Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Catching up

Rabindranath Tagore would have been pleased, without a trace of jingoism, to learn about the Unesco’s choice of Bengali as the “sweetest language in the world”, if there’s any value at all to such an impossible judgment. The polymath whose 150th birth anniversary celebrations begin this year — he was born in 1861 — was a founding father of the modern, self-confident, post-colonial India. But Tagore, who didn’t live to see India independent, was first and foremost a poet. Tagore the thinker/ philosopher came second. It was his original genius that makes the intellectual-cultural history of modern Bengal as much the life story of Tagore and the myriad uses he has been put to, not least in the Tagore industry.

Tagore’s aesthetic-political legacy is in the fervent call upon sanity and human decency. His lifelong immersion in thinking about and raising India above indignity was routed through the breaching of every narrow domestic wall. That made him the arch internationalist he was, one who saw the uses of nationalism and saw beyond, to the need of rising above it. As India celebrates Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, when it’s turning many a corner that cannot be revisited, this is what we should remember: the magnitude and reach of the mind without fear. It’s not we who left Tagore behind; his poetry and prose, in thought and subject, appear to be still up ahead, where we are yet to reach.

Full report here Indian Express

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