Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rabindranath Tagore: Still Important

Next year, it will be the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the most important and famous poet of Bangla literature. Tagore is perhaps the only person in our literature who could get international fame. His works have been translated in many languages. When he was alive, his works were translated in different countries. The other day, I was reading about Tagore’s popularity in South America while he was alive.
What happened is that after his death, in Indian history it was was troubled time with fighting between Hindus and Muslims and then India became independent. That time, there was no serious effort to carry out his message of peace and brotherhood.
On the other hand, the majority of Bengali people now live in modern Bangladesh and during the time of Pakistan, Pakistani government sometimes tried to eradicate Tagore from the mind of Bengali people in East Pakistan which is now Bangladesh. There was a lot of protest and when Bangladesh became independent then it was decided that Tagore’s song will be the national anthem of the country.
In internet, I cannot find a lot of translation of Tagore’s works and this gives me a lot of pain. I wish that there were some scholars who would dedicate their lives in translating Tagore. Here, I like to say one thing that in both Dhaka and Kolkata there are many singers who have dedicated their lives for singing just Tagore’s song. May be, some professors should do the same thing for translating Tagore. Of course, the problem of money is always there because in Dhaka and Kolkata, translating Tagore is not a very profitable thing. 



    I am a Bengalee and living in Bangladesh. I was educated under the Calcutta University, Dhaka University, and several universities of the USA, including the Harvard University. My study of Rabindranath Tagore is since 1957.

    Some latest study and analysis establish the fact that there are much differences in the value of Rabindranath Tagore with Nobel Prize and Rabindranath Tagore without Nobel Prize. Your opinion may be useful in my future writings.

    My latest studies are:

    1. The detailed study on the Terrorist Movement period in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa during the last decade of the 19th century and the early 20th century;

    2. Rabindranath Tagore's literature published during this period both in English and in Bengali;

    3. Internet literature on Rabindranath Tagore in several blogs, blog and other publications from Calcutta and Dhaka; and

    4. Some messages from the Swedish Academy.

    The subject I have referred to is important and my request is that all concerned may kindly help me in my research and studies on the subject with high seriousness.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: It is worthwhile to add in this message that Rabindranath Tagore was awarded 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature not as an Indian or as a Bengalee. He was given the prize as an "Anglo-Indian" writer. He was not introduced to the Nobel Committee. A British diplomat received the prize and it was delivered at his Calcutta residence. More interesting is that none of the Nobel Committee is reported to have even seen the book of poems entitled "Gitanjali". Reportedly only one member of the committee saw the book. None of them knew that Tagore's language was Bengali. Reportedly Rabindranath Tagore was not even short-listed for the Nobel Prize consideration. Logically it was a London arrangement with the Swedish Academy.

    A.B.M. Shamsud Doulah
    Dhaka, Bangladesh

  2. Anonymous2:46 AM


    UNESCO declared 2011 as the year of Rabindranath Tagore and his 150th birth anniversary were celebrated all across the globe including Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia and China. Bangladesh and India had arranged a year-long joint commemorative programmes both at government and non-governmental levels. However, nothing was heard from Pakistan.

    Ironically, Tagore's writing became an indicator of tolerance of a society. Tagore's writing was banned and burned in Nazi-occupied Europe, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Tagore was once banned in Communist Russia and China. Tagore became a target from all directions in pre-1971 Pakistan. Finally in 1971, Tagore became a matter of 'life and death' in Pakistan Army occupied Bangladesh. Pakistan's fury knew no bound when the Bangladesh (Mujib Nagar) Government-in-Exile adopted 'Amar Sonar Bangla' as the National Anthem of Bangladesh (May 1971). Tagore experts at Universities were selectively targeted and killed by the Pakistan Army and Al-Badr gangs. I remember my mother tore pages from a thick book and threw into oven fire during a house to house search in old Dhaka by Pakistan Army (probably October/November 1971) --- a (Tagore's) volume was mistakenly not destroyed till then.

    State-sponsor manipulation of religion is nothing new in Pakistan. But during 1980's the military rulers in Pakistan adopted a US plan funded (mainly) by Saudi Arabia --- the radicalisation of the society and defence forces (to subdue the communist Russia in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries). Over the years radical and militant ideas rooted deeply in Pakistan society. Civil society, media and intellectuals seems cowed into submission and radical jihadist become uncontrollable for its creators. Nuclear armed Pakistan's trajectory is now defined by the radicals. This cause panic in US and rest of the world. Now the US has came up with 'de-radicalisation' plan which include the promotion of Sufism (Sufi teachings, Sufi music, Sufi Universities etc.). Many doubt if 'Sufi therapy' would work for Pakistan at this late stage but there is no harm in trying it. The core of Sufism --- peace, love, tolerance, enlightenment --- and Tagore's philosophy are essentially the same. Like the Sufis, Tagore has message for the soul.

    So, I request the Bangladesh and Indian governments and non-governmental cultural organizations to include Pakistan in their joint celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary and beyond.

    M. Emad.
    Oxford. UK.