PHOTOGRAPHICALLY YOURS: PART-3
PHOTOGRAPHICALLY YOURS: PART-3
DEALINGS WITH BEAUTY
Among many other creative inputs from Rabindranath Tagore, a masterstroke of him was ‘depiction of beauty’. Usually ‘expressing beauty’ is the domain of poets, artists and musician; Rabindranath being all combined into one it is natural that ‘beauty’ would attract a special space in his psyche. But then he passed on the sense for us to rejoice and express beauty in our own way; an attribute which makes him unique in another dimension.
I never expected butterflies to be interested in Chhatim flowers; but in reality quite a few of them are quite fond of these strong scented flowers. Life in Santiniketan incidentally starts from the concept of a singular Chhatim plant. Talking about the beauty quotient I never could fathom the aesthetics of such a rather strong scented plant now to be found at many places in Santiniketan. Chhatim is perhaps a bit queer tree to explain in terms of conventional sense of beauty. But with fair amount of spirituality ingrained as per history of Santiniketan the Chhatim plant is always a revered plant in this locality. Beauty bred within a spiritual text is usually a powerful statement, and somehow or other Chhatim remains a powerful statement of the Santiniketan psyche.
Defining beauty is a tough task; in fact just to locate beauty can be a fairly complicated affair today; unless like the proverbial dialogue of cine-actor Amir Khan “All is Well”, we also declare “Everything is Beautiful”. Technically the statement ‘everything is beautiful’ is a viable one- but without a definite taste- or rather it would be a kind of beauty where all kind of tastes mix together creating a huge confusion- exactly the state of affairs today!
Without aided by specific definition, just to pass on the sense of beauty of a certain kind to generations after is a difficult feat to achieve; which however Rabindranath achieves with almost effortless ease.
Beauty has its own intrinsic problems as well. Without definition, and hence being outside the purview of evaluation too, we, in society really do not know how to tackle the beauty quotient. Should we dismiss ‘beauty’ as a fanciful unproductive trivia- in any case we cannot evaluate it within our prevalent intellectual/scholastic structure- neither it gets you marks in examinations nor a job in the market for being beautifully inclined towards life- the overall concept is rather vague. I am not too sure but it will not be much surprising if evaluation of Visva Bharati by NAC did not fetch some marks for the university for this beauty quotient passed on by Tagore to present generation. To be honest, at this point of time, Santiniketan also does not know how to position its intellectual coordinates along with this flowing sense of beauty. Many think that ‘Basanta Utsava’ is a yearly extravaganza the University is heritage-bound to organize with plenty of expenditure and a crowd management almost always at the tipping point. But, it is truth that it may take hundreds (and perhaps hundreds more) of years for some other great mind to usher in ‘sense of beauty’ for all in the form of Basanta Utsava. We, the ex-students, may consider us to be immensely fortunate, to have participated in a live painting of a beautiful canvass, each year kept afresh for us by Rabindranath.
It was lovely to discover this water colour painting by an ex-student of Kala Bhavana on Sufi dancers on walls of Nandan Art Gallery at Santiniketan. To us, the terribly sports loving boys of Patha Bhavana, dancing was more like jumping and running, but with different kind of movements. From playground to the dance class, for us, the transition was more or less smooth. I distinctly remember our cricket coach in school, Late Sri Subodh Narayan Choudhury, insisting that we attend our dance classes regularly as he thought batting was more or less an extension of dancing! Well, not all gulped his ideas, but a few of us readily did, and became pretty serious about dancing as well! The effect was pretty simple; we liked sports as well as dance, and enjoyed both! Life certainly became more interesting for us.
I often wonder about elegance in living. Does the idea have any relevance in today’s world, which is day by day being a style-chaos? After all, we have learnt to create our own worlds and give a damn to what others think- that’s the motto of today’s living. So we live for ourselves only, whether it’s elegant, or not – it hardly matters. ‘Elegance in living’ was one concept on which the Santiniketan society thrived in 1930s and 40s. We are in such a juxtaposition of time, even in Santiniketan, it is for us to decide whether Santiniketan is actually a social statement or a breeding ground for individual aspirations for excellence. The conflict between the two remains real, we talk about cut off marks, and restricted admissions and at the same time think that Santiniketan society is a wholesome concept which includes everyone- a bit cumbersome reality to balance.
The sense of beauty, in the meanwhile remains quizzically tricky. Do we need the presence of the flower ‘Jhumkolata’ in our life? Honestly speaking, if you ask me the same question, I have no ready answer! Beauty perhaps teaches us to form a relation with life – in a very cherishing format. Somewhere along the dogged fight that life generally is these days; beauty keeps us aligned with life in a more soothing and philosophically awakened posture. Contrary to popular perception, beauty hardly ceases to exist; in spite of so much of destruction and contradictions in life, we still find beauty more universal than all the strifes of life.
Now, let me confess something, in reality, I am trying to locate the ‘beauty quotient’ of Santiniketan with help of photographs and few English words that I had learnt in the schoolsection of Visva Bharati. I find it pretty tough to tackle the subject in the current format groping in the dark for suitable words to express! Oh, the ever rejuvenating schools of Visva Bharati; one way or other life still seeps through that enchanting mental passage created decades back courtesy the blessings of Rabindranath Tagore. Sometimes, I feel, Gurudeva was a great friend of kids, in fact he still is the best in this part of the world.
Beauty being a difficult concept, the message however is passed on to generations in Santiniketan with utmost ease, and hence makes me wonder what is the key transient message Rabindranath wanted Santiniketan to feel very intimately? Along this line of thinking, naturally, the ‘sense of beauty’ remains the most key element in the expected eternal journey of Santiniketan.
So, where we move from here, is for ourselves to chart.