily mad. To wander around singing. About god, nature, the universe.
And the thing is, I never had a role model. Or someone I wanted to be like. But at this ripe old age, it dawns on me. Kanahi Khepa and Deb Das Baul. They are what I want to be all my life.
Khepa. Akdom khepa.