Tag Archives: India

Stories from Tagore

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My To Read all Nobel Prize in Literature Project brought me to India at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861-August 7, 1941) was a Bengali poet from India. Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize, based on a small amount of his translated works, and his 1912 work of poems named Gitanjali: Song Offerings.

Tagore was an humanist, a teacher and this is the reason I chose to read ” Stories from Tagore”.download
The stories resonate with my country’s colonial past, when studying in a foreign language was imposed in schools. Tagore published these stories to help children get accustomed to a language foreign to their ears and eyes. At the end of each story, he makes space to explains “words to be studied” in plain language. He takes time to explain it in his Preface, addressing teachers’ difficulties in instructing Indian children out of books that are intended for use in English schools.

These are sad stories. If you a looking for a more light reading, these might not  be it. They are stories meant to bring to light human struggles.

If your heart is justice centered you’ll find yourself dealing with silent or more vocal revolt. I must say that development realities do not appear to have changed much in India over the last century or so,  at least from my recent development studies perspective. Inequalities, caste system, poverty, servitude, forced marriages, injustices, women and girls discrimination, lack of opportunities and affected livelihoods….. You’ ll also find the values of friendship, family, devotion and resilience emerge under most opposing circumstances.

The value of family is central in many of these stories. It overturns even the collective pressure in a patriarchal society, as in “The Castaway” : “Sharat and his mother turned a deaf ear to them, thinking that the little life of their darling was of greater importance than the united wisdom of a village”.

“Beauty is a truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror” is my favourite quote from Tagore’s wisdom.

Iconic

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I’m not into icons and idols. Yet there are human beings and human deeds that make me want to jump higher, fight harder and live to the fullest.

India (or part of it) is appalled by Sherlyn Chopra – the first Indian to model nude for Playboy magazine. But this is not what drew my attention. It was her words „if total freedom comes with the perceived notion of being a whore, then so be it”.

This is how probably many perceived the Hindu goddess depicted in the nude in one of his paintings by Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s most iconic and prolific artist.

I find him truly iconic as in:

–        Hard working: mastered Arabic calligraphy as a small boy and painted right up until two weeks before his death in London at the age of 95.

–        Convention defying: a nude Hindu goddess for one thing.

–        Bitterness-free: In spite of being dejected by his co-nationals he never showed any resentment towards his homeland. “What has happened with me is a small thing. We remain a free country,” he told an interviewer in 2010.

–        World-beautifying: Left an enduring legacy, while embracing all forms of beauty and colour around him and keeping at heart his essence – India’s streets and culture. Whereever he painted in New York, Paris or Qatar, he remained an Indian artist  (inspired by Sudha G Tilak is a Delhi-based writer on art and culture, http://www.bbc.co.uk)

Whether or not he and his work were regarded as a powerful symbol of India or the World was none of his concern. He just lived his life to the brim.