In all of his creative works, what touched Navodita is the poignancy and the deep feeling of emotion that flow with his thoughts – the sensitivity, the words and the meanings generated by every single sentence of his story or poem stand out to showcase not just his knowledge but also his deep-seated love for language and nationalism. She pays her tribute to the Bard, in the Special Feature, exclusively for Different Truths.
The first time I remember reading about Tagore was when I started mugging up the national anthem and its legendary poet, Rabindranath Tagore. However, as I grew older I read the Hindi story in our curriculum which remained my favourite for a long time- Kabuliwallah. As though Rabindranath Tagore’s chapters were not going to end, I came across yet another poem by him which remained my favourite along with Rudyard Kipling’s If – Where the Mind is Without Fear!
In all of his creative works, what touched me is the poignancy and the deep feeling of emotion that flow with his thoughts – the sensitivity, the words and the meanings generated by every single sentence of his story or poem stand out to showcase not just his knowledge but also his deep-seated love for language and nationalism.
I first read Kabuliwallah in Hindi and remember reading it again and again. I could well identify with the little girl Mini, who was a chatterbox, and who felt scared of the Kabuliwallah’s bag of goodies which he carried and sold when she first met him. As a little girl, feeling scared of the dark, feeling scared of strangers, hiding behind your mother or father after seeing such people approach your doorway is a natural feeling depicted in the story. However, the Kabulliwallah Rahman offers her nuts and sweets to become friends with her as she reminds him of his own daughter whom he has left behind in the mountains of Afghanistan to work in Calcutta. The slow friendship that grew between the two is a subject dealt with care. However, they have shown that Rahman comes from a conservative social background where he questions the young girl about ‘father-in-law’, something Mini’s father and mother had never discussed with her. She, of course, realised the ‘real meaning’ of the word only later when her marriage is arranged later in the story. That is why, when Rahman is accused of assaulting one of his customers and is being taken to prison, Mini shouts and asks him whether he was going to his father-in-law’s house.
Mini came from a traditional Bengali household. Yet Rahman could identify with the little girl’s likes, dislikes, tastes, jokes, and stories. As he tried to befriend her and become close to her, Tagore shows that no barriers of religion or caste or age, or geographical boundaries existed between them as he possibly imagined his little girl growing up in a distance. After several years of imprisonment when he is released, he decides to first visit Mini, the day she is getting married, when Mini’s father gets to know about why he had been so close to the girl. He immediately decides to give him some money to travel back to his land so he could reunite with his daughter even though that meant cutting down on some of the wedding festivities.
The most interesting feature was the character of Rahman. A man who has a soft nature, on one hand, could even get aggressive and would not accept a wrong (when a customer refused to pay) on the other is showcased well. It also shows how men living and working in a foreign land are misunderstood by most people (his only attraction with Mini being the fatherly love for the girl). He probably decided to kill his loneliness living in Calcutta by being friends with the girl.
Similarly, the poem Where the Mind is Without Fear seems to be like a prayer where Tagore is invoking the Gods to make sure the country soon gets to breathe an ‘air of freedom’ and the environment is more fearless, knowledge is truly understood, there is more ‘truthfulness’, and there is a sense of liberation not just from physical shackles of abject poverty, disease, and squalor but even mental ones like irrationality, laziness, ‘dead habit’, darkness of ignorance. I did have an objection even then to his use of the word ‘My Father, let my country awake’. It is for this reason, although minor that I often drew closer to Aurobindo, who I felt revered the female deity more than the male God.
Yet Tagore remains close to my heart not only as a national hero, poet, painter and a creator but also as one who understood life and its meaning closely than most nationalists, who were either too extremists or too moderate.
Tagore was a literary and a creative person, which I found more appealing.
Photos from the Internet
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people in Kanpur.
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