TAGORE: A poet for the proletariats
"There is a common essence amidst the diverse literary subjects of Tagore's work. The sole purpose of this book is to show that Tagore was a humanist, who wrote for the common humans."
—Haider Akbar Khan Rono
The books opens on a humble note by the author proclaiming that "Tagore's work has been researched by many well-known critics and there remains no other field of Tagore's work which is left unexplored. My book will not demystify any of Tagore's literary subject but it will broadly discuss Tagore as a poet to the common humans regardless of national boundaries, caste, gender and religion."(Prologue, Manusher Kobi Rabindranth).
Manusher Kobi Rabindranath published by Bangla Academy this year has kept its words. The 254-page book, divided into four sections has broadly discussed Tagore's philosophies on humanism. It proclaims on how Tagore has been a social reformer through his literary works. Through his book Manusher Kobi Rabindranth, Haider Akbar Khan Rono has once again proved his literary excellence and first-hand researched knowledge on the Bengali Polymath Rabindranath Tagore. The first section of the book talks about Tagorean Literature (Rabindra Sahittya) and Tagorean Philosophy (Rabindramanosh). The second section simultaneously enlightens and is an approach to familiarize readers with Tagorean Philosophy. It is sometimes argued that Tagore mostly wrote spiritual songs and devotional poems. In this section, Rono has tried to connect Marxist perspective on Humanism and Literature with Tagorean Literature. The book has tried to establish its argument that Tagore was merely not another poet who was only infatuated with writing lyrical poems for his religion. The book has bravely attempted to reestablish the fact that Tagore was the first Bengali author to write about the common humans, their life and daily struggles. However, there has been other authors, who have equally contributed towards the Bengali Renaissance, for example Bankim Chandra Chattopadhay, but Tagore was the first author to focus and write about the common Bengalis, the villagers, the fishermen, the rural farmers and so on. Manusher Kobi Rabdindranath is filled with all the information a Bengali Literature lover would look for in a book. It is abundant with timelines, treasured facts and dates on Bengali Literature.
The fourth section of the book opens on a fact that short stories were first introduced in Bengali Literature by Rabindranath Tagore. "Short stories were manifested in Bengali Literature through Rabindranth. In his 30s, Tagore published his first short story in the Daily Hitavadi back in 1891." (Section 4, Chapter 16).
Rono has quoted Prathama Nath Bishi in Chapter 16, Page 182 about Tagore's inclusion of remarkable and unforgettable common day to day characters. Bishi quoted that: "This is the first time I have come across rustic, underprivileged, rural proletariats as characters within Bengali Literature. Previously, Michael Madhusudan Datta has highlighted famous and noble characters such as Birangana and Birpurush in his literary works who belong to the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The characters which Bankim Chandra Chattapadhay has written are either famous historical characters from the Indian Subcontinent or famous aristocrats and bourgeois who belong to the upper rank. Formerly, Bengali authors have only written about people who have been already placed on a higher strata in history. However, Rabindranath Tagore has created characters on the peasants, the common humans, whose names were previously never mentioned in the chapters of any book. They are nameless worldly characters."
Rono has exclaimed in his book that, while Tagore infused Romanticism and Mysticism in his work, he simultaneously wrote about the poor peasants, the rustic rural lives and about the class struggle of the proletariats. It can be mentioned here that when Tagore wrote about "Jibon Debata" in his poem "Chitra" he concurrently wrote 'Puratan Brittya' and 'Dui Bigha Jomi.'
'Dui Bigha Jomi' was later established as a symbol for Tagore's role as a social reformer, as an activist who wrote about class struggle. Despite belonging to an ancient aristocratic family, Tagore bravely supported every revolution by the proletariats through his literary creations.
In chapter 19, the last chapter of the book, Rono has discussed about Tagore's perspective on women and how Tagore has depicted women in his literary works. The author has quoted that: 'We can measure how progressive an author is, through reading about his perspective on women.' Tagore has widely wrote about the emancipation of women and has flaunted his feminist learnings in his works. He has compelled the readers to think about women, the gender-struggle. Virginia Woolf's character, Shakespeare's sister in her novel "A Room of One's Own' can be compared with Tagore's Uma in his short story ‘Khata’. Tagore has compared himself to Uma and has compelled the readers to believe that any female author possessing the same calibre and qualities as of Tagore would have been turned down due to the strict orthodox culture which has prevailed in the Indian Subcontinent. Through his works, 'Haimanti' and 'Khata' Tagore has highlighted the gender-struggle of both women belonging to aristocratic families and of the proletariat classes.
Lastly, Rono has quoted, "Even though Tagore's work can be classified into various literary subjects, there lies a common essence in all his works: Humanism. Tagore has stood with the common humans till his twilight years and has profoundly written about the class struggle of the mass and the proletariats. I shall feel my objective of writing this book has been achieved if the readers can perceive the humanist message of Tagore's works."