Monday, November 24, 2008


Unlike the normal Calcutta bred Bengali, I've not grown up immersed in the infinite world of his poetry, prose and music. The extremely limited Bengali reading skills that I possess are not enough to appreciate the rhythm of his words or their appropriateness. So when on a Saturday afternoon with nothing to do, I set out for a busy part of North Calcutta, I didn't know what to expect. The red brick building that was the Thakurbari lies a short walk from a busy intersection and in fact serves as the campus for a University. This is Jorasanko, the ancestral house of the Thakurs or Tagores whose genius reached a cumulative high with the influence that it had in shaping the life of Rabindranath Tagore.

From what I perceive, Tagore was to Bengali culture what William Shakespeare is to the Brits multiplied manifold. A cultural cornerstone without whom the identity of every Bengali is incomplete. I bought the nominally priced ticket that allowed entry into the main house and climbed into its cool interiors. The walls were lined with quotes and paintings of the great man, the English translations of which were powerful enough. The impact of the original words written in the language closest to his heart must be even more amazing. I came across parents explaining in detail to their kids of the signifcance of each little item on display and every member of the Tagore family tree. I was way past that age when the facts could be drilled into me but I could tell without any doubt that these were facts worth knowing.

To walk in this house was to feel the current of creativity surging through the house. The beautiful verandahs which looked out onto the central garden was just waiting for another set of little feet to play in its shadows, hop out into the patches of sunlight which had blustered their way in and run in among the elders who would indulge their childish exuberance. It was hard not to be a genius when parents, your uncles and your aunts are artists/ philosphers / scholars par excellence. Not to take anything away from the grand old man though. For this is a man who shaped not only the minds of all Bengalis to come but also the spirit of India. It was a honour just to breathe the same air and walk the same ways that had nourished his brilliance.

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