The life of snake charmers

in BDCommunity2 months ago (edited)

নদীতে নতুন জোয়ার উঠছে
কলসির মুখ শক্ত কইরা ধরবি
ছুইটা যেন না যায়।

The above quote is from Josna's grandfather who brought her from a raft floating in the river. Josna was bitten by a poisonous snake at a very young age and no snake charmer in that kingdom was able to detoxify that poison from her body. Therefore, she was floated in the river for unknown destinations so that any skilled snake charmer could save her life. Fortunately, she was saved by a childless elderly snake charmer couple, who she used to call grandfather. Gradually, Josna grew up and won the heart of the queen of that area by playing the game of snakes and received an expensive garland as a gift. On the way back, one of the lustful character person attempted to seduce Josna, which was defended by the prince of that locality. The prince beat him very hard and was fascinated by the beauty of Josna and wraps the cloak of her half naked body. Josna falls in love with the prince and rushes to him every now and then at the sound of his beautiful flute. Although Josna was known as the granddaughter of the snake charmer, her real identity was that of an aristocratic girl of a renowned justice whom her father floated in the river.

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The above is the description of the first part of renowned mythological film of Beder Meye Josna, released in the late eighties and ruled all the cinema halls throughout early 90s. Experienced moviegoers must have understood what will be at the end of this movie. Yes, after many setbacks, Josna and prince started to live a peaceful life with the king, queen and rest of the family members.

Actually here I am not writing this post to review any movie. I would like to talk a little bit about one of the old professions and the snake charmer community in Bengal and its introduction has been written above.

There is a community in Bangladesh called Bede(snake charmer) whose main occupation is to play snake games. They anchor their boats on the river bank near various populated areas. People in this profession live in boats and travel from one place to another. The people of this community are accustomed to live in groups and all move together from one place to another. There is a team leader in this group and everyone obeys him.

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People of this class earn money from people by showing snake games. Ordinary people are happy to see snakes play and give them money. However, to show the game of this snake, they apply various myths. Snake charmers usually play a Bin(flute) in front of the snake's mouth, and the snake turns its head in a dancing manner. Viewers think that the snake may be waving its head to the tune of the flute but in fact the whole thing is done by applying a technique because the snake never responds to any kind of sound.

One of the occupations of snake charmers is to sell different types of medicines among the simple people of the village. The uneducated and simple people of the village buy those medicines and apply various amulets and charms on the body which do not really give any effective result.

But the main thing I want to highlight is the family life of the Bede class of people. It is painful to think that all the members of a family are spending their lives in a single boat. Their daily cooking, eating, biological activities, sexual needs are all a single boat-centric. One of the minimum needs of a human being is that they do not have a land of their own to live.

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The daughter or sisters of Snake charmers may not be as beautiful as the heroine of the movie Beder Meye Josna and they might not get a price like her, yet they dream of a beautiful new dawn with new hope.

Thanks.
Stay safe and healthy.

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Interesting post. Small but important typo to fix : snack charmer should be snake chamer

With that out of the way. Bede is a strange 'catch all' tribe. They are on the other side of the border too, where they may or may not live on boats, but some do just like you described. Further west, away from the gangetic plain, they exits too, but over there they have nothing to do with boats, and they are mostly nomads.

They are present in middle east, far east, and widely all over Europe, where they are called Gypsy. They always fascinated us. They are widely featured in books and movies, in all over the world, in virtually all major languages. However, their social condition remains improverished all over the world.

For some reason this reminded my of Makar Chudra... a rather famous short story by Maxim Gorky. It features a story of a Gypsy in a far distant land from Bangladesh, but somehow that is the story I thought about first... Human mind is a strange thing!

Also for some reason, thought about this song below (must be the reference to bhela, and kaal-keute)

কাল-কেউটের ফনায় নাচছে লখিন্দরের স্মৃতি
বেহুলা কখনো বিধবা হয় না এটা বাংলার রীতি
ভেসে যায় ভেলা এবেলা ওবেলা একই শবদেহ নিয়ে
আগেও মরেছি আবার মরবো প্রেমের দিব্যি দিয়ে।

........... Jatiswar (Suman Chatterjee, or Kabir Suman now)

It was a big mistake. Thank you Dada for pointing it out. I have already corrected it. I was trying to get some information about the story ‘Makar Chudra’ from Wikipedia.

The narrator meets an old Roma traveller Makar Chudra and has a conversation with him outside the camp, revolving mostly around the theme of freedom. Noticing his guest's interest in his daughter Nonka's singing, Makar warns him against falling victim to female charms and relates a story of a strong, handsome and fearless man Loiko Zobar and Radda, the latter's beauty matched only by her fierce sense of independence.

I will definitely read if I get any English version of this book.
হ্যাঁ দাদা আমি জাতিস্মর গানটি অনেকবার শুনেছি। আমি সুমনের গানের একজন ভীষণ ভক্ত। এমন একটা সময় ছিল যখন অপেক্ষায় থাকতাম যে সুমনের নতুন একটা অ্যালবাম কখন বের হবে। বাঁসুরিয়া, হাল ছেড়োনা, পেটকাটি চাঁদিয়াল, কত কত জনপ্রিয় গান, কোনটা ছেড়ে কোনটার কথা বলব। অনেক ধন্যবাদ দাদা স্মৃতিগুলো মনে করিয়ে দেয়ার জন্য।