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"Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality." - Dalai Lama

Jan 13, '13

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda went to America to attend the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. His powerful speech at the Parliament brought him fame and acclaimed him as a great orator and the most ideal interpreter of India's wisdom. He instantly became very popular in America and worldwide.

Prior to his departure for America Swamiji went on a pilgrimage all over the country, studying the conditions of the people in India. Wherever he went, his magnetic personality attracted people. On 15 October 1892, he arrived at Belgaum and stayed at the residence of Sadashiv Balakrishna Bhate, an eminent lawyer of the city. Soon Mr. Bhate realised that the guest he had with him is not an ordinary sannyasi. He invited all scholars and learned people of the city to interact with Swamiji. On 18 Oct 1892 Mr Bhate took swamiji to meet his friend Haripada Mitra, who was a Sub Divisional Forest Officer. Haripada Mitra was an agnostic, who believes that all Sanyasis are cheat.

Haripada Mitra later wrote his reminiscences with Swamiji:-

Belgaum, Tuesday, October 18, 1892: It was about two hours past evening, when a stout young monk, with a cheerful countenance, came to my house with a lawyer friend of mine of the same locality. The friend introduced him with the words, "Here is a learned Bengali Sannyasin who has come to meet you." I turned back and found a serene figure with eyes flashing like lightning and a face clean shaven. His body was covered with an ochre robe, in his feet he had strapped sandals of the Maharashtrian type; and on his head was an ochre turban. The figure was so impressive that it is still vivid in my memory. It pleased me and attracted me. though I did not realize then why it was so. After a while, I saluted him and said. "Sir, do you smoke? I am a Kayastha, and I have but one hookah. If you have no objection to smoke from it. I can have some tobacco prepared for you." He replied, "I smoke whatever comes to hand — tobacco from a hookah or cigarette. And I have no objection to smoke from your hookah." I ordered for some tobacco.

My belief at that time was that all Sannyasins in ochre robes were cheats, and I naturally thought that this one, too, had come to me with some motive. Besides, the lawyer friend belonged to Maharashtra, while he was a Bengali. It was inconvenient for Bengalis to live with Maharashtrians: and that was why he had come to live with me. Despite all such thoughts passing through my mind, I invited him to stay with me and asked him whether his belongings should be brought to my house. He replied, "I am quite at home with the lawyer; and if I leave him just because I have found a Bengali, he will be hurt, for they all love and respect me. But I shall think about it and let you know later on." We did not have much talk that night. But the few words that he spoke convinced me that he was more learned and intelligent than myself. He could have earned a decent sum if he wanted, but he did not touch money. Although he had not the wherewithal to make him happy, he was, in fact, a thousand times happier than myself. It struck me that he had no want, just because he had no thought for any personal gain. When I learnt that he would not come to my house, I said, "If you have no objection to take tea with me, I shall be happy to have you here in the morning. He agreed and went back with the lawyer. At night I was thinking about him for a long time — I had never before met a man so free from wants, so happy and content, and having such a smiling face. I believed that a man without wealth might as well depart from this world, and that a Sannyasin truly free from wants is an impossibility; but that belief got a shaking today, which left it rather weak.

October 19, 1892: I had been waiting for Swamiji from six o'clock in the morning. It struck eight. So without waiting any longer. I left for Swamiji's place with a friend. There we found him seated in the midst of a respectable gathering of lawyers and other learned men, and carrying on conversation with them. He answered their questions without the slightest hesitation, sometimes in English and sometimes in Hindi or Sanskrit. There were also people like myself who accepted Huxley's philosophy as their Bible, and started arguing with Swamiji on that basis. But he silenced them all either through repartees or serious dissertation. As I sat there after saluting him, I was thinking. "Is he a man or a god?" So I could not remember all that I heard. I write down only the few words that come to my mind.

A very respectable lawyer asked. "The mantras we use in our morning and evening prayers are in Sanskrit, and we do not understand a bit of them. Is it of any use to us to go on uttering them?"

Swamiji replied, "They do have good results. Born in a Brahmin family as you are, you can easily learn the meaning of those few mantras. If you do not do so, who is to blame? Even if you do not understand the meaning, I hope, when you sit for prayer, you have the feeling that you are doing something virtuous and not sinful, if you have the belief that you are doing something meritorious, then that in itself is enough to yield good results."

Just then somebody said, "Talks on religious matters should not be carried on in a foreign language, since it is prohibited in such-and-such a purana." Swamiji replied, "It is good to talk of religious things, no matter what the language is." In support of this he quoted from the Vedas and added, "A judgment passed by a High Court cannot be set at naught by a lower court."*
Thus it went on till it struck nine, when those who had to attend office or court left, while others still sat there. Swamiji's eyes now fell on me, and he said, "My son, I had not the heart to disappoint so many people and go to your place, Please don't mind this." When I pressed him to come and stay with me, he replied at last, "I shall go if you can make my host agree to your proposal". So I persuaded the lawyer friend somehow and returned to my place with Swamiji. His belongings consisted only of a kamandalu (a water pot used by monks) and a book wrapped in a piece of ochre cloth. Swamiji was then studying French music. We had our tea at ten o'clock after reaching home. He understood my hesitation in expressing my own doubts, and so he himself gauged my intellectual make-up through a few words.

Some time earlier, somebody had published a poem in the Times asserting that it was extremely difficult to determine what is God, which religion is true, and such other abstruse questions. As that poem had much affinity to my religious ideas of those days. I preserved it carefully. I now produced it before him. He read it and remarked. "The man has become confused". Gradually I got over my hesitation. From the Christian missionaries I had not got any solution of the contradiction involved in holding that God is both just and merciful; and I feared that Swamiji, too, could throw no better light. When I put the question to him, he said, "Methinks you have read much of science. Do not two opposite forces, centripetal and centrifugal — act in each material substance? If such a contradiction can meet in matter, may not justice and mercy be reconciled in God? All I can say is that you have a poor idea of your God." I was silenced. Again, I believed that truth is absolute, and that all religions cannot be true at the same time. In answer to such questions he said, "All we know about things now or may know in future are but relative truths. It is impossible for our limited mind to grasp the absolute truth. Hence, though truth be absolute, it appears variously to diverse minds and intellects. All these facets or modes of truth belong to the same class as truth itself, they being based on the same absolute truth. This is like the different photographs of the same sun taken from various distances. Each of them seems to represent a different sun. The diverse relative truths have the same kind of relation with the absolute truth. Each religion is thus true. Just because it is a mode of presentation of the absolute religion."

When I said that faith is the basis of all religions, Swamiji smiled a little and said. "A man goes beyond all wants once he becomes a king; but the difficulty is how to become one. Can faith be infused from outside? Nobody can have real faith unless he has personal experience. "When in the course of talk I called him a sadhu (holy man), he said, "Are we really so? There are holy men whose very sight or touch wakes up spirituality in others."

Again I asked, "Why do the Sannyasins idle away their time in this way? Why do they depend on the charity of others? Why don't they undertake some work beneficial to society?" Swamiji said, "Now, look here. You are earning this money with such struggle, of which only a little portion you spend on yourself; and some of it you spend for others who, you think, are your own. But they neither acknowledge any gratefulness for what you do for them. nor are they satisfied with what they get. The balance you save like the mythological yaksha who never enjoys it. When you die, somebody else will enjoy it all; and perchance, he will abuse you for not having accumulated more. This is your condition. On the other hand, I do nothing. When I feel hungry, I let others know by gestures that I want food; and I eat whatever I get. Neither do I struggle nor do I save. Now, tell me who among us is the wiser — you or I?" I was astonished, for before this nobody dared to talk to me so boldly and frankly.

After lunch we had some rest. Then we went to the house of that lawyer friend, where we had more of such discussion. At nine o'clock at night we returned home. On the way I said, "Swamiji, you must have been greatly bored today by all this argumentation."
He replied, "My son, would you have offered me even a morsel of food, if I had kept mum. the out and out utilitarians that you all are? I go on chattering like this. People get amused, and so they crowd around me. But know it for certain that people who argue, or put questions like this before an assembly are not at all eager to know the truth. I also read their motives and answer them accordingly."

"Swamiji," I put in, "how do you get such ready and pointed answers for all the questions?"
"These questions are new to you," he said, "but these have been put to me and I had to answer them times without number."

The conversation continued during dinner. He told me of the many adventures he had during his travelling through the country under vow and not touching any money. As I listened, it struck me that he must have endured great hardship and trouble; and yet he related them with a smile, as though it was all a great fun! Sometimes he went without food; sometimes he ate so much of chillies that for lessening the burning sensation in the stomach he had to drink a cupful of tamarind water! At some places he was curtly turned away with the remark, "Sannyasins have no place here." Sometimes he was shadowed by government spies. Many other incidents he related in great glee, which were a great fun to him, but they made my blood curdle. As the night had advanced very far, I spread a bed for him and then retired for the night. But sleep I had none that night. I wondered how the deep-rooted doubts that had haunted me all these years took flight at the very sight of Swamiji. Now I had nothing more to ask. As days passed by, not only my family, but also our servants developed such love and respect for Swamiji, and they served him so meticulously, that he became rather embarrassed.

Haripada Mitra hosted Swamiji at his residence for 9 days from 19th October to 27th October 1892. On 27 October he boarded in a train and departed for Margaon. The bunglow is situated in side the Belgaum Fort. During his 9 days stay, every morning he used to visit Sri Kapileshwar temple near Shahpur, Belgaum.

Residence of Sadashiv Balakrishna Bhate, Belgaum.

Haripada Mitra’s Bungalow at Belgaum fort before and after renovation

During his stay at Belgaum Haripada Mitra urged him to take one photograph and took him to Welling Studio at Camp. The photograph was clicked by Govinda Shrinivas Welling. In this photograph Swami Vivekanada is seen wearing Kolhapuri Chappal.

This photo was taken at 8 Bosepara Lane, Baghbazar, Calcutta by Haripada Mitra.

3. Swamijir Katha

May 16, '10

Tagore’s influence on contemporary and modern Latin American literature continued...........

Article - III 
                                       Rabindranath Tagore at the University of Costa Rica
                                                                   Sol Argüello Scriba
                                         Department of Literature, University of Costa Rica

It was not until 1980 that a course on Rabindranath Tagore and his work was offered at the University of Costa Rica, thanks to the emeritus professor M.A. Hilda Chen Apuy, who was largely responsible for the introduction of Asian Studies in the Literature and Philology program at the School of Modern and Classical Languages. Among the reasons that prompted Prof. Chen Apuy to choose Tagore above other Asian authors, was the fact that much of his work had already been translated to a faultless Spanish, mainly through the pens of the Spanish poet and also Nobel Prize winner Juan Ramón Jiménez and his wife, the North American Zenobia Camprubí. This was just the beginning of twenty years of continuous teaching on Tagore at our School, and I, as one of the first students that took this course, am a proud heir of Prof. Chen’s vision. 

It is impossible once you have read Tagore not to fall in love with his literature -- the English translations he made of his own poems are music to my ears, even if my not so fluent English only serves to give me a hint of what I am missing—, and there are so many things to cover when I first considered the writing of this article, that it would never reach its ending if I would linger on each one of them. 

Thus, I must content myself with answering only one question, the main reason for this article: “Why is Tagore taught at the University of Costa Rica?,” while leaving aside the infinite meanders of personal significance that Tagore has for me and for those many Costa Ricans who have discovered and rediscovered with me, semester after semester, his poetry. 

It all began in 1968, with the opening of a course on Sanskrit, to go along with the courses on Latin and Greek of the Classical Philology Department. The idea was to offer Sanskrit as an elective class, so to give the students some extra credits, while keeping the main focus on the major European classic languages. Sanskrit, of course, was not thought by the academic authorities as a serious subject in those days at our University; yet, the students proved the authorities wrong, and for 31 consecutive years, Sanskrit has continuously been taught, with plenty of students always willing to discover a new world. 

My first contact with Sanskrit as a young student inspired me to study the ancient Indian ideas, and among the subjects I dealt with was Comparative Religion and the Bhagavad Gita, which enthralled me from beginning to end, and left an indelible trace on my intellectual formation. I had been taught to love Greece and Rome, but India became my home. Prof. Chen Apuy was at that same time looking for a person to substitute her after her retirement, someone whom she might teach to follow her steps, in order to direct the Asian Studies area at the University. Fortunately, I was chosen as her assistant to the Sanskrit courses and, to my pleasure, also to Tagore’s. 

As time went by, Prof. Chen Apuy retired from the University, and therefore, it was my responsibility to keep up with her work, but always with the constant reminder of not to abandon Tagore's course and continue teaching it all along with my other duties. One of her presents for me when she retired was a collection of Tagore translated by the very Zenobia Camprubí. 

And thus began my work with my students: to fill their imagination with Tagore's work while battling the restrictions of our students not having, in the most of cases, the least of information about India (Tagore's course, along with the current courses on Sanskrit and Sanskrit Literature are nowadays the only means by which our students can get in touch with India and its culture). Yet, Tagore was and is a universal thinker, and soon my students understood this: by reading his poetry and plays they began to get an idea of how complex and rich is India, with its assortment of foods and languages, literature and philosophies, religions and ethnic groups. This is something I always try to convey to my students about India: how to shun the difficulties of huge cultural divisions, so to achieve mutual respect and live together in peace, despite the always present efforts of some to stir up hatred and division; through Tagore, my students discover the hazardous yet possible path of peaceful co-existence that the writer and Gandhi envisioned for India. 

The approximate number of students registered in the courses has always ranged from 35 to 15; this last semester, I had 20 students from different areas of the University, as this course has been transformed as an elective World Literature class, which allows any student of the University to enroll in it. 

The course begins with a short introduction of the cultural and historical background of ancient India and the goals of the human individual in Indian philosophy. Then, comes a brief section devoted to the arrival of the East India Company and their expansion on the continent, and their influence on Bengal, finishing with some exploration on Rabindranath’s own family background. Often, some students may inquire about Gandhi and his relation with the poet, yet with a week, I can hardly cover some of Tagore’s own works; therefore I can only give a brief lecture on the man that was named the “Mahatma” by the Bengali writer, and mention their differences and discrepancies, while insisting in how, at the end, these were only the result of how much they both loved India. 

After this short introduction, I get right into the analysis of theGitanjali. I think that that my students should be aware that Tagore received the Nobel Prize for it, and that this allowed Asian writers to be known in the western world and, of course, in Latin America. 

The next step is to analyze a series of different texts, literary and philosophical, dealing with a wide variety of Tagorean topics: favorite subjects are those related to children and their education; women, contemporary Indian society, Tagore’s religious views, drama, etc. Thus, by the end of the semester students have some basic notions on Tagore’s literature and thoughts, notions that may compel them to a fuller exploration either on the ideas of the Bengali writer or on many other South Asian authors. I have even received phone calls from students who had taken the Tagore course years ago, requesting my advice on other Asian literature; these are people not necessarily involved in literature, with careers as diverse as economics, law, engineering, medicine, etc.; and who still keep warm memories of the course. Through Tagore, they learned to love books and literature. 

Tagore, by Ray 

One day, I got hold of a newspaper from Delhi, in which many known artists and intellectuals talked about how they had been inspired, at some stage of their lives, by Tagore the writer: I kept the paper for my students as an example to show them the deep impact that Tagore still exerts on India’s art and thinking. As for the rest of his artistic work, I can only give my students a short glimpse of it, since I do not own neither recordings of his music nor copies of his paintings. So, I make do somehow with Satyajit Ray’s movie The World of Apu, with music by Ravi Shankar. I show my students this film at the end of the course, so that they may get in touch with a totally different experience of Tagore’s artistry through someone who has drawn considerable inspiration from Tagore. 

At the end of the course, I request an essay on any of the writers' works. The results of these essays always reaffirm my impressions on Tagore’s long-lasting effect on young people: his words have that special quality of rekindling themselves when in touch with a young heart. 

The more I teach the course, the more I find new paths of thought through the beauty of his writings and the satisfaction of approaching my students to a writer who excelled in all the literary genres. A writer who, despite our distance from him both in space and time, is still capable of directly addressing our dreams. 

As this is the first opportunity that I have to write about my favorite author to his fellow country-people, I only wish I had been able to express the importance that Tagore has for me and my students, and that I hope someday I may be able to tread the same ground on which the author lived, especially Bolpur and Shantiniketan. In the meantime, I will keep performing my humble part as an instrument of communication of Tagore’s genius, thus hoping to open the door for more Costa Rican students to India and his huge cultural environment. Gracias por todo, Rabindranath Tagore (Thank you for all, Rabindranath Tagore). 

                                                                                                              To be continued..............................

Tags: tagore

May 07, '10

Tagore’s influence on contemporary and modern Latin American literature continued...........

                                                                           Article - II

                                The Forgotten Stone: On Rabindranath Tagore and Latin America 

                                                                    Alfonso Chacon R#

Who can tell, when throwing a stone into a pond, where do the ripples created go? When weeks ago, in the middle of an electronic discussion about the connections between Latin American and Indian literature, I ventured to mention Rabindranath Tagore's high standing among current Latin American readers, many were surprised. And I have to confess that I myself was also surprised, because it never occurred to me Tagore's presence in Latin America would sound odd to anybody, least of all to a Bengali. Well, maybe one takes too much for granted, maybe in my tiny country, Costa Rica - a little larger than Sri Lanka - one tends to assume too much. 

After all, Latin America and India are worlds apart, one may say. And prompted by this separation, it may be important for Bengali readers to retrace the origin of the ripples, to see where does Tagore stand today in Latin America and what were the effects of his powerful mind on Latin American intellectuals. This is the idea of this article, and of several to come: to recreate the ties between Tagore and the New World. This implies, of course, the need for an introduction: How did Rabindranath Tagore come to be so well known and beloved in Latin America, a continent so different from India? Well, maybe because they are not so different. After all, not so long ago - due to the confusion of an Italian sailor sailing under the Spanish flag - our continent was still being called the West Indies, and though today this name has come to identify only a portion of the isles situated on the Caribbean sea, many a resemblance can still be found between that India Columbus was looking for, and the one he did really find: two huge continents, with landscapes ranging from humid tropic to frozen heights, and a large population composed of hundreds of ethnic groups. 

For some, these affinities can explain the long love affair the Latin Americans have had with Tagore's poetry and thinking. In a lecture on Tagore's manuscripts, given at the University of Delhi by Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet (Nobel Prize of Literature in 1990, and for some time a resident in India) mentions the existence of an essay by Nirad C., in which the Indian scholar points out the similarities between Bengal and Latin America. Paz extends these affinities to Kerala and Goa, saying that, same as the cultural syncretism which resulted from the clash between Spaniards, Portuguese, African and Native Americans in what was called the New World - syncretism that was to adopt the name of Baroque - something similar happened in these three regions of India, where the Western influence was not to neutralize but to be fused into the huge Indian tradition. Yet, says Paz, this would not completely explain the attraction exerted by a poet who only visited Latin America once, who never learned Spanish, and whose work cannot be said to have received any remarkable influence from Spanish or Latin American literature. And not only would this utterly fail to justify the powerful effect Tagore had and continues to have on Latin American readers, writers and intellectuals, as Paz claims, but in my opinion would especially shadow the one and only real reason behind his lingering popularity: the magic of his poetry. 

It is known that, in 1924, Rabindranath Tagore came to Latin America invited by the government of Peru to the centennial celebrations of its independence. Yet, his visit was cut short to a couple of months in Buenos Aires, due to some health complications, which prevented him to continue his trip. This situation, on the other hand, provided him with the acquaintance of the Argentinean poet Victoria Ocampo, who became one of his closest friends, and in whose "estancia" Tagore wrote Puravi. The strong friendship between Bijaya - as Tagore called her in Bengali, because of the meaning in Spanish of her first name - and him, has been deeply explored by many, especially regarding the Argentinean's influence on Tagore's decision to become a painter. There is an excellent essay by Dr. Rajat Chanda on this subject, which offers also a general view on Tagore's relation with Latin America. The essay, called Tagore in South America: Some Perspectives ( uploaded as Article - I in previous post) , seems to assert that the friendship between Ocampo and the poet is the only link that can be really established between him and Latin America, a link that remains, according to Chanda, weak at best nowadays. This assumption may come from the strong documentation that surrounds Ocampo and Tagore's relationship, a link that certainly cannot be said to have existed among Tagore and any other Latin American. Yet, Chanda's arguments fail to notice, most likely because of a lack of contact between the essay's author and the Latin American context, that Tagore continues to be a subject of study in many Latin American Universities, including Costa Rica, and that the Spanish editions of his titles are still widely available for the common reader around the continent. 

In fact, Tagore's poetry arrived at Latin America long before himself, and by 1920 Tagore was already a figure among writers and intellectuals. And one can say that, in a way, his poetry came when it was most needed, mainly through the expert hands of another great poet, the Spanish Juan Ramon Jimenez. In 1913, he and his wife-to-be, the American Zenobia Camprubi, had begun translating Gitanjali, recently awarded the Nobel Prize. Along with this traslation, Jimenez was producing what was later to become one of the most important books in Spanish literature: Platero and I , second in Spanish editions only to Cervantes's Don Quixote. The book - the story of a man and his donkey - is deeply influenced by Tagore's lyric prose, and it is an effort to transgress the classical boundaries between novel and poetry, something the Bengali author had successfully achieved in his own prosework and plays. But why did Latin American writers react so enthusiastically to Jimenez and Tagore's art? A little depiction of the Latin American literary context during the two first decades of the twentieth century may be in order here, to try to better understand this phenomenon. 

By the time the First World War was over, Latin American intellectual life had been cast into a deep struggle to find its own voice. Seeing the collapse of "civilized" Europe - beacon of human progress and achievement - which had not hesitated in throwing itself to a wild carnage was a deep shock for many in the New World, particularly to those who had always preached the need for Latin America to follow Europe's example. Even though most of the continent was independent by 1825, a strong European influence kept dictating not only the fashion and economic models of the Latin American countries, but acted as kind of an ideal civilization, which prompted many intellectuals to emulate the European models of education and politics, while despising their own land which was seen as the epitome of savagery and barbarism. This was a dark period of dictatorships and cruelty. Intellectuals like the Argentinean Domingo Sarmiento proclaimed the need for the extermination of the Native Americans, so to populate the new continent with pure, European blood, while in Mexico some members of the ancient colonial aristocracy acquiesced with the European powers to form a vast, Catholic empire based on the model provide by Napoleon III's France, which resulted in the adoption of an Austrian prince: Maximilian of Hasburg, as Mexican emperor. The situation was very similar all around Latin America: Huge, magnificent courts were built in the old colonial capitals, while the masses were submitted to an accelerated process of "European assimilation" which included the erasure of ancient customs and languages, something not even the former Spanish rulers attempted. This pro-Europe vision, which on the other hand promoted a massive immigration from Europe and Asia, had a deep impact in the population conformation of the continent - more Native Americans died or were mudered during the last eighty years of the nineteenth century, than during the 400 years of Spanish conquest and ruling, including the independence wars. This impact was also strongly felt in our literature and intellectual ideals, when most of the writers tried to follow the European schools, abhorring their roots. Even in Ruben Dario, the greatest Nicaraguan poet, and the major figure of Spanish Modernism, is hard to find any reference to the land that gave him life, and only the Cuban poet Jose Marti stood against this pro-European position, proclaiming the need for a new, real American man. 

Nonetheless, by the turn of the century, Latin Americans felt the need for something new, that their countries would never be European, and needed not be, and a their true identity, not based on imitation, was still to be found. 

Among the many trends and ideas that were explored during this period, Rabindranath Tagore's philosophy and prestige were to give a clue to young writers and poets: One did not have to write like an European, or think like one, to be a great writer. Besides, Tagore's mystical, human poetry dispelled the "exotic" view of non-European literature, allowing young Latin American writers to write not about Paris, Rome or ancient Greece, but about their own land, their own people, using their own voice. 

The break apart from boundaries
and the birth of a new literature

Yet, the impact of Tagore's genius cannot be measured only in terms of the moral and intellectual support it provided to a young generation of writers, but also, and maybe in a more important way, as the origin of a compound of new visions and literary opportunities, exemplified by what his work had to offer to the young generations of Latin American artists. When in 1937, Juan Ramon Jimenez visited Cuba, he was received by a hungry throng of young poets, searching for some guide. As a result of this visit Jose Lezama Lima wrote the essay "Colloquy with Juan Ramon Jimenez", a conversation in which many of the foundations that will characterize Latin American literature for the rest of the century are put in place. When the young Lezama talks about the limitations imposed on poetry by the classic metric, the Spanish poet calls for the need to break away from the limits that prevent poetry from achieving its maximum expression. This is what he had done in Platero and I, erasing the boundaries between poetry and prose; this is what Tagore had done before. In a Chilean compilation of some of Tagore's poems and works, published in the 1920's, the editor argues about Tagore's inability to handle some of the features of classic drama, including the "lack of dramatic action" that constrains The Post-office to an "interesting play," never a masterpiece. What the editor - still influenced by the ancient Greek separation of genres - does not understand, is precisely that, with his plays, the poet is bringing together drama and poetry, a movement that many years later will prompt the very Lezama Lima to announce: "The novel must go to the poetry," the way he does in Paradiso (1967), his most acclaimed novel. This movement will be followed by many others, like another Cuban, Dulce Marma Loynaz, whose lyrical novel The Garden (1948) rides astride on both Jimenez's and Tagore's influence (the reference is obvious in its title), and which is considered by many, like the Cuban writer and critic Froilan Escobar, as the point of departure for what was later to be known as the "Latin American literary boom." It seems funny then to hear some literary critics browbeat some current Indian writers, accusing them of imitating Latin American styles like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "magic realism", without realizing that, to a certain extent, they are just returning to India's greatest literary figure. 

Now, not only did prose and narrative drink from Tagore's source. One Chilean, Pablo Neruda, fell in love with the Bengali's poetry during his youth, and for critics like Octavio Paz Neruda's first works are deeply impregnated by its essence. Actually, in what was to be his first major piece, Twenty Love Poems and a Desperate Song (1924), the young Neruda - who was to win the Literature Nobel prize in 1971 - included a paraphrase in his 16th love poem, some critics even say a direct translation, of Tagore's 30th poem from The Gardener : "Tumi Sandhyara Meghamala." And another Chilean poet, also Nobel prize in 1945, Gabriela Mistral, collaborated in a compilation of the best poetry by Tagore, adding several glosses of her own, in response to the "anxiety of the gardener."

Tagore and the common readers in Latin America:  All these of course do not explain why Tagore continues to have the respect of Latin American readers. Certainly, his poetry and prose is nowadays harder to find, and in some cases has been left behind as new literary movements and fashions have made their way to the top. Yet, there is at least one reason why, from Mexico to Chile, Argentina and Brazil, many still feel, directly or indirectly, the influence of Tagore. His ideas on education play a major role in the educational system of some Latin American countries, while the curiosity for India that was first aroused by his figure, keeps inhabiting many Latin Americans. Example of the first case is my own country, Costa Rica, where two of its major philosophers and thinkers, Emma Gamboa and Roberto Brenes M., according to Sol Arguello (Sanskrit scholar, who has given a seminar on Tagore for ten years at the University of Costa Rica), applied much of Tagore's thinking to the foundations on which our educational systems stands, nowadays one of the most recognized in Latin America. And the Mexican writer Jose Vasconcelos, central figure of Mexican modern education, favored the teaching of Tagore's literature along with the Western classics as early as 1920, while using his ideas for the layout of Mexico's schooling system. 

On the other hand, readers are still attracted to Tagore and India, like Elena Chavez, a Costa Rican lawyer, whose love for Tagore sprang from her wish to know more about the poet and his thinking. And the same reason kept Sol Arguello's seminar on Tagore full to the limit for twenty semesters, in which the students no only read and analyzed the Bengali poet, but staged some of his plays, giving readings and presentations not only at the university, but in secondary schools all around the country. 

Nowadays, one may say that the ripples on the pond are not the same. But the effect keeps on, and the stone that created them has not been forgotten. Thus, I can surely reply to Dr. Chanda: the links are not weak at all.

# Alfonso Chacon R., a Costa Rican writer, was born in 1967. He has published a novel and two books of short stories. 

                                                                                                                 To be continued....................


Tags: tagore

May 04, '10

In order to compile articles on Tagore I had to search many sites for required information. While searching Tagore’s connection with Latin America on I came across three interesting articles written by Dr. Rajat Chanda, Alfonso Chacon R and Ketaki Kushari Dyson. All of these articles not only substantiate Tagore’s influence on contemporary and modern Latin American literature, but also establishe the connection between Indian and Latin American literature. I shall share them in three parts.

Article - 1

Tagore in South America : Some Perspectives
Dr. Rajat Chanda, Bell Laboratories, New Jersey, USA

In May of 1924, Rabindranath Tagore received an invitation to participate in the festivities in celebration of the centennial of Peru's independence in December of that year. In September, he boarded the ship Haruna Maru, which was bound for Europe, at Colombo. During the passage from France to South America on board the ship Andes, he fell ill. In a letter to C.F. Andrews, he later wrote, "... On October 24, I had written a poem addressed to the terrible (the two poems, Jhar andPadadhwani, written on that day appear in the collection Purabi- author). Since that day, I suffered so much that I thought I was going to die. When I came to Buenos Aires, the doctor's advice prevented my proceeding to Peru."

Victoria Ocampo was born in 1890 into an aristocratic Argentinian family. She was married in 1912, and was divorced in 1922. To free herself of the oppression of loneliness, she sought refuge in the world of her favorite writers, in the domain of letters. She translated extensively from French and English literature. Gitanjali moved her deeply. In 1924, she wrote an essay The Joy of Reading Tagore in the magazine La Nac&iacuteon. Only a few days after the essay was published, Tagore arrived in Buenos Aires on November 7th. Victoria wrote later, "... A friend and I decided we would go to see him at the Plazahotel, and inquire about his health. A blue-eyed Englishman, Leonard Elmhirst, was then Tagore's Secretary. The doctors, meanwhile, had advised that the poet should abandon his plan to cross the Andes and go to Lima. Moreover, it would be better for him to rest for several days in the countryside before he was well enough to board another ship. Upon learning about these developments, I proposed to Elmhirst: why don't the two of them come to San Isidro (a suburb about 20 miles from Buenos Aires) and spend a few days there. I rented a garden house from a relative for Tagore to live in. From its piazza, and the hall on the second floor, one could see the river. The garden was laden with a profusion of fragrant blossoms." Her first acquaintance with Tagore, albeit very brief, had delighted and impressed Victoria considerably. Tagore spent almost two months in the garden house in San Isidro.

The memory of the garden and the piazza had become indelible in Tagore's mind. Years later, he wrote from Santiniketan, "... Time and again, my mind flies back to that verandah in San Isidro. I still recall quite vividly the exquisite festival of red and blue flowers glittering in the morning sun. And the endless display of colors atop that great river." The poet would spend his mornings writing, strolling in the garden, or reading. During the evenings, he would receive visitors and admirers. Once in a while, he would even get unexpected visitations, such as the time a woman came in to ask the poet to interpret her dreams.

Tagore called Victoria by the Bengali equivalent of her name, Bijaya. He dedicated his collection Purabi, which was published in 1925, to "The Lotus Palms of Bijaya". Thirty poems in this collection were written in San Isidro. He wrote to Bijaya, "I am sending you this book written in Bengali. I would have preferred to give it to you personally. It has been dedicated to you, even though you will not know what is contained in it. I trust it will spend more days at your side than did its author." Many years later, in 1939, he wrote, "... Those unforgettable days, and her tender and compassionate care have been enshrined in my poems; they may well be among the best I have written." Tagore had expressed the desire to return to Buenos Aires several times. Victoria wrote, "When the International Writers' Conference was held here in 1936, he (Tagore) had mildly chided me for not inviting him. He was apparently prepared to come here despite advancing age and poor health."

During his trip to China in early 1924, the poet had to endure much hardship. The political turmoil back home, too, afflicted his mind greatly. For these reasons, perhaps, the peaceful surroundings and loving care he found in San Isidro, and the distance it afforded from the daily chaos and turbulence in India, touched Tagore deeply.

It is probable that it was Bijaya who first encouraged Tagore to paint. She wrote, "A small notebook used to lie on top of his writing table;he would write poems in it in Bengali. This notebook impressed and amazed me. It would seem that he would really enjoy connecting the parts of the writing he would strike out, and create doodles with his pen out of the rejected parts. From these doodles there would emerge a variety of faces, prehistoric monsters, reptiles, and the like. Thus, from all the rejected lines and words, a new world of exotic forms would come to life. I pleaded with him to let me photograph these pages. He approved. When I met him in Paris six years later, his whimsical playing with doodles had turned into a serious hobby. The pictures looked so original that I proposed that there should be an exhibition. Through the cooperation of my friends, the exhibition was finally opened at the Gallerie Pigalle." It was Bijaya who paid for all the arrangements. The exhibition later moved on to London, Birmingham and Berlin. Several luminaries of the art world, including Riviere, Kollwitz and Noailles heaped generous compliments upon the paintings for their originality. Romain Rolland and Ezra Pound, among literary greats, however, were far less enthusiastic.
In an interview with the Free Press of India in July 1925, Tagore observed,

I had long entertained a desire to visit South America and compare that continent with North America. My idea was to see what was the difference in the mentality of the people. In spite of my enforced seclusion, the people of Buenos Aires continued to show their sustained interest in me. Although I was not able to satisfy their desire to take part in public functions or lecture to them, they considered it a pleasure and privilege to have me in their midst.

The chair which the poet used to sit in while in San Isidro, became a favorite. On his way back to India, Bijaya had reserved two lavish cabins in the Julio Cesare for him, "... at unnecessarily excessive expense, ..." to quote Tagore. Bijaya decided that the chair would go with the poet. To accomplish this, she had the Captain make special arrangements to unhinge and remove the cabin door so that the chair could be placed inside. That chair is still preserved inside the Rabindra Sadan in Santiniketan. Bijaya would sometimes translate poems by Baudelaire from the French and read them to Tagore. One day the poet said to her, "Bijaya, I am not sure if I like your poet of home furnishings much." Later, however, he wrote to her in a letter,

"... I pass most of my day and a great part of my night deeply buried in your armchair which, at last, has explained to me the lyrical meaning of the poems of Baudelaire that I read with you."
In response, Bijaya wrote back,

"...I hope that you may understand through the same piece of furniture what the lyrical meaning of my devotion is!

In Tagore's collected letters, there is further mention of this chair. In the twilight of his life, in 1941, he even wrote a poem about it.
n a letter to Rani Chanda, Tagore wrote, "Bijaya would discuss various subjects with me. Often she would complain, why did you not learn any Spanish, I cannot explain everything to you in English. I too would deeply regret my ignorance of Spanish." It was this barrier of languages that contributed to Tagore's inability to assimilate or comprehend Latin culture. From the ship on his return trip, he wrote to Bijaya,

"...I have not the energy and strength needed for knowing a strange country and helping the mind gather materials from a wide area of new experience for building its foreign nest ... For me, the spirit of Latin America will ever dwell in my memory incarnate in your person."
In his poem Exotic Blossom, he wrote (translation by Monish Chatterjee)

Exotic Blossom, I whispered again in your ear
What is your language, dear?
You smiled and shook your head
And the leaves murmured instead.

It is worth mentioning here that Tagore had written the song Ami Chini Go Chini Tomare, Ogo Bideshini (I know you well, O exotic woman, I know you well) in 1895 while he was in Shelidah. He had given Bijaya a translation of the song within days after they had first met. There are only two poems in which Tagore had directly addressed Bijaya; the first, which appears inPurabi under the title Atithi (The Guest), begins with the lines, The days of my sojourn overseas, you filled to the fullest, woman, with the nectar of your sweetness ... . The second, written in April 1941, only months before his death, appears as the fifth poem in Shesh Lekha (The Last Words). It reads (translation by Monish Chatterjee ),

With love so earnest and extrinsic
The beloved who found a place in my heart
Forever shall keep me bound
The words she whispered, though oceans apart.

Her language I knew not
Her eyes that spoke a language of their own
Forever shall awaken in my mind
Their plaintive message, though unknown.

For fifteen years, many letters were exchanged between Tagore and Bijaya. Most of these are now preserved inside the Rabindra Sadan. Towards the end of his life, this Argentinian poetess many continents away exerted a significant influence upon Tagore. Unfortunately, Victoria Ocampo never could visit India because of either poor health or other circumstances. She wrote a short book about Tagore, and translated his play Rakta Karabi (Red Oleanders) into Spanish. As editor of the literary magazine Sur, and as an accomplished poetess, she had received much acclaim in South America. Victoria Ocampo died in 1979.

As such, the ties between India and Latin America remain weak at best. Yet, to this day, Tagore's is a familiar and honorable name in educated Latin American circles. On his way back to India, Tagore had stopped for a day in Rio de Janeiro. There is still a school in that city in his name. The translations of Tagore's poetry into Portuguese by the Brazilian poetess Cecilia Meireles are of a high order of merit. In North America, sadly, Rabindranath Tagore is today all but forgotten.

                                                                                                                        To be continued.............

Tags: tagore

Apr 29, '10

My friend Sudip Basu invited me to attend a function at Kolkata International Book Fair 2010, wherein a discussion was to be held commemorating 150th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF  COUNTRY'S FIRST NOBEL LAUREATE RABINDRANATH TAGORE AND 100TH YEAR OF GEETANJALI, and where famous personalities like Sri Pabitra Sarkar (Former Vice Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University) Dr Arun Basu (Former Professor Rabindra Bharati University) and eminent Bengali poet Sri Nirendranath Chakraborty were to speak about Tagores works and his lifetime. The occasion was also chosen to release a new book of Sudip in the same function. I reached the venue well before the schedule time. My friend was waiting there with his beautiful wife. In couple of minutes distinguished guests occupied their chairs and the function started with introductory speech by Dr Arun Basu, which was followed by speeches of Dr Pabitra Sarkar and Sri Nirendranath Chakraborty. They took the audience down the memory lane mentioning about Tagores works, his lifetime and elaborated on how he belonged to the whole world. Sri Nirendranath Chakraborty shared his childhood story with the audiences. He said when he was merely a 5 yrs old boy his family used to visit a place for change during summer. There, in the afternoon he would sneak into a nearby abandoned house and count all the rooms therein. Whenever he would be nearing to finish counting he would always find some more rooms yet to be counted. He would start the whole process again. Narrating this he said that understanding Rabindranath is also very similar to the childhood play of his. Whenever he thought that he understood Tagore, he would come across something new about him that he never knew before.

There are many aspects of Tagore that are yet to be known. Here I make a tiny effort trying to compile some facts that I came to know from those three scholars while they were narrating, and few others that I collected from the treasure of Internet. 

Tagore and World War - I 

Dear Sir Rabindranath:

I have been trying to find courage to write to you ever since I heard that you were in London - but the desire to tell you something is finding its way into this letter today. The letter may never reach you, for I do not know how to address it, tho' I feel sure your name upon the envelope will be sufficient. It is nearly two years ago, that my dear eldest son went out to the War for the last time and the day he said Goodbye to me - we were looking together across the sun-glorified sea - looking towards France with breaking hearts - when he, my poet son, said these wonderful words of yours - 'jabar diney ei kawthati boley jeno jai - ja dekhechi, ja peyechi tulona tar nai' - 'when I leave, let these be my parting words: what my eyes have seen, what my life received, are unsurpassable.' And when his pocket book came back to me - I found these words written in his dear writing - with your name beneath. Would I be asking too much of you, to tell me what book I should find the whole poem in? 

The letter was written by Wilfred Owen's mother, and it substantiates the fame of Rabindranath Tagore, during world war  I. He was Nobel Prize winner for literature, perhaps the world's most famous poet in 1914 

Wilfred Owen is perhaps the most famous of Tagore's readers in the trenches, but there were many others. Another example is a gunner's (unpublished) memoir of the war, which begins with a quotation from Tagore: 'Death is abroad and children play' (p.412). A story told by the German playwright Carl Zuckmayer, who fought in First World War, gives some idea of Tagore's astonishing popularity. He had heard the story told by a sergeant in the German army's medical corps:

'An Indian soldier in a Gurkha regiment of the British army had been taken prisoner and wounded in both legs. Only amputation of one of the legs could save the soldier's life - and the chief surgeon wanted the man's consent or at least some sign of trust. But neither the Indian soldier nor the German medical officers had much command of English; and the soldier of course spoke no German. The more they tried to talk to him, the more anxious and scared he became - he had probably heard frightful stories about enemy treatment of prisoners. At last, Zuckmayer's friend thought of the only Indian words he knew. Bending down to the sweating soldier he whispered: Rabindranath Tagore! Rabindranath Tagore! Rabindranath Tagore! 'After he had said it three times the Indian seemed to understand. His face relaxed, a shy little smile came into his eyes, then he closed them, his fear was gone, and he nodded weakly his consent and confidence to the enemy doctors.'

Rabindranath Tagore and Korea

During Rabindranath Tagores third visit to Japan in the year 1929, he was asked to visit Korea by some of the patriotic Korean youths in Tokyo. Though he could not visit Korea that time but he left writing a four-line poem for Korea.

In the golden age of Asia
Korea was one of its lamp-bearers
And that lamp is waiting to be lighted once again
For the illumination in the East

The tagores poem was of only four lines but it had tremendous impact on Korean people of that time and encouraged them to revive their past glory. Even today the poem infuses confidence and hope in the mind of Korean people to march ahead towards better future.

After liberation of the Republic of Korea, Ministry of Education included an article on Tagores poem A Lamp of the East in the textbooks for high school students in the memory of the great poet. In April 1981, The Tagore society of Korea was founded which promotes ideas and ideals of Tagore. 


                                                                                                                               To be continued...............

Tags: tagore

Jan 12, '10

Journey of life, of years gone by

Full of events and acquaintances high

Treading along with mine and not mine

Could not make feeling of loneliness wane

When I look back, the path I crossed

Each vanished whom ‘mine’ I endorsed

standing all alone, none did I gain

Sense of loneliness prevailed once again

movie with kids all that I choose

Exam at the door, and so they refuse

None to be with me, driving me insane

Sense of loneliness prevailed once again

When you were around felt you in my heart

Now that you are not with me, I fall apart

Scaring me deep, causing more pain

Sense of loneliness prevailed once again

some old music I wanted to listen

donkeys quarreling, only that I reckon

Forcing me to avoid and to refrain

Sense of loneliness prevailed once again

Thought of boozing till I would be lost

Bottles replaced, that betrayed me most

Causing me depress and also to strain

Sense of loneliness prevailed once again

Thought of confessing, how much I missed

If only you were there by me, is all I wished

Ego surmounting, the attempts slain

Sense of loneliness prevailed once again

Oct 18, '09

My younger son was very curious to know when I would take him to market to purchase crackers for him. In spite of assurance of buying him crackers in time, he kept on insisting that I should tell him exactly when I would be going to the market and even warned me of the dire consequences, if I did not keep up my promise. He went to the extent of threatening me of launching another non cooperation movement at my home front. I thanked God that it is going to be a non cooperation movement only and I didn’t have to tackle Netaji style massive military operation.

Desperately wanting to enjoy the afternoon nap, I was reluctant to go to the town market situated about 20km away from my place. So, smiling at him I assured that I would go to market this evening and went to sleep. I kept on thinking about Ronny’s threatening that made me retreat to my childhood, and much cherished merry time of Diwali. We use to decorate our houses with Deepak, my grandmother use to prepare lots of sweets. System of assembling at one place during some important occasions still prevailing then my parents, siblings, uncle, aunty and cousins use to join together to celebrate Diwali and Kalipuja. Being the eldest amongst siblings and cousins I used to be the team leader and under my direction we use to fabricate a crow hover kind of thing which we burnt on diwali nights. Thinking about all those happy Diwali moments, I embarked on to the Time Ship to cruise down the memory lane. I was relaxing on the third deck of the Ship sipping chilled beer with fried Pomfret. There were cool breezes and few pretty faces around. Occasionally I could see some seagulls and dolphins escorting our ship to the destination. But where are we heading to? I tried to recollect from my memory, but just then a message popped up saying due to inadequate space in the hard disk the windows is not able to retrieve the required information. God knows what occupied so much of space, is it those pretty faces around or 2 pints of Hayward 5000. Suddenly there was an announcement from the captain of the ship that our ship would be reaching the destination soon and that we would be received by a very special person. As our ship was approaching the jetty we flocked around the starboard rail to have a glimpse of that very special person. I could notice a handsome Bengali babu in typical Bengali attire waiting at the jetty with a band party. As our ship came closer to the jetty I was astonished to identify the Bengali babu, who was none other than my hero, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. This was the first time I saw him in person. Earlier to this, I saw his heroic image in military out fit only in a documentary film. As soon as our ship touched the jetty he signaled the band party, the band started playing Kadam Kadam Badaye ja….. I started marching ahead to the tune of the band, halted in front of him and saluted him. He asked me to look back. As I looked back there was none, where did the pretty faces vanish? And where was the ship? I was puzzled, I turned back towards him, only to find that this time the entire band party was not there. I was sweating profusely. He comforted me with a tender coconut. He also scolded me for boozing. Much embarrassed I told him that I quit smoking last year 4th November, this year 4th November I would stop boozing too. He smiled and asked me ‘how is your Thakuma doing?’ I broke down and informed that she is no more. He said ‘who told you so? She is always with you. Yesterday only I spoke to her she told me that you miss her a lot during Diwali, and that is the reason I invited you to celebrate diwali with me this year. Come, let us celebrate a unique Diwali, which I had always dreamed about. A Diwali, which will bring Peace, Prosperity, Happiness and Good Health, for my fellow countrymen.’ He called me by my nick name Jhontu given to me by Thakuma, and asked me to follow him and took me near a boat. Then we went to another island. I could recognize this island, it is Ross Island. Netaji informed me that we will celebrate this diwali here in this island, only you and me. We will not waste any money on crackers, dry fruits, drinks; will not lit thousands of candles to exhibit our wealth. In stead I will lit only one Pradip (lamp) and pray almighty, that each Indian should be able lit a candle in his own house, each Indian should be able to sleep with filled tummy without fear of uncertainty. ‘Dear Jhontu, I need a person like you to build India the way I dreamed. Will you be with me?’ At once I replied, “Yes sir, it’s my honour to be a part of your mission”. I bowed him, to seek his blessing, he blessed me saying, Jhontu, I have to leave now, as I have to celebrate diwali with all 130 crore Indians to build the India as I dreamed. God Bless you!!! Happy Diwali!!!!!!

Suddenly there was a massive explosion near my ears……….. Bringing me back down to earth, it was my dear Ronny screaming “Baba Baba its already 6 o clock in the evening, when will you go to market to bring crackers?” Trying hard to conceal the embarrassment on my face I asked him, didn’t you have afternoon nap? To build a nation you must sleep in the afternoon. Anyway, lets get ready, we will go to market.

Aug 30, '09

Today being the rest day of the week, I relaxed a little longer than usual and got up late to find the sun beaming at me as if annoyed at my laziness. Like any other Sunday, I switched on to my computer to cruise through fropperdom while sipping morning tea. On opening my inbox on fropper I was amazed to see Linda sharing an ezblog post containing a lengthy description of me and how I became her friend. Thanks to Linda for her loving nature and describing me as good reliable friend. I am very much grateful to her for such an honor.

I have been here for quite sometime and got introduced to so many people from all parts of the globe. It is very difficult to write about only one friend as I have many in my favorite list. The first person whom I knew through fropper was Meeta (Vally_of_Roses), who says I am her best friend and she was the one who encouraged me a lot on photography . Thanks Meeta!! The other first one whom I knew in person and introduced to Fropper is Sajal (sbm09), who is my best friend. The first froperite to be part of my family is Renuka (Gutz24). Many of us know about these three Fropperites. Apart from them there are many friends on this site that carries a banner of ‘where no one is stranger’, of whom I wish to write, but as I am allowed to mention about only one of them, I abide by the restriction and introduce you one of such best friend here, as she is not known to many.

Last year when I uploaded few pics of goddess Durga I received few remarks from a fropper friend about whom I knew nothing much at that point of time. She used to share some of her Bengali poems with me through fropper. One day I asked her to translate her poems and post them on fropper ezblog. She conceded to my request and posted her poems on ezblog. Till now she was an enigma. But gradually I came to know few more facts about her, like…

That she is active member of Nikhil Bharat Bangiya Sahityo Sammelan.. Rourkela branch...

That her bengali creations are regularly published in a Bengali magazine from her location in the magazine named “Shankho”.

That she is one of the leading environmentalist in India.

That presently she is busy with her post doctoral research work on nano Biomaterials under the able guidance of her husband., sponsored by Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India. Her name is Dr. Mohuya Dasgupta. Pyarse unko hum Mou bolte hai.

Date of Birth: 25 Aug 1971

D.O.B at fropperdome : 24 Mar 2008

Known as: bondhuni

Profession: Full time mother, post doctoral research scholar, but as per her own view. part time.. bathroom singer.. full time house cook

Achievements: First class 2nd MSc from Kolkata University. She was in NIT Rourkela as an faculty member from 2000 to 2006. Leading environmentalist. Worked as Senior consultant in ENVIRONTECH. Many papers on cement pollution in rural India have been published on the net.

Strengths: Friendly Nature, Love of Nature and simplicity.

Best Blog: My India

My favourite blog: My India.

Most popular: Science vs Art

What I learned from her: To spread the message of universal brotherhood!!

Mou now it is your turn to link the chain on to your favorite Fropper Person. You can only link one person on this chain other than me. Let us build the chain longer than collective length of Niles, Amazon, Mississippi and Ganges.


Feb 08, '09

 For the past few days I was away from Fropperland, and missed some beautiful blogs and new happenings here. Today being a lazy Sunday I decided to cruise through blogs, which I missed then. I was reading a blog written by Oasis2003lib and simultaneously listening to Bengali songs sung by Shyamol Mitra. From this blog I landed in Dagny's blog and realized that this blog was a fruit of another tagging game initiated by Dagny and this made me walk down the memory lane. Indeed they were the golden days of my life which I can hardly ever forget.

I read somewhere that there is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again in life. So is mine, I still remember when my mother used to comb my long uncut hair and tie it with handkerchief like it is done to the Sardar kids. She even enjoyed dressing me like a sardar. I do not remember exactly but so far as my memory goes there was a garage at the very next door that used to build truck-bodies. I used to visit the garage often and bother Sasti Kaka, the owner of the garage and pester him to make new wooden dolls for me. When he was otherwise busy or not in mood to oblige my request he would say that this truck belongs to a Sardar, who would arrive soon and take me to their home as I too belonged to Sardar community. This is the way he used to pacify me.

On attaining age of six years I was admitted to a school in Birbhum District of West Bengal which is our native place and at a distance of about 25 kms from the place where my parents stayed. I was left at the care of my Thakuma (grand mother) at village. My life was simple there and I used to go to school along with a friend of mine carrying an aluminum box. Like most of the children born and living in village environments even I and my friend enjoyed entering fruit gardens and agriculture fields to steal fruits and sugar cane etc. Obviously it was the time when 'CHORI KARNA PAAP NAHI THA' he…he…he...

Little did I know that my innocent yet naughty deeds would vex villagers so much that they would complain about it to my father, resulting in shifting me to live with them. By this time I was a bit older and in High School and did not need that aluminum box to school any more. But I had a special attachment to it and I preserved my treasures in that like paper cuttings from magazines, newspapers, pens, geometry box, scales etc that I used during my school days. I still have this box 'the invaluable treasure' of mine. The things which the child loves remain in the domain of his heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.

How memorable were those days. There was no TV in our entire locality. I just had a general knowledge that television or doordarshan is a device through which we can view an object of distance. I saw a television for the first time when it was installed in the recreation room of colliery At first my father didn't allow me to watch television. But later, one fine evening he took me to Colliery recreation room and I watched Morarji Desai taking oath as Prime Minister of India. It was in 1977 when I was about 11 yrs my 'Janam' became 'Saarthak' being able to get 'darshan' of an idiot box. Hey Ram!!!

To visit our village from the Colliery we used to travel by steam engine train. Till then I didn't travel in a train run by electric engine. I expressed my desire to my father. In order to fulfill my wish he planned for a picnic at Mithon dam. I consider myself a lucky boy, who's wish has been not only granted but also fulfilled.

The other most important person in my life is my Thakuma, whom I adore the most. She is not only my grandmother but also an Angel God who granted almost every wish of mine. She used to give me money when ever I used visit village. With this gift of hers I purchased a fountain pen, some Indrajaal Comic Books, Chandamama and three packets of Cadburry Gems for me, my brother and my sister. When I was in 10th class I managed to take a promise from my Thakuma that she would gift me a wristwatch when I cleared my board examination of 10th. As promised she gave me an Anglo Swiss wristwatch on my passing Board Examination of 10th. That wristwatch is the most precious gem of my treasure as it not only a gift but it hosts a noble soul of love and affection in it. Thakuma!!! I miss you.

The essence of childhood, of course, is play and all those naughty activities we do with our pals and near and dear ones. At times though they may cause some harm to some of us but they definitely do not have any ulterior motives in them and as flawless as mountain dew and a time which one would love to live again and again, no matter how many times.


                               Sardar da puttar with his uncle

                                           when i was six years old

Here are the links to other nostalgic articles.

Jan 23, '09


After three days we will celebrate Republic day. Every corner of our country will be painted in tricolor. We will tune in to some of the famous patriotic songs to remember "shahidon ki qurbani". We will greet our friends with email, ecard, scraps with Jai Hind Nara. But most of us forget to even remember the Birthday and Martyrdom day of those greats who sacrificed their life for our freedom. For the past few days I had been writing funny shout outs which was noticed by many of my close friends. Yesterday I placed a new shout out which must have been surely noticed by many of my friends. But in spite of being an unusual shout out none has raised an eyebrow or asked what do I want to convey through that shout out? For the reference of those, who reads this blog in a later day when my shout out is changed, here is the shout out I am speaking about which reads "We are free Indian. Thanks to Ziaudddin, the Pathan insurance agent...." Yes we are thankful to Mr Ziauddin alias Orlando Mazzota alias NETAJI SUBHASH CHANDRA BOSE. Today 23 Januray is his birth day. I pay a tribute to him on his birthday and hope that you would join me.

Sudden disappearance of Netaji from house arrest was as thrilling as Shivaji's great escape from mughal's costudy. One fine morning he escaped from his house in Kolkata, his nephew Dr Sisir Bose drove him till Gomo. From Gomo he boarded in a train and traveled as a Pathan insurance agent named Ziauddin. British authorities realized it after many days. He traveled by foot, car and train and resurfaced in Kabul. From Kabul again he disappeared with an Italian passport under the assumed name of Orlando Mazzota - (in which he was aided by underground revolutionaries and foreign diplomatic agents) -- Netaji appeared in Berlin, via Moscow, on 28 March 1941.

He was welcomed in Germany, though the news of his arrival there was kept secret for some time for political reasons. The German Foreign Office, was assigned the primary responsibility of dealing with Bose and taking care of him, and was well informed about the background and political status of the Indian leader by its pre-war Consulate-General at Calcutta and also by its representative in Kabul.

Bose himself was some what impatient for getting into action soon after his arrival in Berlin, and submitted a memorandum to the German government on 9 April 1941 which outlined a plan for co-operation between the Axis powers and India. Among other things, it called for the setting up of a "Free India Government" in Europe, preferably in Berlin; establishment of a Free India broadcasting station calling upon the Indian people to assert their independence and rise up in revolt against the British authorities. His broadcast from German radio sent shrivels among the British and electrified the Indian masses who realized that their leader was working on a master plan to free their motherland. It also gave fresh confidence to the freedom strugglers in India who were challenging the British. He made alliance with Germany and Japan which were very powerful then.

He took most difficult journey under water, covering thousands of miles, crossing enemy territories in a submarine. He was in the Atlantic, the Middle East, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. Battles were being fought over land, in the air and there were mines in the sea. At one stage he traveled 400 miles in a rubber dinghy to reach a Japanese submarine, which took him to Tokyo. He was warmly received in Japan and was declared the head of the Indian army, which consisted of about 40,000 soldiers from Singapore and other eastern regions. Bose called it the Indian National Army (INA) and a government by the name "Azad Hind Government" was declared on the 21st of October 1943. INA freed the Andaman and Nicobar islands from the British, and were renamed as Swaraj and Shaheed islands.

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the history of mankind. Japan had to surrender. Netaji was in Singapore at that time and decided to go to Tokyo for his next course of action. Netaji is said to have died in a plane crash over Taiwan while flying to Tokyo in August 1945. However, though his body was never recovered.
Despite this long distortion of history the contribution of Netaji in achieving Indian freedom cannot be erased from our heart. Apart from revisionist historians, it was none other than Lord Clement Atlee himself, the British Prime Minster responsible for conceding independence to India, who gave a shattering blow to the myth sought to be perpetuated by court historians, that Gandhi and his movement had led the country to freedom. Chief justice P.B. Chakrabarty of Calcutta High Court, who had also served as the acting Governor of West Bengal in India, disclosed the following in a letter addressed to the publisher of Dr. R.C. Majumdar's book A History of Bengal.

The Chief Justice wrote:  You have fulfilled a noble task by persuading Dr. Majumdar to write this history of Bengal and publishing it ... In the preface of the book Dr. Majumdar has written that he could not accept the thesis that Indian independence was brought about solely, or predominantly by the non-violent civil disobedience movement of Gandhi. When I was the acting Governor, Lord Atlee, who had given us independence by withdrawing the British rule from India, spent two days in the Governor's palace at Calcutta during his tour of India. At that time I had a prolonged discussion with him regarding the real factors that had led the British to quit India. My direct question to him was that since Gandhi's "Quit India" movement had tapered off quite some time ago and in 1947 no such new compelling situation had arisen that would necessitate a hasty British departure, why did they have to leave? In his reply Atlee cited several reasons, the principal among them being the erosion of loyalty to the British Crown among the Indian army and navy personnel as a result of the military activities of Netaji. Toward the end of our discussion I asked Atlee what was the extent of Gandhi's influence upon the British decision to quit India. Hearing this question, Atlee's lips became twisted in a sarcastic smile as he slowly chewed out the word, "m-i-n-i-m-a-l!"

Postal Stamp of Azad Hind

100 Rupees note of Azad Hind Bank of India

Netaji at Cellular Jail when INA freed the Andaman and Nicobar islands from the British, and were renamed as Swaraj and Shaheed islands.

On left is the car in which Netaji escaped from Kolkata to Gomo. Right on the subamrine in which he traveled to Tokyo

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