Despite being economically weak, her parents were very strong, says Teejan Bai, the contemporary exponent of Pandavani, a narrative singing of the ancient epic Mahabharata. She adds that even poverty turned numb before them.
“My mother was strict and she disciplined us, while father stood like a wall protecting us,” says Teejan Bai who performs art which involves narrating and enacting tales from the epic Mahabharata.
From morning till late evening, their hard work moved like hands of a clock, working, working, and working hard to earn for eight family members, she says, before adding, “Every day he (poverty) had to turn his face back before them.”
Leaving home in wee hours and returning late in the evening from his work was his daily schedule, says Teejan, who performs the unique oral folk singing form in her powerful voice, adding that “he was strict, but carried a soft heart for all of us”.
Teejan says, “As long as I can remember, I have to attribute this, at least in part, to my father, who was a sculptor, a builder, and an architect for me. As a child, I never doubted his strength being economically very weak.
In true sense, her father was a source of inspiration for her, says Teejan.
She adds, “It was him who recognised talent lying in my inner soul in an early stage. One day he grabbed my hand and left me at the house of my maternal grandfather, my gur, Brijlal Pradhan.”
Getting separated from five younger siblings and parents left a deep impact on her, says Teejan.
“However, when I heard my maternal grandfather singing Pandvani, I decided to discharge the emotion of separation,” says Teejan.
Soon, Teejan memorised the Mahabharata written in Chhattisgarhi Hindi by the Chhattisgarhi writer Sabal Singh Chauhan. She started performing stories of Pandavas while accompanying her tanpura that sometimes became the chariot of Arjuna, arm of Bhim, and sometimes hair of Draupadi.
People who are closely related to Teejan say she made her first stage performance when she was 13. Since than, she has never looked back.
A recipient of Sangeet Natak Academy Award, Teejan disowned performing Pandavani while sitting — probably drawing from the hardworking spirit of his father Hunuklal whom she never saw resting in day light.
Teejan says “My father never ever spoke to me in high pitch or raised finger at me. It was he who made me Teejan.”
(As told to Anup Dutta)