In the 80 years of his life (1861-1941), he wrote a record number of plays, essays on diverse subjects and over 2,500 songs, including our National Anthem. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. About the same time, he set up a university at Santiniketan to promote arts, music and literature. He was undoubtedly the most outstanding, non-political Indian of his time.
Tagoreís works have
been translated into English by many scholars, including himself. It is
generally agreed that the best translations of his poems, stories and
plays have been done by William Radice, professor of Bengali, at the
School of Oriental Studies in London.
His latest translation entitled The Jewel That Is Best: Collected Brief Poems, has been recently published by Penguin Books. This work of literature gives another dimension to Gurudevís multi-faceted genius. I quote a few samples: One entitled Speaking up for yourself reads:
A beautiful butterfly
moans to a bee;
Another two lines from The Same Path:
Letís shut the door
to block our sin;
Grow up, folks
businessmen, contractors and the bureaucracy;
A Sardarji, a Bengali and Oriya, three friends in Delhi, were celebrating Diwali over a bottle of whiskey. The Sardarji became slightly drunk after the fourth round. He started bragging about Punjabis: "You know", he said: "There are so many Punjabis who are internationally famous. Just take the case of Rai Bahadur Oberoi, the founder of a chain of classy hotels in India and all over the world. Oberoi is a Punjabi. Ha, ha, ha."
By the time the Bengali friend was tipsy. With a contemptuous look at the Sardarji, he said: "Everybody knows that there are many internationally famous Bengalis. I would take just one name, Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winner. Sen is a Bengali, you know. Ho, ho, ho."
The Oriya friend was sober and calm. He said in a low tone: "Look, I do admit that there is no Oriya at the moment who is internationally famous. But the English language had to insert the name of our lord in the form of his chariot as Juggernaut, which means in English, a very large, heavy motor vehicle. English language today is spoken internationally. So, we the Oriyas, are on the top. Jai Jagannath."
(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)