Bangladesh @ 50: my teacher, Marina Ahmad

My music teacher, Marina Ahmad, who was a part-time resident musician and performer in Mumbai and lives in New York, was born in Bangladesh to Faqueer Shahabuddin Ahmad and Ayesha Akhtar from Dhaka. Faqueer Shahabuddin Ahmad was the first attorney general of Bangladesh and author of its constitution. Ayesha was his wife and the mother of their seven children. Music was in their blood, and Marina took classical music lessons from a young age and studied with Pt Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya in Delhi in her early teens. A chance meeting in an elevator with Pandit Jasraj took her to Mumbai at age 22 and from there she arrived in New York City in 1991.

Marina, who was born before the birth of Bangladesh, in what was then East Pakistan, was rooted in her father’s unwavering belief in the importance of non-chauvinistic nationalism and socialism that cared for all. that were part of its common geography. nation, adopted or birth. She and her siblings learned that they were Bangla and Bangla alone, that religion and nationality were nuances that played secondary roles. She was taught to see the world as a global village, to keep the gift of democracy at heart and to protect it by voting in elections and ensuring that others do too. Marina’s parents fostered in their children a deep understanding of what secularism is and how it connects with others despite the artificial boundaries that divide humanity across geographies.

Marina brought these ideals to our classes in the most natural way. Any physical or virtual session with Marina has always taught me gurus-behens and guru-bhais the importance of modesty and generosity, of care and education. Grace, patience, and acceptance seemed to be an abundance of generations in her life, and nothing we could do would make her angry or angry. Rather, she would see the positive in every situation and shift the emphasis back to teaching and inspiring, encouraging us to grab notes that we weren’t quite able to grasp or reach. When it wasn’t the grades that were the problem, but something else distracted one of us, most discreetly, and when no one else was there, she found the student in question and provided her with care and all the support she needed. We learned the music not only by repeating the songs and studying their performance in nuance, but by focusing on the emotions that might change the delivery to be heartfelt and moving for the listener.

My tutelage with Marina has shown me a wonderful way to cancel and make theoretical all barriers created by man. In her home she had works of art and curios from all over the world placed together and sometimes contiguous or even overlapping parts of each other. They were statues and objects collected for the memories they invoked and not to follow patriarchal constructions of hierarchical religiosity or other divisions that could easily create barriers where not needed. In student homes, Marina always enthusiastically accepted their unique styles and predilections, growing up as a person with each new personality she encountered. Becoming taller and more patient as she found herself challenged and her thinking and how she was tested.

I was the first gay man Marina met in her life, and even before her son Rishabh spoke to her, she spoke with me about her observations on him and his personal journey. Her insight in handling her fight patiently and without interference amazed me and made me realize just how forgiving and unrivaled Marina is. Of course, her coming out was easy, as she had known it for some time, and as she said, Suvir Mama had paved the way and made him as normal and natural as he should have been.

Marina teaches her students that music is about letting go of everything that consumes us and becoming one with the raga we sing. When we become the raga and the song, it is this surrender that makes our music most lucid, memorably correct, and deeply circumspect.

This grandiose way of being and thinking is what connects Marina to her parents and to the constitution of her nation. She found in Baden Guruji a soul mate towards the father and the nation that she missed very much. Through her tutelage of Pandit Jasraj, Marina received living examples of those ideals that the Founding Fathers of Bangladesh so carefully and painstakingly enshrined in Bangladesh’s constitution and always wished its men and women to value.

As I mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence with joy, I cannot think of a more wonderful citizen to remember than my guru, Marina Ahmad. Hers is a guardianship as grandiose as the best education one can imagine gleaned from a sacred institution of yesteryear. The fact that it is offered to students across the many seas, in countries east, west, north and south of Bangladesh as Marina travels between the homes of New York, Mumbai and Dhaka, is the gift of 21st century Wi-Fi and access. broadband internet. That Marina herself continues to be a student is what makes her a peerless guru and the best teacher a student could wish for. Always keen to learn and discover, she has teachers in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. She received formal training in Carnatic music, semi-classical music, Rabindrasangeet and Nazrulgeeti. For the past 17 years, she has also studied with Manik Bhide from the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. Marina, in many ways, is everything her parents wanted their children and those of their young nation to become. Proud Bengalis, with confidence, character, thirst for discovery and curiosity to continue to learn and grow, secular and accepting right down to the base.

As Bangladesh makes her own mark in geopolitics, Marina Ahmad performs worldwide in venues large and small and captivates audiences of many ethnicities and nationalities with her heartwarming smile, hoarse voice, sound tones and notes. sweet. His performances around the world, his sharing scene with Grammy Award-winning artist Youssou N’Dour, his albums and recorded singles, his interpretation of Sufi music, his work in the creation of Udgam, an NGO that maintains classical Hindustani music alive in the greater New York area. – these keep Marina center stage as a musician with both talent and a moving heart and with a mind that thinks beyond comfort and sees work and the world as an investment in personal growth and also human brotherhood.

Seeing and learning from Marina and how she advances Bade Guruji, Pt Jasraj’s legacy of song and teaching in a secular way, has given me hope that music provides societies with the bridge necessary to overcome the divisions that can mutilate a people, tear nations apart and leave the world paralyzed. The notes Marina reaches and touches, the way she carries the divinity in her voice and actions and how she makes her music a hymn to human unity, make her a Bangladeshi woman who brings this young nation to life. in the most wonderful way in the world. stage.

Bangladesh at 50 has in Marina a girl who with her incomparable voice makes the nation proud of her birth; who enriches his nation of citizenship, the United States, with his sweat and teachings; and who, through its support of musicians and music lovers alike, keeps alive and proud the annals of tutelage and performance classical music in India, its inspiring nation. Thinking of Bangladesh and its 50 years of independence, I can only bow to my guru Marina Ahmad and her musical talents and thank her parents Ayesha Akhtar and Faqueer Shahabuddin Ahmad for the gift they have given to the world, through their example and their daughter – a person in whom the world can see all that is great about Bangladesh and the brotherhood of free nations around the world.

(Suvir Saran is a chef, author, educator and frequent traveler)

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