Remembering Tagore

Remembering Tagore on his 72nd death anniversary

Yesterday (7th August) was the death anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, and I found two pieces remembering him. I thought it would be a good start to my plan of sharing profiles of people who learned without school, as a response to a common anxiety parents share – what will my child become when he/she grows up?

Details Created on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 12:07 Hits: 80 Today (07 August) is the 72nd death anniversary of ‘Kabiguru’ Rabindranath Tagore.   Rabindranath Tagore, sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist.   India’s first Nobel laureate, Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize for […]

Rabindranath Tagore, sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist.

India’s first Nobel laureate, Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature.

He composed the text of both India’s and Bangladesh’s respective national anthems.

Tagore travelled widely and was friends with many notable 20th century figures such as William Butler Yeats, H.G. Wells, Ezra Pound, and Albert Einstein.

His body of literature is deeply sympathetic for the poor and upholds universal humanistic values. His poetry drew from traditional Vaisnava folk lyrics and was often deeply mystical.

Tagore, of course was learned at home and was a learned man. A polymath, which means he was exceptionally talented in many things. The Hindu carries a labour of love remembering him by Ashokamitran. I found it special because it speaks of the impact of Tagore on Tamils, which is hardly something we hear in the normal course of reading. An excerpt, follow the link to read the article.

Thirty years ago, my eldest son Ravi, then studying in class VI, needed a story to narrate in his class. I told him of a great man in Bengal, who in the guise of addressing grown ups, wrote stories that any child would cherish. Then I told him the story of ‘Kabuliwalla’. By the time I finished, he was sobbing. Next day, after narrating it in class, he told me, “When I finished the story, I couldn’t control my tears. Many students were in tears too.”

This took me farther back to the 1940s when I was a school student.

Our English text-book was a selection of prose and poetry pieces, mostly of British origin but there were a few like ‘The Hero’ of Rabindranath Tagore and ‘Transcience’ by Sarojini Naidu. ‘The Hero’ was my first conscious experience of Tagore. I had seen the bearded face of Tagore a couple of years ago in a Tamil book called Kumudhini. Almost on the same day I saw another photograph of the face in the Tamil weekly. It was in August 1941. Tagore passed away on August 7, 1941. Three years later was the year of ‘The Hero’. It took me a few more years to be able to penetrate into the world of Rabindranath Tagore. His plays were a little puzzling but there was no barrier between us and his prose pieces. Gora gave us a glimpse of the spiritual movements taking place in Bengal in the second half of the 19th century.

When I became a resident of Madras (which is now Chennai), in 1952, I found quite a number of people familiar with Tagore’s writings. Not only Tagore but Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Tarashankar Banerjee and an odd writer by name Rakhaldas Bandhopadhyay. Many of Tagore’s works were then available freely in Tamil Nadu as translations. For the few avid readers of serious writing, translations from Bengali authors were among their first choices.

Later I learnt that two brothers, T.N. Kumaraswamy and T.N. Senapathi, lived in Bengal and learnt the language to be able to read Tagore’s work in the original and then translate them into Tamil.

Read Ashokamitran’s beautiful rememberances of Tagore and Tamils

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