Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Tribute

Like many Indians, my first tryst with Rabindranath Tagore was when I sung my country's national anthem, not understanding the words throughout most of my childhood. And then there were those fleeting mentions of Tagore in history books. But that was all, for a long time.

I've never been one for poems. I've found most poems to go over my head which lead me to avoid the genre for a long time. But one day I chanced upon the famous 'Where The Mind Is Without Fear' poem by Tagore and I was absolutely stunned by the beauty and sheer emotion in that poem. I made it a point to read more of Tagore's poems and I'm glad I did.

I find myself looking forward to every Thursday, to read several of his poems and have a hard time picking just one to post about here in my Thursdays With Tagore meme. Indeed, every poem of his is a treasure. They touch you where it matters the most and stay in your heart. Romantic, playful, sad, forlorn, glorious, reflective, profound are some words that explain the wide range of emotions in the Tagore poems I've read. But two words are a constant when it comes to describing his poems : soulful and powerful. I'm no expert critic, but these are the words that come to my mind when I read Tagore's poems.

The greatest thing about Tagore is that he was not just a legendary poet who inspired several other poets. He wrote songs, short stories, novels and plays besides travelogues, memoirs and essays on a range of topics. He acted in his plays and was a philosopher and artist too. He also involved himself in India's struggle for independence and renounced his knighthood in protest of the horrific Jallianwalla Bagh massacre. 

Ketaki Kushari Dyson writes splendidly about Tagore's many accomplishments:

'Tagore was a notable pioneer in education. A rebel against formal education in his youth, he tried to give shape to some of his own educational ideas in the school founded in 1901 at Santiniketan.....To his school he added a university, Visvabharati, formally instituted in 1921. He wanted this university to become an international meeting-place of minds, 'where the world becomes one nest', and invited scholars from both the East and the West to come and enrich its life.....At Potisar he started an agricultural bank, in which he later invested the money from his Nobel Prize.'

Tagore also has the rare distinction of having written the national anthems of two countries - Jana Gana Mana for India and Amar Shonar Bangla for Bangladesh. Which leads to another point Dyson makes - 'Tagore does not belong to Bengalis or Indians only". Indeed his poems are for anyone and everyone who feels their impact. There are no 'narrow domestic walls' for Tagore. He is a legend whose work belongs to not just his country but also to the world.

Personally, I find a sense of awe filling me when I read Tagore's poems. Today, on his 150th birth anniversary, as India celebrates the genius that was Tagore, I shall be curled on my couch reading his poems and counting myself very lucky and blessed to have had the chance to read some of his work. Thank you Gurudev for making several of my dull days meaningful in the span of a few of your lines. I shall always read your poems with awe and love, for they are as timeless as they are universal.


JoAnn said...

I am woefully unfamiliar with Tagore, and will be sure to check your Thursday meme. Thanks for such an informative post.

Priya Parmar said...

Happy Birthday Tagore! 150 years later and the verse still glows with stillness and truth.

Vaishnavi said...

Happy birthday Tagore :) Kals, thank you very much for fueling this intense desire that I now have for Tagore's works :) :)

Kals said...

JoAnn - I hope you enjoy reading Tagore's poems :)

Priya Parmar - As usual, beautifully said, Priya :)

Vaishnavi - Thank you so much! I'm honestly very glad I helped you discover Tagore sort of. His poems are great on their own. Even more lovely when I can share it with people out here :)

The Book Mole said...

Kals - what a great tribute! I read Tagore a bit when I was in school, but never really got to discover him. Your thursday meme has made me want to read all his works now! He has indeed crossed all borders as you say.

Kals said...

Thank you so much, The Book Mole! I hope you get to read a lot of his work. They're all special in their own ways :D

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Tribute, so well written.I always come to your blog every Thursday to read the highlighted poem..From my childhood I read Tagore in school , at home..a few days back I wrote about "NastNirh"(The Broken Nest)

Alyce said...

I hadn't heard of Tagore until reading your Thursday features, so this was a nice way for me to learn more about his life.

Kals said...

Books With Coffee - Thank you so much! I'm glad you follow my Thursdays post. It's great to meet so many Tagore fans online :)

Alyce - Thanks and I hope you continue to enjoy his works :)


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