Strains from Rabindranath Tagore echo in the virtual world even today, nurtured to immortality by a large, thriving heterogeneous online community, comprising dozens of groups and fora, actively exchanging notes and discussing Tagore — appropriate for a man who hated borders and divisions and saw the whole world as one large, tolerant unit that encouraged coexistence of diverse cultures and beliefs.
As we celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, it is heartening that many youngsters of the MTV-Internet-iPod generation connect just as comfortably with the Nobel Laureate’s writings and admit to being inspired and impressed by his body of work.
(March alone); "where the mind is without fear and the
national anthem figure at the top – with even youngsters not much
given to reading as well as non-Bengalis expressing familiarity at least
Ever since her grandfather in his booming voice first sang a few lines to her, Shubhangini, only two at that time, fell in love with the song. "It took me years to find the words – surprisingly, not one of my friends or my parents’ friends that I spoke to could give me the lyrics in full. Thanks to technology, the Internet came to my rescue — a fitting tribute to someone who was among the first to see technology and globalisation taking over in a big way." Today, Shubhangini, a final year student of computer engineering, reads Tagore’s short stories online.
"I am immensely impressed by his foresight in propagating a borderless kind of patriotism, of urging us to blend the technology from the West and values from the East for a complete education that would prepare us for a globalised society, where geographical borders vanish and religious, economic and social divisions must disappear. How much in keeping with ‘today’ this stand is."
Ever since her aunt sang purono shei diner kotha, gaaner opare, chander hashir bandh bhengeche, sociology student Satakshi Ghosh has been hooked on to Tagore. "While I absolutely love his songs, his poetry and prose, too, are so visual — you can almost see the world in the colours his eyes saw." And the emotions he evokes are so powerful, like in:
Bahu din dhore, bahu krosh durey
Bahu byay kori, bahu desh ghurey
Dekhitey giyechi parbat mala, dekhite giyechi sindhu
Dekha hoy nai chokhhu melliya, ghor ho'te shudhu du pa feliya
Ekti dhhaner shish-er opor ekta shishir bindu
(When I stand before thee at the day's end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.)
Tagore has influenced Solanki Halder, too, at every step of her growing up. "The first songs I ever learnt were Tagore’s Alo amar alo ogo and Amra sobai raja.
I found my Bengali classes boring till I came across Tagore’s collection titled Katha o' Kahini. And then there was no stopping me. " Bipod e more rokkha koro e nohe mor prarthona, Bipode jeno korite pari joy (My prayer is not that you save me from danger but that I can have the courage to win in the face of danger) has never failed to inspire me."
Suhasini, a Six Sigma Black belt and a quality assurance manager with a multinational, attributes her love of reading to a collection of Tagore’s short stories her dad introduced her to on a long train journey. "We read the stories many times over — on that journey and at bedtime for years. Even today, I cannot travel without a book to read. Or meet my dad without carrying a book for him. Chhoto Pakhi Chandana remains an evergreen sing-along song — a favourite with kids and grown-ups alike," points out Suhasini, who first heard the song when her school made her dance to it on stage over 20 years ago.
Shubhojit, whose father was a Bengali teacher in a missionary school, started his day reciting one of the many quotes of the Gurudev he had collected in a notebook. Every time he wanted a new toy, storybook or permission to watch a movie, he had to recite a Tagore poem, sing a Tagore song or read aloud his short story. "I grew up hating the revered writer – for what all other children got just for the asking, I had to slave for by reciting Tagore. But everything changed when my dad died suddenly. The quote I had read him out that morning was: ‘Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come’."
Two hours later, my father died of a massive heart attack. Since then, I refer to his collection of quotes and every time, I face some problem, I draw inspiration from them."
Sudipta Sarkar, a young schoolteacher, encourages her children to read Tagore. "As a Bengali, I am partial to Tagore. But that apart, my students, who are just a few years younger to me, are introduced to a wide world of broad thinking, global views, humane values, not to mention the sheer beauty of words, even in translation."
As avid readers, few Bengalis can be completely divorced from Tagore, says Sulagno Biswas, a student of electrical engineering. "No inter-school/college debate is ever complete without a few of Tagore quotes, since his prolific writings provide powerful quotes on all subjects. My own favourite line is – Facts are many, truth is one."
Shubhangini adds: "Over a 100 years ago, the great thinker had pointed out that our indiscriminate abuse of natural resources would invite Mother Nature to hit back. When the tsunami hit the southern coast a few years back, I was reminded of his words from a letter written in 1885:
The unsheltered sea heaves and heaves and blanches into foam. It sets me thinking of some tied-up monster straining at its bonds, in front of whose gaping jaws we build our homes on the shore and watch it lashing its tail. What immense strength, with waves swelling like the muscles of a giant!
From the beginning of creation there has been this feud between land and water: the dry earth slowly and silently adding to its domain and spreading a broader and broader lap for its children; the ocean receding step by step, heaving and sobbing and beating its breast in despair. Remember the sea was once sole monarch, utterly free..."
"These words haunted me again when recently Japan faced earthquakes, tsunamis and nearly had an N-leak disaster."
As Shubhangini points out,
it is unlikely Tagore will ever be lost or dated. With over a 1000
online Tagore fan groups, and an apt quote for every occasion, he will
probably be the most accessed writer. "His friendly ghost continues
to haunt us via the Net!"