Rabindranath’s 77th death anniversary today
Rabindranath Tagore was born on the 25th of Baishakh in 1268 of Bangla calendar and passed away on Srabon 22. Today marks his 77th death anniversary. As a tribute to him and in acknowledgement of his formidable presence in Bengali cultural life, we reproduce below excerpts from his autobiographical work, My Life in My Words, for our readers. Edited and with an introduction by Uma Das Gupta, the book was first published by Penguin India in 2006.
I still remember the first magic touch of literature which I experienced when I was a child and was made to struggle across my lesson in a first primer strewn with isolated words smothered under the burden of spelling. The morning hour appeared to me like a once illumined page grown dusty and faded, discoloured into irrelevant marks, smudges and gaps, wearisome in its moth-eaten meaninglessness. Suddenly I came to a sentence of combined words which may be translated thus:
It rains, the leaves tremble.
At once I came to a world in which I recovered my full meaning. If it were a sentence that informed me of a mere fact, it would fail to rouse up my mind from its boredom. The world of facts pleasant or unpleasant has its restricted range, but freedom is given to us by the world of reality, the reality which is truth made living, which has to be the same assurance of its entity as I myself have to my own self.
Shortly after my birth, my father took to constantly traveling about. So it is no exaggeration to say that in my early childhood I hardly knew him. He would now and then come back home all of a sudden, and with him came foreign servants with whom I felt extremely eager to make friends . . .
Anyhow, when my father came, we would be content with wandering round about his entourage and in the company of his servants. We did not reach his immediate presence . . .
When my father was at home, his room was on the second floor. How often I watched him from a distance, from my hiding place at the head of the staircase. The sun had not yet risen, and he sat on the roof, silent as an image of stone, his hands folded on his lap.
When my mother died I was quite a child. She had been ailing for quite a long time, and we did not even know when her malady had taken a fatal turn. She used all along to sleep on a separate bed in the same room with us. Then, in the course of her illness, she was taken for a boat trip on the river, and on her return a room on the third storey of the inner apartments was set apart for her.
On the night she died, we were fast asleep in our room downstairs. At what hour I cannot tell, our old nurse came running in weeping and crying: 'Oh my little ones, you have lost your all!' My sister-in-law rebuked her and led her away, to save us the sudden shock at dead of night. Half awakened by her words, I felt my heart sink within me, but could not make out what had happened. When in the morning we were told of her death, I could not realize all that it meant for me.
As we came out into the verandah we saw my mother laid on a bedstead in the courtyard. There was nothing in her appearance which showed death to be terrible. The aspect which death wore in that morning light was as lovely as a calm and peaceful sleep, and the gulf between life and its absence was not brought home to us.
My sister-in-law was a great lover of literature. She did not read simply to kill time, but the Bengali books she read filled her whole mind. I was a partner in her literary enterprises. She was a devoted admirer of The Dream Journey. So was I, the more particularly as, having been brought up in the atmosphere of its creation, its beauties had become intertwined with every fibre of my heart ...
At this time, Biharilal Chakravarti's series of songs called 'Sarada Mangal' were coming out in the Aryadarshan. My sister-in-law was greatly taken with the sweetness of these lyrics. Most of them she knew by heart. She used often to invite the poet to our house, and had embroidered for him a cushion-seat with her own hands. This gave me the opportunity of making friends with him. He came to have a great affection for me, and I took to dropping in at his house at all times of the day, morning, noon or evening. His heart was as large as his body, and a halo of fancy used to surround him like a poetic astral body, which seemed to be his truer image. He was always full of true artistic joy, and whenever I have been to him I have breathed in my share of it.
Before coming to England, I had imagined like a fool that this small island would be filled with Gladstone's oratory, Max Mueller's explications of the Vedas, Tyndall's scientific theories, Carlyle's deep thoughts and Bain's philosophy. I suppose I was lucky to be disappointed. Just like anywhere else women here are preoccupied with fashions, men with their jobs, and politics is a great source of excitement. -Culture Desk