RABINDRANATH TAGORE, as on TODAY
RABINDRANATH TAGORE, as on TODAY
date: SEPTEMBER 2013
RABINDRANATH: TOO MANY PERSPECTIVES?
I started to pen down this sketchy article on 22 Shravan,1418 Bangabda – almost two years before; not knowing exactly when I shall be able to finish this. The incomplete text hanged in my document box in the computer in an unfinished and perplexed state. Heaps of thoughts on different aspects of Rabindranath Tagore have clamoured in; each trying to find a prime space, but somehow yet among all these diverse ideas I know something essential will remain perennially missing. In trying to comprehend Rabindranath, the possibility always looms rather ominously that we have actually already missed the chance to comprehend Rabindranath Tagore by now. He is today exactly 72 death-anniversaries away, still drifting further from us into perhaps a glorious oblivion into innumerable grains of dust, or may be to surface again dawning in the new sun sometime-somewhere. There is a popular saying that ‘God’ is actually spread everywhere, even within the grains of dust- but he still remains the most elusive character to identify! Same is the case for Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore- the God who remains hidden in grains of dust all over Santiniketan.
The perspectives to arrive at Rabindranath have become too diverse now; so diverse that Tagore has now become a many-faceted phenomenon incomprehensible to any single mode of observation. In this site muktodhara, we are also at a complete loss at about how to look at Rabindranath; we have tried sporadically to wade through a maze of hazy conceptions for about a year now with at best iota of incomplete successes on rare occasions that also achieved after fairly continuous probe. The chance of a holistic analysis of Tagore from all possible angles is becoming difficult day by day; and in 2013AD the best we can get is the compartmentalized Tagore researched by the rare 2nd and mostly 3rd generation Tagore scholars.
Take for example the angles of perception of Visva Bharati University in deciding the chief guest list for the Briksharopan ceremony on 22 Shravan 1418 –two years ago. For the first time in history a political personality, the Chief Minister of West Bengal Ms. Mamata Banerjee was invited to be the chief guest. She couldn’t attend due to her previous engagements and forwarded the name of the then State Planning & Development Minister Manish Gupta. Panchayat Minister Chandranath Singha and MLA Ms Satabdi Roy were also invited as the special guests. Prof. Udaya Narayan Singh, the acting Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati University at that time perhaps thought that this gesture would make the relation of VBU with the State Government smooth. Especially as Ms Satabdi Roy is now the chairman of SSDA (Santiniketan Sriniketan Development Authority) VB University is perhaps within it’s right to believe that the land related problems of the University can be smoothly solved in tandem with SSDA. Logically it may sound correct; but direct involvement with political personalities were never officially accepted as an agenda in Visva Bharati University and Rabindranath himself strongly disliked political intervention of any form. Incredibly that was the first time in the history of Santiniketan, the chief guest Manish Gupta started his address (!) with the customary political slogan of Trinamul Congress-“Ma, Mati, Manush”; and later on acting Vice Chancellor Prof Uday Narayan Singh gave a small lecture on why these luminaries were important for Santiniketan!
It is not actually a political matter we would like to debate here- but the actual question is about perspectives to arrive at goals. For Visva Bharati inside Santiniketan, it has now become important to keep in touch with MLA’s and Chairman of Local Bodies to sort out the land related problems to kind of protect the Ashrama in Santiniketan. This is never the less purported to be a practical approach: rather new but perhaps inevitable. We never really know how complicated the events may turn in future. So far it is good news that the local bodies and Visva Bharati is working in tandem, at least in principle. It is to be seen how the newly elected Panchayat members fron areas around Santiniketan react with Visva Bharati; interestingly quite a few of them are ex-students of Santiniketan as well. The crux is that to understand Tagore in Santiniketan now, we need to be aware of laws and by laws of land use set by SSDA and other agencies, and the view points of the head of these organizations and how Visva Bharati manages to interact with them! High Court very recently ordered demolition of a three storey+ housing complex adjacent to Deer Park in Lalbandh area. Apparently clearance for such a construction was started after getting clearance for construction from SSDA itself! The matter is due to move on to Supreme Court. So the land related issues are real and apparently an all-important perspective to analyze and comprehend Tagore in already fenced Santiniketan in 2013AD. People naturally have mixed feelings about all this; but this has turned out to be a real issue for Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan now.
Novels and short stories of Rabindranath Tagore have been filmed quite a few times. Now, the renowned Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta made films based on 13 selected poems of Rabindranath Tagore on request from Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The strong image creating quality of these poems by Rabindranath encouraged Buddhadeb Dasgupta to explore the usage of cinematic media with the help of numerous suitable imageries. One film on a poem is about half hour duration; words are used very sparsely, and the medium is Hindi for acceptance to a larger audience. A cluster of 4 to 5 such films was at times bundled into one show. So, we are here into a new perspective; cinematic media used to express poetry of Rabindranath in Hindi or any other language. It seems Rabindranath Tagore can be interpreted and expressed in infinite number of ways; making him an infinitely explorative and at the same time fairly incomprehensible a subject as a whole. This also establishes a very important fact that Rabindranath belongs to the Nation and in reality to the World. Personally for me the films lacked speed compared to the narrative fluency of Tagore; I could still appreciate the mood of the presentation – the present generation students simply missed the whole context as I gathered by interacting with them.
Rathindranath, son of Rabindranath was among the first five students of Bramhavidyalaya, who later went to Illionis USA to pursue higher studies in Agricultural Sciences and came back and taught at Sriniketan. He was also passionate about art & literature. In 1951, when Visva Bharati was made a Central University, Rathindranath was its first Vice Chancellor and he was probably the best Vice Chancellor Visva Bharati University ever had. But circumstances forced Rathindranath to go for a self imposed exile from Santiniketan in around 1953 to Dehradun. He remained there till his death in 1961. His relation with Santiniketan soured so much that he was not even invited to participate in the centenary birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan in 1961. This phase of history was never very openly discussed within the Santiniketan community; though the facts were fairly well known. After more than half a century of oblivion in Santiniketan, Rathindranath was again restored in Santiniketan by initiative of present Vice Chancellor, Prof Sushanta Dattgupta. So, here is another interesting angle to probe at the oblivion and the subsequent revelation of a suppressed era. A collection of paintings ‘Rathindra Chitrakala’ and another collection of his writings ‘Rathindra Rachanabali’ are due for publication. As a documentation of the continuity of Santiniketan it is important to study the phase of transition of Visva Bharati in the 1950s in becoming a Central University, and in any case Rathindranath always needed a proper revaluation.
So, we find that Rabindranath Tagore is an interesting phenomenon in Santiniketan, he can virtually be explored from any angle; even from fairly subsequent angles judging the performance of his son as the top most administrator in Visva Bharati University and believe me, all the angles have some relevance in society till today; at least Rabindranath Tagore can still generate considerable amount money in form of publications, research grants, lectures on invitation, not to mention of various stage performances of music and dance dramas and the biggest money spinner of Santiniketan, the Visva Bharati University. Rabindranath is certainly the most precious money-spinning intellectual who was manufactured in the clay of undivided Bengal if viewed from purely financial perspectives.
Yet, we hardly know the intricate components by which Tagore was assembled into such a refined finished product. He seems to be an extremely complicated mesh of super highway of consciousness; some tiny electronic bits of which are fairly good for us to chew along our whole life-time. And above all Tagore generates money, just a little bit of innovation with a broken jazz piece or for that matter even with toads’ croaks; and people will certainly gulp it with ecstatic glee! No problem. We, at Muktodhara site are also trekking along the same line but without any payment considerations, like a host of others too! Our clan says we love Tagore; but really do not know what that means!
Visva Bharati had taken up an ambitious project to publish Tagore chronologically. The program was launched few years back, and a phase of 10 years from 1280 to 1290 Bangabda (1873-1883AD) was compiled and published in four volumes. A lot of work is still to be done, and we do not know at what pace the project is moving. In these volumes along with varied writings we will also be able to find the songs he had written in this phase. Many writings were assembled from rare magazines like ‘Gyanankur’, ‘Pratibimba’ etc. These volumes will effectively throw light on evolution of Rabindranath Tagore as a writer and shed light on the mental phases he traversed in his long pursuit for the ultimate freedom. But the whole compilation will take a long time; at this pace it may take another 15-20 years or even more to complete. So, just compilation and re-arranging Rabindranath Tagore can still be a lifetime job! This is certainly another fairly well established perspective to look at Rabindranath Tagore; after this compilation is completed a plethora of research works will most probably flood in analyzing the mental phases of Rabindranath Tagore perhaps in yearly, monthly or even on the daily basis!
In the meanwhile in this heavy rain of Shravana plasters from Chaitya will peel off; and laymen like me will ask an equally obscure question ‘Where that great man, Rabindranath Tagore can be found out among all these special finds?’
The themes of new programs chalked out on Rabindranath Tagore can be pretty intriguing too. Rabindranath left Santiniketan for the last time on 25July 1941. This phase from 25 July to 8 August at Jorasanko, Kolkata is well documented by Pratima Devi, Rani Chanda & Nirmal Kumari Mahalanobish. At Lipika auditorium on 24 July 2011, at the height of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Muniadi (Ms Alpona Roy) presented a narrative interspersed adequately by songs on the last few days of Rabindranath Tagore based on the memoirs of the ladies who personally attended the poet in his last days. The program managed to touch everyone with a sensitive handling of the topic; but never the less it was another new perspective to present Rabindranath Tagore on stage and it was just amazing how many newer perspectives could be eked out. In ‘Tumi Nobo Nobo Rupe Eso Prane’ – Tagore perhaps carried out the most significant self-assessment!
I know, I am sounding a bit cynical by now; but in reality I am in a confused state. Another program were held in Lipika, reciting Tagore songs, which Vivekananda liked.
I have my apprehensions too, firstly, I sincerely hope the euphoria on Rabindranath survives the long after his 150th Birth Anniversary, which may peter out in coming years. Though Smt Tapati Mukherjee, Director of Rabindra Bhavana is sincerely trying to remain focused on Rabindranath Tagore and we hope the effort will continue. The second apprehension is perhaps more real, we really do not know where the plethora of perspectives will lead us.
Sometimes I feel too much of compartmentalized data makes the essence of the subject irrelevant; the data collection becomes the primary function and the relevance becomes secondary in significance. Rabindranath Tagore is certain to get incomprehensively entangled in his own brilliance. At this point of time there seems to be little chance of a holistic revival of concept Rabindranath, which is a bad omen for Santiniketan & Sriniketan. Fragmentation within the complex functioning of Visva Bharati University is a real phenomenon now, as it is real within our society and also within our own individual psyche.
In the meanwhile a digital compilation of ‘Rabindra Rachanabali’ can be accessed in the web site ‘www.rabindra-rachanabali.nltr.org’. The researchers & faculty members of IIT, Kharagpur, compiled the program along with the faculty member and researchers of Bengal Engineering and Technological University(BESU) of Shibpur. The creators of this program acknowledge beforehand that some mistakes might have crept in such a large-scale project involving almost all of Tagore’s literary ventures including the songs with notations; and there is a suggestion box in the site for intended corrections to be made. For not so net saavy people there is a separate section providing guidance to navigate the site comfortably. This venture however was completed in time in August year before last, on the 150th Birth Anniversary year of Tagore.
This site has now been linked with the official site of West Bengal Government ‘Bangla’r Mukh’ as per the direction of Ms Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal. Soon the entire works of Vidyasagar and Bankim Chandra will also be available in digitized form in this site. But the zeal of present chief minister of West Bengal Ms Mamata Banerjee assumes pretty funny proportions as well when Rabindra Sangeet gets played in traffic signals, Oops, never really tried to imagine that perspective; Rabindra Sangeet might sound interesting with a few honks of vehicles as background music! Well not a bad idea at all; we may try to explore Rabindranath as a street composer. Perhaps with ‘Chalo Jai, Chalo Jai, Chalo Jai’-Let us move, Let us move, Let us move to search for Truth with fearless strides- sung along with sort of a band party with plenty of car honks can be an interesting innovation of Tagore-the street performer! I was also amazed by ‘Ooh La La – Pagla Hao-ar Badol Dine’ along with dancing fountains near Victoria Memorial, Kolkata.
“I am a traveler straying from my path and I have come to thee
O Chameli of the twilight hour, Mallika the morning flower,
Do you recognize me?”
“We know you, yes we know you, youthful traveler,
in the woods does float the garb you wear in many splendid colours,
the excitement of a Phagun day-break
a Chaitra night so full of blues
we have cast ourselves upon this path with you
this homeless one of crazy fame
who is it that calls my name
like the plaintive honey-bees, when strumming his Veena he wanders alone
searching ‘midst the trees?
It is I who have called out to thee,
O pensive one just see,
I’m the blossom in the mango leaves,
before my gaze did fall on you
my eyes were touched by your dreams so true
and my being was filled by pain
even before knowing you
I did fall in love with thee.”
“When the game is done, gone is the sun,
in the wake of the burning dust I’ll depart
in the chariot car of fallen flowers—
who will then go with me?”
“I, Madhabi will go with thee.”
“When musical notes ring farewell,
and dried leaves fly from where they dwell,
who then will stay with me?”
“By your side I’ll remain sharing your pain,
O pensive one do see,
I am the emerging Karabi.
In springtime Raga Lalit’s cries,
the pain of seperation hides its sighs,
in these days of Phagun O
I have smiled the tear-filled smiles just for thee’
ami pothbola ek pathik esechi…
I chanced upon this translation of ‘Ami pothbhola ek pothik esechi’ by Ajanta Dutta in a magazine ‘Hindol’ published by a Rabindranath loving society ‘Ahetuk Sabha’ of Delhi. The profound respect to Rabindranath etched with love in every line of the translation touched me deep. It is sheer bliss how just an iota of Rabindranath can just lit ourselves up-much away from our world of daily cognizance into a world of perspectives where we can virtually talk with even the buds of flowers. The clear blue sky then flows right throw our mind, swiftly passing grains of soft morning light then affectionately caress our souls and we can happily proclaim that well we have atleast lived this moment in full!
This is where all perspectives smear out into a hazy pain- I refer back again,
“By your side I’ll remain sharing your pain,
O pensive one do see,
I am the emerging Karabi.”
We all have loved Rabindranath, perhaps now it is time we learn to share his pains as well.