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Sunday, May 08, 2005

the man for all seasons

As an Indian, I am grateful to the Swedish authorities for handing over replicas of the Nobel medallion that was stolen last year from Vishwabharati. Hopefully, the Law will catch up with the person(s) responsible for such a heinous crime. This is not about that affair. This is about the man for all seasons.

Yes, to any Bengali, the man for all seasons is none other than the Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore himself. Born into the princely Tagore family of Jorasanko, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Shantiniketan, the abode of peace, where students become one with Nature is something that only Tagore could gave thought of. A classroom where boundaries did not exist, where students can smell the fragrance of flowers, where they can see butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Rabindra Nath was a genius in his own right, a phenomenon some say. There is no other person who has given to mankind so much in all walks of life. Just imagine a child fascinated by raindrops falling on leaves and rhyming ‘jal parey’ with ‘pata narey’ or assuring his mother - ‘do not be afraid of dacoits because they cannot harm you as long as I am with you’. Tagore’s eyes for details were extraordinary, they picked up even the tiniest of objects – the poem ‘kumor parar gorur garhi…’ is a wonderful example. It gives a running commentary on a bullock cart carrying earthen vessels to the market. Or the poem ‘dui bigha jami’ where the poor farmer discovers, on return to his village, that the zaminder has snatched his two bighas of land.

Not just poetry, but Tagore’s novels, short stories, travelogues and memoirs are all store houses of knowledge. They keep cropping up in all the activities of Bengalis who just cannot visualize a World minus the charms of Tagore’s creations. He was an artist par excellence – his dance dramas have not lost an iota of their original charm even today. His play on words and the vivid descriptions of places, of situations, of emotions, convey one to a different plane altogether – Tagore has penned a poem for practically every occasion. His couplets are famous and are used extensively in communications between friends.

An example will illustrate – ‘Sundari chhayar paane toru cheye thake / shey taar aapan, tobu paya na tahakey.’ (The tree gazes in love at the beautiful shadow/who is his own and yet whom he never can grasp.) The translation is his own.

Like any Bengali, I am fond of Rabindra sangeet. I prefer cassettes where I get multiple singers in one volume. That gives variety to the collection. I give details of three of them here:

12 Gems from Tagore – HMV Sr. No STHV 24129 May-1989. Singers include Dwijen Mukhopadhaya, Sumitra Sen, Shyamal Mitra, Konika Bandopadhaya, Sagar Sen, Purba Dam, Suchitra Mitra, Chinmoy Chattopadhaya, Ritu Guha, Sailen Das, Sandhaya Mukhopadhaya and Hemanta Mukherji

More Gems from Tagore – Two volumes HMV Sr. No. STHV 842300 and 842301 Year 1992. Singers include Pankaj Mallik, Hemanta Mukherji, Santosh Sengupta, Suchitra Mitra, Subinoy Roy, Ritu Guha, Debabroto Biswas, Konika Bandopadhaya, Dwijen Mukhopadhaya and Sumitra Sen.


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