I was born in a Tamil family. And I grew up and have lived all my life in Bengal.
10 years ago, on a holiday in the Nilgiri hills in south India, through a sequence of melodic encounters and experiences, one after another - I felt that the Tamils were essentially a race of bards, and had been so through centuries of history and circumstance, right through to the present day, expressing their unstoppable melodic urge in religion after religion. And I felt that blood running through my own veins. I could understand anew the lyrics of the beautiful song "Putham pudhu bhumi" that I'd been captivated by (from the Tamil film Thiruda Thiruda, set to melody by AR Rehman) :
"Want a fresh new land,
Want one meal every day,
Golden rain must shower,
And the cuckoo must sing Tamil."
Here's a video clip of that song.
A couple of years later, I made a chance visit to Bangladesh, spending two days in Dhaka. I spent some time at a seminar organised by the Department of Sanskrit & Pali at the university. I came upon the Charyagiti, the earliest extant Bangla poems, and the songs of Lalan Fakir. I learnt about the Tantrik, Buddhist and Islamic heritage of the folk of east Bengal. I felt the unique sensibility of that soil, that has endured through millenia, and which has moulded folk devotion. If one wants to see the highest kind of human being, the most refined sensibility, the most lofty, sweetest and child-like face of humanity - it is the golden soil of Bangla that produces this. The national anthem of Bangladesh begins:
My Bangla of gold, I love you!
If my Tamil blood makes me sing - it is of Bengal that I sing, and the humble Bengali Muslim peasant's rare sensibility that I venerate. I am supremely fortunate indeed, and doubly blessed, by these two precious soils.
Here's the Bengali folk songs group Dohar's song offering to the soil of Bengal.