25 BAISAKH – 153rd BIRTHDAY OF RABINDRANATH
25 BAISAKH – 153rd BIRTHDAY OF RABINDRANATH
THE FRIEND OF THE FRIENDS
Rabindranath Tagore has been and will be interpreted from multiple view points, expectedly, being in tandem with Tagore’s own ability to establish the power of human intellect to define life and existence in a fairly diverse domain. As an ex-student of Visva Bharati, however, I would be more inclined to interpret Gurudeva Rabindranath principally as an educator. Accordingly the basic interpretation of Rabindranath, as we have all felt in his school, is that he is still a great friend of the kids. His ability to enjoy, appreciate and interact with kids with almost insatiable energy still remains the driving force of future propagation to all his kids in school- amazingly even after 70+ years of his death! This immortal bondage of friendship fostered with him in our school days remain in all probability the most cherishing experience in our life. No one amongst us ever desired to dissociate himself from Rabindranath; or in other words Rabindranath never deserted us amidst all the upheavals in our life. From the point of view of the kids, along with many others, I would like to opine that ‘Tagore himself defined friendship to us- a kind of friendship which fostered a natural and immediate resonance with life around us.’ Like the pulsating journey of the iota of light, the photon, among this vast Universe with an almost unstoppable speed, we suddenly became awake and started to feel each of our heart beats rather intimately in his school Patha Bhavana- an ecstatic luxury which would become rarer and rarer as time would pass on. I feel more or less all the ex-students will agree on this.
The problem with interpreting Rabindranath Tagore these days is that, the subject itself has become an exclusive territory for scholars to dwell on, probably for a talk in a seminar or as a research paper and so on. The area of probe, in these cases, becomes too segmented or fragmented losing all relevance for the common reader. The treatment of the perennial subject of probe ‘Rabindranath Tagore by academicians ever eager to define some hitherto unearthed angle to define him, has made these discourses too complicated and dry.Often such papers/articles remain devoid of any joy. In our interpretation ‘friendship’ becomes untenable if there remains no joy in it, and in consequence the academicians Tagore often remains too unfriendly for us. I really do not know if any researcher till date tried to explore ‘Rabindranath as a Friend’; it can be a tricky job as ‘friendship’ essentially is a feeling not exactly confined to words and phrases!
In the context of Today, there can be fair amount of confusion about Tagore as an educator even within his own friends. First of all Rabindranath never penned down a central treatise on education and Santiniketan evolved on an experimental basis even in his days; later he started another experimentation at Sriniketan. The only philosophical stance that remained steadfastly constant during that phase was Tagore’s belief in the ability of human beings to transgress the periphery of the immediate self to embrace, appreciate, learn and enjoy the world around. As an educator Rabindranath primarily wanted to establish an immediate pathway through which the self could readily interact with entities much beyond the self.Many of his songs, much dear to us, brought even the cosmos light years away within the immediate cognizable plane of ours. The idea, however, is a matter of feelings only and hence highly abstract. This abstract nature of Tagore’s idea on education, though an essential beauity of it, is also a matter of fair amount of confusion. After all,as like religious doctrines defining fairly precise modes of establishing contact with the immediate self with the faraway god for the disciple in form of Slokas, Puja or Archana; Rabindranath never preached. Interestingly by accepted terminology, not being a preacher makes Rabindranath less of a conventional teacher and more of a friend- good for his students though!
Abstraction, the most potent and aesthetically stellar aspect of Tagore’s philosophy, including his take on education, always rode the risk of misinterpretation. In fact, to be more categorical, interpretation of ‘the abstraction’ itself is a complicated affair and hence opinions differed at times. After Tagore’s death the trajectory of Visva Bharati University remained controversial all along- giving an impression that this is a controversy laden institute. In reality more than the incompetence of the administrators as is the popular perception, it is the inherent ambiguity of Tagore’s abstraction which generates such confusions. For example, Rabindranath decidedly desired that his students to become powerful by knowledge, but urged to use ‘sympathy’ to draw inferences from that knowledge. According to him ‘knowledge’ remains an imperfect tool unless perceived with sympathy, which should allow the immediate soul to be in consonance with life, universe and existence all over. So it is not knowledge exclusively but it’s treatment by individuals which was more important to Rabindranath. Now, ‘sympathy’ is a highly abstract term allowing fair amount of variation in treatment by individuals- this variation was a very essential and important part of Tagore’s philosophy in education. The matter can be quite complicated, when for example, we try to comprehend ‘sympathy’ for a musician or a mathematician! Well, such angles can be and should be explored in the context of thoughts on education by Rabindranath Tagore, but the interpretations would most probably vary significantly from person to person. So, ‘abstraction’ in all frontiers, be it art, music, poetry, dance, philosophy or education makes Rabindranath a difficult persona to define.
Again, the academic interpretations to define Rabindranath Tagore in highly fragmented versions are in fact in contradiction with his basic persona. He was in fact the master of abstraction in all formats of human intellect and hence was path breaking and refreshingly new in everything he touched upon. The sympathy or empathy in his psyche weaved the incredible masterpiece of a rare and unmatched sense for aesthetics. To express in simpler terms, Rabindranath not only lived beautifully, he thought beautifully and expressed beautifully as well. The dignity and balance of his sublime spiritual overtone made his expressions aesthetically even more richer; most probably the richest of its own kind for the whole world.
Again from the academician’s view point, no word can be invented to define Tagore’s sense of aesthetics, it can only be felt within as the concept is too abstract for words to handle. I did not really pen down this article to to demerit the efforts put in by the academicians to explore Tagore; but to emphasize the possible futility of the recent trend within Visva Bharati for the almost daily interpretation of Rabindranath Tagore in form of seminars, lectures or discussions. These highly articulated dissection of Rabindranath Tagore might become counter productive in the sense that Tagore may get lost among these plethora of interpretations even within Visva Bharati. I attended some of these lectures. A very few of them were just not fit for presentation at all as the angle of probe itself remained too vague or too contrived. Others were fairly illuminating, but hovered inconclusively confined to its own domain and remained confusing to people like us for whom a fragmented Rabindranath is highly incomprehensible.
Being a pioneer in abstraction in almost all frontiers including education, it is more important to feel and cherish the joy of realization of such scintillating abstractions of Tagore. When, instead interpreting Rabindranath becomes a fashionable scholastic exercise, to the discernible it becomes a drudgery of rituals painful to go through.
On behalf our best friend, Rabindranath Tagore, we the ex-students however would like to cherish the friendship life long. We all have walked hand in hand with him for years and will continue this fascinating journey till our end. We wish that the younger generation will also move hand in hand with their great friend Rabindranath to traverse into future tense with plenty of life and vibrancy.