TAGORE STUDIES: FIXING OF TIME FRAME
TAGORE STUDIES: FIXING OF TIME FRAME
THE PREFACE: ‘Rabindra-Studies’ is a vast subject pursued by academics/ Rabindra-scholars. In Santiniketan, in an open platform, various aspects of Rabindranath Tagore are probed for about a week in ‘Rabindra- Saptaho’. Rabindra Bhavana at Santiniketan has now started discussing Tagore in round the year regularity mostly in bi-weekly basis in open forum, but with rather limited participation even within Visva Bharati University. Apart from these, sporadic articles are published in newspapers, several front line and little magazines mostly around Tagore’s birth and death anniversary. There is no wide-open platform, where Rabindranath Tagore is discussed and probed continuously. Keeping this in mind, the think tank of our site (not exactly an wide open forum, but with fairly wide reach geographically) has decided to open discussions on several aspects of Rabindranath Tagore, mostly in the form of personal realization and interpretation. Perhaps it is necessary now to free Rabindranath from purely scholastic pursuits and position him among the general people like us according to our own perceptions. Our site will only be too happy to record and save all valuable inputs from several sensitive minds, who still feel Rabindranath Tagore to be very much alive within their psyche.
The importance of the message carried earnestly by Rabindranath is easily conceivable. But that he was a poet-musician, a philosopher with a strong spiritual base, an educationist, a social-reformer, a painter, a very relevant thinker in the global perspective, a humanist (a popular phrase in the vocabulary of present times) and more over a pioneer in most of the arenas he ventured, makes Rabindranath Tagore a vast and complex phenomenon. These also make him vastly intriguing and interesting a subject to dwell on with almost infinite possibilities of exploration. The people related to Santiniketan in one way or other should definitely play a role to interpret Tagore, as it is only Santiniketan and Sriniketan, where the whole gamut of the phenomenon ‘Rabindranath Tagore’, with all its diverse manifestations, are still present. For people related to Santiniketan it becomes relatively easier to comprehend Tagore on a wider canvass and hence probing/deliberating/positioning Tagore becomes a responsibility or homage for each of us who are related to Santiniketan. Ofcourse this presumes that we all have inherited something from the great personality, which I think few will disagree.
What we can achieve by probing Rabindranath Tagore and why should we tread on such a serious and difficult terrain? One ready answer from me would be ‘because Rabindranath Tagore seriously/intelligently/aesthetically challenges our human intellect’ and any challenge to intellect is always interesting and deserving a cause for probe. In fact the basic characteristic of human race is its unfailing desire to be absorbed in matters which challenges the human intellect-this can actually be the very definition of human race itself! Naturally the challenges posed to human intellect by Rabindranath Tagore are interesting topic to give our thought to. This only can be reason enough to probe Tagore; furthermore the realizations gleaned from such exercise can always be powerful enough to propel human souls on tremendous voyages in Tagorean space-to be more specific into the space of human cognizance.
FIXING OF TIME FRAME TO INTERPRET RABINDRANATH TAGORE:
I never thought ‘Fixing of Time Frame to Interpret Rabindranath Tagore’ could at all be an interesting and highly relevant subject to generate a steaming hot debate between friends in Kalor Dokan. In reality the topic turned out to be a huge intellectual exercise, over uncountable cups of tea, for about 90 minutes non-stop-and the end result was that ‘interpretation of any phenomenon’ becomes highly dependant on the time frame of observation. For example Rabindranath Tagore has a very real chance of being interpreted differently from say in 1913AD from 2013AD.
The realists will be steadfast on their attitude that every personality, in every frame of time, is actually a product of diverse social and intellectual forces present in his living time. According to him interpreting Rabindranath in a time frame of 2013AD(say) is a flawed or at best a highly inconsistent approach. History and social structure then becomes the most prominent factors to identify and locate a personality. The basics of this line of thought are fundamentally sound, as is always apparent to us when we go through our history books. ‘Social Reform’ for example is a highly time frame dependant parameter; as social reform in India in 1913AD was definitely much different from social reform in India in 2013AD for all practical purposes, though the basic essences remains the same. Consequently social reform in India in 3013AD will naturally be a highly different concept with the basic essences remaining the same.
But time frames can be rather vague a concept to define poets and musicians. A classic example of this can be the Hindustani classical music, or any other form of classical music, where fixing a historical time frame to interpret those creations can be quite bizarre a concept. Though scholars in these matters would obviously find trends influenced by time; but at the same time it is always possible for a performer in classical music to traverse beyond and within all sorts of historical time frames to express.
In case of ‘spirituality’ fixing of time frames might just become impossible a task. Indian spirituality (I wont really dare to opine about ‘spirituality’ of other shores) basically remains a personal experience; and the matters dealt elegantly in Indian spirituality takes into account the whole gamut of time itself ‘Sristi, Sthiti and Proloy’. A somewhat similar comparison can easily be found in popularly established (though not conclusively defined) concept of ‘Big Bang’ of Universe among the scientific community. The matter is also highlighted in the fact that Rabindranath himself was very much influenced by the ‘Upanishads’- a philosophical concept generated almost two millenniums before Tagore. If the concepts generated millenniums ago can create a resonance in Rabindranath Tagore belonging to a vastly different social context; then it becomes fairly apparent that time frames and social conflicts in that particular time frame cannot always be the true parameter to analyze a personality like Tagore. This is particularly an area where viewpoints have a scope to differ widely.
The actual problem is much deeper than a debate between two animated souls over the actual stature of Rabindranath. The real problem is that different time frames would tend to define Rabindranath Tagore, or any other phenomenon, differently. History will always stand a chance of being re-written. This itself can be an intriguing subject of deliberation as to what time frame one sets to analyze Tagore. From a slightly different but related perspective it also become necessary to evaluate a phenomenon continuously to note the change of perception over time. My personal observation in this matter is ‘evaluating Tagore in changing/moving time frames’ is not much explored a concept right now. I may be wrong, or inadequately informed, but applying the moving time frame concept appears to me a logical consequence and a valid angle to probe. This approach should logically help us to understand the movement of thought or philosophy over larger span of time. However, this cannot undermine the real and historical importance to perceive Rabindranath Tagore in context of his own living time, as it is obvious that Rabindranath was very much a phenomenon generated by intricate churning of social and political factor of his times.
The approach is different from the popular view of ’relevance of an idea in current times’. When we talk of relevance of Tagore in modern times, we actually select parts of his thought, which seems to be a relevant issue in present times; but we never really try to restructure his thoughts itself as it appears to us now or any other time frame. The basic point stressed here is the powerful implication of the ‘Time Frame’ to any analysis of this nature. So, positioning Rabindranath Tagore in our mind becomes an intriguing job as we have to first determine the set in which our mind is attuned. The tuning of our minds in different time frames would naturally shift our perceptions about Tagore. Previously the parameters set by people of earlier-generations to interpret Rabindranath were taken to be the final say in this matter, virtually shutting down all opportunities to the younger generations to air their views on Tagore. The historical perceptions till date remains the most powerful argument to evaluate Tagore, but perhaps it is time to unshackle Tagore from clutches of history too. I know this would seem an absurd proposition to many others, but in reality the animated discussion with friends was very revealing to all of us, and we are already excited and awed over the huge possibilities of further exploration. Suddenly we realized that Rabindranath Tagore is actually a minefield of precious gems, ready to be explored and cherished.
On behalf of this website Muktodhara, we shall urge everyone, with humility from us, to think and express in his/her own way about various aspects of Rabindranath Tagore; and we shall remain ever grateful to them by publishing those thoughts in our site. In the long run these can be compiled in an e-book to record our own perceptions, perhaps for the benefit of future generations-and relevantly this will always remain a common platform for everyone interested to tread in with grace. It is also time to record the common perceptions on Rabindranath rather than only the scholarly ones as we strongly believe that Rabindra-Studies in essence is never confined to scholars only. Rabindranath ultimately belongs to each one of us.