150 Years of Tagore


On May 09, 2010 as the world started celebrating 150 birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore, I started thinking about the Nobel prize winning author, who,among the writers, has influenced me most. Throughout the day, while unpacking my bags after my return from Dabra, a small town near Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, I kept on thinking about Rabindra Nath Tagore, his works and his legacy. Death is a very important and prominent feature in Tagore’s writings and death is the most intriguing part of my psyche. My feelings were compounded that day, as I was returning from the shraddha of my wife’s bhabhi.

I was introduced to the writings of Tagore in between 1965/1967. Rajpal & Sons, a very prominent and influential publishing house started a programme called Gharelu Library Yojana ( Domestic Library Scheme ). In this scheme they were publishing cheaper version of classics under the name of Hind Pocket Books. Abridged versions were priced Rs. 1.00 and un-abridged version were priced Rs. 2.00. This price tag seems impossible and implausible today. But it was a thriving scheme of its time. They published all the classics of Bengali literature and I became a member of this scheme. Kumudini ” ( “Yogayog” in Bengali ) is the first novel of Tagore which I read. It is my favourite till today. After this I read “ Geetanjali ”. On my first reading I couldn’t understand it fully. Then I read un-abridged version of his novel “ Gora ”. Again I was unable to understand it in totality. After this I started reading English translation of his short stories, named “ Hungry Stones & Other Stories”. To my astonishment, again I couldn’t understand a word of what he has written, but I couldn’t forget him also. It is paradoxical, but it is true. I was unable to solve this conundrum.

In 1969, when I started learning Bengali, I started pursuing Tagore religiously. One fine morning, while hearing Rabindra Sangeet, I was mesmerised. I started buying cassettes of Rabindra Sangeet and started listening it 24×7. After this when I re-read Geetanjali “, I was in trance. It was a devotee’s prayers and wish lists addressed to the God. The poems haunted me then and they still haunt and enchant me. Motivated by  Geetanjali “, I then started reading and re-reading all the novels, short stories and poems of Tagore. Among his novels, ” Kumudini ” ( Yogayog ) ,  ” Aankh Ki Kirkiri ” ( Chokher Bali), ” Nauka Dubi ” and Nashta Need “ are my favourites.

It is astonishing that Tagore wrote novels, short stories, plays and thousands of songs. He himself set tunes to his songs. It is called Rabindra Sangeet. He painted and is considered today as the father of modern Indian painting. He was the founder of a university  called Shantiniketan. It is amazing that he dabbled in so many fields, and that too so  successfully.

On his 150th birth anniversary I pay tribute to the only poet of India who won Nobel prize for literature.

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