On 25 Baishakh 1268 or 7 August 1861 Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European Nobel laureate in literature was born and on 22 Shrabon 1348 or 7 August 1941 he passed away, leaving behind his legacy of an enormously enriched Bengali language, literature and culture. Traditionally, on these days we pay our earnest tribute to Tagore. But there is hardly any need to specially remember him on these occasions as he has never become a writer of the past due to his continued presence in our life and living, in our happiness and sorrow, in our love and worship and above all in our worldly pursuits and their divine sublimation.
He has inspired us to discern life with thinking, feeling, loving, realizing and thereby living in full. Indeed, without his befitting melody for enriching every occasion we do not pass even a single day. No other writer, as Buddhadev Basu rightly held has ever exercised so much influence over the life and living of his readers and the race.
If anybody tends to think that this is sheer Bengali sentiment he must read the spontaneous overwhelming reactions on his 'Song Offerings' by at least three eminent international poets of three different countries namely, Irish poet W.B.Yeats, American poet Ezra Pound and French poet Andre Gide. All of them could read Tagore only in translation, devoid of the linguistic nuances, subtlety of rhythm and metrical inventions, untranslatable delicacy, cadence and poetic communication available in the original Bengali. We are blessed enough to share the same.
Usually poets living longer undergo poetic death much before their expiry. But Tagore was a striking exception. Like his magnificent physical appearance his cultural creations became brighter and brighter with age. Many of his outstanding writings were written after the 'Gitanjali' phase of prayer and pursuit. Just a few days before his passing away he composed his last poem with wonderful realization, "He who can digest the delusion of life with indifferent ease acquires the right to attain permanent peace from His Providence."
During his last days when he was critically ill celebrated writer Buddhadev Basu came to see him. In spite of prohibition he sat upright and spoke with perfect pronunciation and articulation completing every sentence. Surprised Basu was compelled to feel that he had come to visit the emperor of Bengali language who had his unfailing command over the same despite age and ailment.
In spite of his intense love for life he was never averse to death. Interestingly, his own collection of selected poems Sanchayita starts with a song titled Maran or death. Even during his teenage literary exercises in 'Bhanusingher Padavali' intended to surprise his dear sister- in- law Kadambari Devi he invoked death, "O death! You are just like my beloved Shyam. You are my constant companion, my permanent solace and sweet refuge." Later on he heralded victory to mysterious, unknown death with amazing poetic interest and curiosity, "Even so, in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to me. And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well." Hence he was always ready to start for death with empty hands and an expectant heart.
Driven by divine inspiration Tagore did not merely produce work of art but a new art of living with creative impulses into a social context with which we, his readers get surcharged. Looking at the ailment of his times and crisis of civilization he became its healer, a discerner and an interpreter with the simplest magic of heart and feeling as the poets know.
In the heart of hearts Tagore had unwavering conviction that we are essentially spiritual creatures undergoing human experiences to partake the colourful feast of sight, symphony and harmony of creation. Impediments in the way to divinization of human experiences are crushed under divine design by the thunderbolt of suffering and washed away with the tears of sorrow gushed forth from the depth of profound melancholy. This very realization has made him ever positive amid weal and woe which makes one feel that to read a line of Tagore is to get inspiration for facing the troubles of the world. And this had attracted the Europeans most to his poetry synonymous with mystic religion of love and humanity.
This cannot be slighted as mere romantic imagination distanced from reality. In personal life Tagore had to bear unbearable incidents of death of his near and dear ones in succession. He lost his mother at a very tender age. Suicide of his dear sister- in- law vehemently shook him during younger days which he could never forget. His wife met with untimely death when he was just forty one. Two sons and two daughters died young creating profound sorrow in his extremely sensible mind.
But as the master of sublimation he transcended himself much above personal sorrow. Just after a few days of passing away of his beloved youngest son Shamindranath at the age of eleven he wrote "Bipula taranga re". But significantly the song is not at all about any loss, on the contrary it talks about the mystery of eternal joy of the unending cycle of life and the melody in bhimpalshri raga is befittingly awe-inspiring.
Tagore felt, "Wherever I soar in the sky of Thy infinitude I find no separation, no sorrow, no death at all as everything gets perfect refuge at Thy all fulfilling feet." The poet wrote that he was brought up in an atmosphere of aspiration for the expansion of human spirit and his romantic imagination found freedom in death from the bondage of life which never appeared to him as death in conventional sense, "The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away, in the very next moment to find in the left one its consolation."
For him life was only a playful journey and not a destination and death no dead end. Hence he could sing, "When I go from hence let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable.....In this playhouse of infinite forms I have had my play and here have I caught sight of him that is formless." About passing away of his mortal self he sings, "When my footprints will not fall on this earth anymore I will still be present here as eternal self in the endless continuity of creation forever and forever." For this poetic wayfarer there can be no separation, no death, but only mystic sublimation in infinite expansion in continued creation - in immortality.
The writer is a columnist
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