Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Tagore's Multiculturalism: A Road Map to the Heaven of Freedom

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Tagore's Multiculturalism: A Road Map to the Heaven of Freedom

Article excerpt

Having lived in the city of the Taj for almost a lifetime now, I cannot help admit how I remain eternally charmed by the compelling presence of the monument of love encased in alabaster. Whenever I visit the Taj Mahal-I do it quite often since I have the privilege of living in an apartment at a stone's throw from the famed monument-I marvel at the soft elegance of immortal splendor etched with the sharpness of steel on the transient graph of time and tide. If I distinctly remember reading an essay by Edwin Arnold's in school wherein he described the Taj as "not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones," I happily recall, time and again, the following lines from Rabindranath Tagore's testimony to the monument of love and beauty:

You allowed your kingly power to vanish, Shajahan,

but your wish was to make imperishable a teardrop of love.

Time has no pity for the human heart,

he laughs at its sad struggle to remember.

You allured him with beauty, made

him captive, and crowned the formless

death with fadeless form.

The secret whispered in the hush of

night to the ear of your love is wrought

in the perpetual silence of stone.

Though empires crumble to dust, and centuries

are lost in shadows, the marble still sighs to the stars,

"I remember" (Tagore, 2004a, pp. 1-2)

If Tagore could compose such an exquisitely beautiful lyric to animate the "perpetual silence of stone," one could well imagine his infinite capacity to render into eternal songs the more pulsating and vibrant voice of human life in all its manifestations.

Exactly a century ago, Dr. Dwijendranath Maitra, Resident Surgeon at Mayo Hospital, Calcutta, stated in no uncertain terms, "I read Rabindranath every day; to read one line of his is to forget all the troubles of the world" (quoted by Yeats, p. vii). In equally glowing terms, the distinguished rebel poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote in 1927: "I did not merely respect the World Poet, I have revered him wholeheartedly, like a devotee adores his deity. From my early age, I have paid homage to him by offering bouquet and incense in front of his picture" (p. 441). At the end of his "Introduction" to Rabindranath Tagore: The Centenary Volume - 1861-1961, published in 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: "He was in line with rishis, the great sages of India, drawing from the windows of the ancient past and giving it a practical garb and a meaning in the present....This great and highly sensitive man was not only a poet of India, but also a poet of humanity and freedom everywhere....Even as he tried to create an atmosphere in his school at Santiniketan, so he tried to produce that atmosphere in the whole of India. I earnestly trust that living message will always be with us, guiding us in our life and our endeavors" (p. xvi). In very recent time-in a letter written from her house arrest in 2001 to her fellow Nobel Laureates-Aung San Suu Kyi, the international symbol of peaceful resistance against oppression, spoke of Tagore thus:

During my years of house arrest, I have learnt my most precious lesson from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, many of whose verses reach out to that innermost, elusive land of the spirit that we are not always capable of exploring ourselves....There are no words of comfort in the poem. No assurances of joy and peace at the end of the harsh journey. There is no pretence that it is anything but evil luck to receive no answer to your call, to be deserted in the middle of the wilderness, to have no one who would hold up a light to aid you through a stormy night. It is not a poem that offers heart's ease, but it teaches you that a citadel of endurance can be built on a foundation of anguish.

Notwithstanding Tagore's ability to inspire the human system with his life and work, it must be acknowledged that he was not a poet who could be content with remaining hidden in the light of thought and singing unbidden songs like Shelley's Skylark. …

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