As I sat on my desk to write about Tagore, the words were getting jumbled up in my mind and my pen was failing for words to sum up the enigma of Robi Thakur. I realized it is never easy to articulate about someone who is seamlessly present everyday in my life, from the break of dawn to the settling of dusk, his words and songs are played on a loop like a divine morning prayer.
There is not a single day when I don’t listen to a Tagore song to just feel secure in my emotions or be in touch with the familiarity of my roots that has over time started this strange grip over my conciousness like the benign Banyan Tree, rooted and giving shade to my rain, to my storm and the oft unannounced gusts of wind.
In my joy, in my loneliness remains Robi, my friend. His words soothe and goad me to not give up.
As the years have added and subtracted me, I didn’t realise when it rains why do I feel melancholy. As I sat to articulate, I realised I find peace and security in that fleeting moment of an subconscious voice echoing inside me, telling me that I have all along known how you feel just now.
I am on auto pilot and I go ahead and play “ Mono mor mehger o songeet”, a Tagore song, that remains a special one from my childhood.
It was the torrential rains in Shillong when visibility was almost negligible and from our window of hope, sat my Ma looking ahead with her long hair untied and feeling the raindrops on her young visage. I, then a young girl, sang along with her letting the verses get embedded in my soul, to never leave ever again. I promise you, I didn’t know the impact it was going to have back then.
Robi Thakur has written over thousands of stories, poems, essays and his contribution to Indian literature is incomparable. His book of poetry “Geetanjali” was a gift that my Baba gave to my Ma for their 7th wedding anniversary. The book rack in their home has those sepia tainted sheets of his poems and a handwritten note of love from Baba to Ma.
He wrote to her:
Dated 1 December 1978
Tagore’s university in Shantiniketan in West Bengal is a trip down memory lane as you meander from one tree lined street to another, you pass by Ramkinker Baij’s statues as you soak in the pulse of the bohemian artists all around you. The university has a village fair every Saturday where the artists sell their art and the Baul musicians play on their iktara, their songs of renunciation and universal brotherhood that Tagore propagated.
Walking around that space you find students pursuing what Robi Thakur taught with his unique method of teaching.
Bengalis irrespective of religion and division remain undivided in a common culture and affinity towards the language and the written verse. Every Bengali at some point in their lives have been inspired by Tagore’s writings.
The national anthem of India and Bangladesh was written by none other than Tagore himself.
As you walk into his opulent home in Kolkata, you gently touch the large pillars and look out from the French windows that give you a glimpse of the life of Robi in Jorasankho.
And when you stand behind the vieled windows and the long winding steps leading to his room and the man in that home also called Thakurbari, you are in awe of the contrast between this Zamindari home and the empathy showed towards the less fortunate in his art and in his life.
Words fail me to even attempt a writing for the man Tagore was.
There is no emotion that he has not articulated as intensely as any writer ever can. His love poetry makes you wonder what kind of a man he was with the women who came into his life. The intensity of love, joy, pain, separation, death, birth, and nature, of every contrast and every theme, is felt in each word that is poured out of Tagore’s heart in his writings.
To be overwhelmed in a relationship you need to fully feel enveloped in the untouched spaces that leaves you with a deep anguish, a fear of its ending and a deep gratitude for its presence. With Tagore’s writings you feel that sense of being completely, hopelessly yearning for more of the man and his words. Such is the power of his words.
He is Goddess Saraswati’s special child, born into a wealthy family and home tutored, he began writing very early. His muse was his sister in law Kadambari and that still remains an unspoken story behind the four walls of Thakurbari.
Robi went on to renounce his knighthood after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This was an extremely brave gesture at the time, and he was one of perhaps only four people to have done so in modern history. He was a patriot, an artist, a visionary and a progressive thinker.
He is considered among the most prolific writers in the world.
There can not be another Tagore that Bengal can have or a Bengali would ever tire of reading and listening to. To be a Bengali is knowing Robindro Songeet as a continuation in life from childhood to old age.
During your challenging, difficult times you turn to his songs to find your little oasis of hope in the desert of rejection, loss or pain.
Tagore was a visionary with his work, and his influence is found even today in modern literature, cinema, theatre and in the world of arts.
Tagore remains immortal.