Remembering Tagore during his birth week in 2016
I was once asked who, in my opinion, was greater—Shakespeare or Tagore? I had replied that they both reign as twin suns in the world of letters. The works of both were qualified by their universality. They reflect even today, the modern Man’s joy, pain, and sorrow. In comparison one may say that The Bard restricted himself to drama and verse while Tagore ranged his expressions from verse to fiction, from essays to dramas. He wrote for the child, for the youth, for the mature, and for those in search of salvation. His doodles and paintings hold high price tags today.
Santiniketan personifies Tagore’s philosophy of bringing together the entire world into one nest. The ethos of the Ashram there reveals his love of Nature and his belief that She is the greatest teacher and we can learn all about living life from Her. I spent almost four years as an undergraduate at Santiniketan and even now, after 34 years, that remains the best time of my life. My most wonderful and lasting memory of the place was if you walked through the ashram on any day, you would become instantly aware of the season specific at that time. Schoolchildren clad in the ochre, sitting under trees would be singing the songs of that season, opening their voices and their hearts to the azure above. The lyrics would mention the flowers, the birds, and the colour of the season’s skies. And as you turn to look around or above you, the same flowers, the same birds, and the same sky would actually be present physically around you. The ambience was breathtaking and in your mind’s eye you would see Gurudev, a benevolent twinkle in his eyes, strolling down the verdant avenue of trees with the fiery palash peeping through them. Your heart would lift and sing with the voices. The essence of Tagore can be best perceived at Santiniketan.
Tagore has always been my lodestar, yet a question rises in my mind. Do Tagore’s works and the flower of his philosophy, Santiniketan hold relevance today?
While Tagore is interwoven into the Indian’s thoughts, his food, his religion, his discussions, his literature, his studies, his music, his poetry, his seasonal moods, and of course, into his romance, how much of Tagore is actually a part of his daily life? Does he find Tagore in his waiting for the bus or in the queue for petrol, in juggling the dwindling value of his income with the spiraling food prices, in the bribes he has to pay officials, in his fear and pain at deaths in terrorist attacks, in endless traffic jams often due to VIP movement, in the pathetic conditions of pavement dwellers dying at the wheels of rash drivers, in his son’s loss of career due to recession in the USA? Does Tagore enter his thoughts then?
Santiniketan, as an institution has churned out an eminent list of writers, artists, sculptors, and musicians. It is a cultural nadir. Yet does it contribute to the national economy?
This being Tagore’s 150-plus birth anniversary, there are endless discussions, accolades, and celebrations for the poet-philosopher. But is his wisdom a part of our life style today or are we so absorbed in our search for the El-Dorado that we have not seen the pearl dewdrop hanging on the blade of grass at our own doorstep? We are proud to belong to Tagore’s world. But has he been relegated to another world, another sphere that revolves independent of this sphere that holds our daily pains, sorrows, and injustices?
That is my question. Can anyone give me an answer?
@Sutapa Basu 2016. First published on my site www.storyfuntastika.com