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My Own Tagore

My Own Tagore

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Tagore, till date, remains a remarkable presence amidst any literary and cultural landscape. No wonder such personalities often stand out as topics of long intense discussions in an international, intercultural friendship. Ratnadip’s epistolary narrative is an abridged version of such an exchange between two friends, where one discovers multiple impressions of Tagore emerging through a personal lens.

Dear Alex,

It was indeed an engrossing write-up on your national poet. Do you know his ‘Fisherman and the Golden Fish’ was the first story from your land that I read ? I will always fondly remember it along with the beautiful illustrations.

Now it’s my turn. I initially thought of writing my perception of Tagore as a poet and educator. Eventually I realized – such an exercise would be a fragmented and grossly inadequate representation of my impressions on this man. The mature description calls for a brief childhood retrospection… the most formative period of one’s life… where the days appear in different manifestations… some oases-like, some as surprises of mixed hues, some as ephemeral visit in the land of Utopia – worth taking solace. Follows brief visit on different nuances of post-childhood life. Its indeed a herculean task, yet worth trying. For me it’s like rediscovering a cultural icon of us, the friend of mine I gradually found over a long period of time …

Walk beside me down the memory lane…  let us begin from the time when I was around 5 years old …

This is aunt Nivedita’s home. She is a family friend of us and is currently engaged in a seemingly serious yet incomprehensible conversation with my Mejo-Pishi[1](my father’s second sister). I see myself toying with the comic books on the table with occasional fleeting glances all around. My eyes catch a framed photo hanging on the wall opposite- a bearded appearance with a menacing cloak; a very stern face with rebuking eyes. The appearance, as a whole, seems familiar to a mental portrait of an entity mentioned in a recently heard story.

I interrupt my aunt, “Who is this demon ? Why does his photo hang on the wall ?”

My aunt snaps, “Silly talking as often. He’s a great man. He composed our National anthem “. I make a vain attempt to believe
.……………

My Sejo-Kaku[2](my father’s third brother) and ChhotoPishi[3](my father’s youngest sister) are singers. I like to listen to a few of the songs they practice. I understand individually most of the words; but their synergetic effect seem to far surpass the individual meanings, where I feel there is something almost impalpable extraordinariness. The words, the tunes leave a cherishable reverberation in my mind… they never fade.
……………..

I am now the pupil of Shishuniketan school. Twice or once a week (can’t remember exactly the frequency), we have our music lesson. Our teacher is an angry old man. Though I am not very fond of singing, I like to sing alone “megherkoleyrodhesechhe, badolgechhetuti“(nestled on the cloud, the sun shines while the rain bids goodbye),  “kharabayuboibegey/ charidikchhaimeghey” (a storm on the rise, the thick cloud casts darkness everywhere), “edinaajikonghoreygokhuleydilodwar” (at whose dwelling does this new day knock on), and a few more.

When I close my eyes and think about those songs, to listen to the distant echo emanating from somewhere deep in my mind, I swim in the clouds, in golden shreds of sunshine.
……………..

I see the same so-called ‘great man’, ‘composer of our national anthem’ on a page of my book. Below his picture there is a poem –                             

“aamader chhoto nodi choley eke-beke
baisakh maase tar hatu-jol thakey
paar hoye jai goru par hoi gari…”

(This nice rivulet of ours zigzags forth/ with knee-deep water during the summer/ not only the oxen crosses it with ease, but also the drawn carriages ). It is claimed that this man wrote this poem !
………………

Rabindranath Thakur- he is not exactly what I thought him so. His surname ‘Thakur’[4] suggests he is a deity. He is treated with such a reverence at par those idols living in the worship room and also, on a day called ‘pochishe-boisakh’[5](25th of Boishakh month). But this man has an undeniable resemblance to the hermits I see both in the story books and in real life. Rabindranath Thakur must be a sage, later turned into a deity.
………………

I see the sage on the cover of  the new gramophone record. The clean-shaven singer (Debabrata Biswas)[6] on the cover must be his disciple. Why the songs are called Rabindra Sangeet ?

My uncle says the songs are composed by the sage and that is why they are called Rabindra Sangeet[7]. Moreover, he confirms Rabindranath Thakur is not exactly a sage, although he can be considered to have equivalent stature of the much revered saints told about in various books and tales.
………………

I am now more familiar with Kobiguru Rabindranath Thakur, also aware of the fact that most of those songs I started liking a few years ago are Tagore songs. In every class in our school we read his short stories and poems. I am surprised to know that the story of the bioscope titled as ‘MinioKabuliwala ‘[8] I recently watched, has also been written by him. Also, many of the story booksin my collection are his works.
………………

Utter astonishment …! The entire pile of light-orange colored books that my uncle has are Rabindranath’s composition. Those two big books – ‘Sanchayita’ and ‘Gitabitan’ (Garden of Songs) are entirely written by him. Everywhere I look around, I see him. I find him something incomprehensible, the eternal, the ultimate.
………………

End of walk

See Also
Ao Naga Man

This is how the life-long association started and slowly yet steadily took its firm root. My first encounter with stories, songs, movies, poems – everything bears his touch. Despite all ups and downs his compositions never fail to rekindle my spirit with their profundity. In my opinion the poems written in a style at close proximity to pure Bengali are the gems of literature. Magnificent and truly aristocratic in both articulation and substance … truly unparalleled.

Dramas like ‘The Red Oleander’, ‘The King in the Dark Chamber’, ‘The Game of Cards’ are some typical examples of his philosophical contemplation, whereas one will find his meditative naturalism reflected in poems like ‘Africa’. His multi-dimensional songs express everything – happiness, sadness, loneliness, inspiration, power, romance, sensuality.
……………

Epilogue:

Here I end my own narrative. It is very personal and strictly delineates the contents to remain within its purview – the saga of a child who discovered his own Tagore…

I will be overjoyed in case you find something relatable in this letter of mine.

Best wishes,

– Ratnadip –

Footnotes:
[1] MejoPishi: The second daughter of grandparents
[2] SejoKaku: The third son of grandparent
[3] ChhotoPishi: The youngest daughter of grandparents
[4] Thakur: A synonym for a deity in Bengali language
[5] Pochishe (25th) Baisakh (the first month in Hindu calendar). This was the day Tagore was born.
[6] Debabrata Biswas, a doyen of Tagore song
[7] Sangeet: Song. So Rabindra Sangeet means songs written and composed by Tagore
[8] Mini and the trader from Kabul: A short story on how Rahamat, a trader from Kabul doing business in Calcutta developed a filial affection towards Mini, a little Bengali girl.

Also read: Universal Tagore – Sumana, Madhumita & Rajlakshmi 

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