Portrait of a Man

Article excerpt

Portrait of a man

WITH a wordly wisdom unusual in a poet but characteristic of the Tagores, Rabindranath set out in a practical way to improve the lot of the poor peasants of his estates. But his own gain from this intimate contact with the fundamental aspects of life and nature, and the influence of this contact on his own life and work, are beyond measure.

Living mostly in his boat and watching life through the window, a whole new world of sights and sounds and feelings opened up before him. It was a world in which the moods of people and the moods of nature were inextricably interwoven. The people found room in a succession of great short stories, and nature, in an outpouring of exquisite songs and poems. Dominant was the mood of the rains, exultant and terrible.

Rabindranath Tagore received the Nobel Prize in 1913, and a knighthood in 1915, which war was raging in Europe. Touring the United States and Japan in 1916, the poet made eloquent appeals for peace. He felt that world peace could be achieved only through intellectual co-operation between nations. He said, "The call has come to every individual in the present age to prepare himself for the dawn of a new era, when man shall discover his soul in the spiritual unity of all human beings.'

While peace had been restored in Europe, in India there was unrest. The occasion was the Rowlatt Bill, designed to suppress all political movements. It dashed India's hopes of gaining the self-government that the British rulers had kept promising through the war years.

Dominating the Indian political scene at this time was Gandhi. As a protest against the Rowlatt Bill, Gandhi launched a movement of passive resistance. But the masses misinterpreted the movement and, following a rumour of Gandhi's arrest, violence broke out in many parts of the country.

In the Punjab, martial law was declared. In charge of the troops at Amritsar was Brigadier General Dyer. On the first day of the month of Vaisakh, a crowd gathered in Jallianwallabagh, as it had done every other year. It was a peaceful crowd. But Dyer was taking no chances. Machine guns rattled. …

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