Orange marigolds showed the way to a beautiful tree, big and green. Decorated with lights, its boughs formed a canopy for a portrait of the poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Atmos recently celebrated the poet's 150th birth anniversary, in association with the Vanavarayar foundation and Siraguviri, an initiative for children.
It was a charming evening and a pleasant surprise to learn that so many people gathered there (not just those from Bengal), knew a number of Tagore songs.
The special guest of the evening was Dr. R. Kalpana who comes from a long and distinguished line of Gandhians. Her grandmother Malati Devi was a freedom fighter and a social activist. The first girl student of Shantiniketan, Malati Devi was privileged to study under Rabindranath Tagore. Kalpana's grandfather Nabakrishna Choudhry was also a freedom fighter, a Sarvodaya activist and the chief minister of Orissa. Kalpana di as she is fondly referred to, holds a doctorate in Peace Studies and presently lives in Gandhigram. While Kalpana di led the singing, there were many in the audience who joined in the Rabindra Sangeeth with fervour. There was even a Tamil version of the rousing “Ekla chalo re”.
A nice touch was a reading of Tagore's poems, the first of which was of course, “Where the mind is without fear…”
Art work from children in rural areas, completed the evening. They had made paintings using colours derived from mud, flowers and leaves.
Beautiful, simple and innocent, the drawings were accompanied by quotes from Tagore.
It was wonderful that a small gathering of people, so far away from Shantiniketan, managed to evoke its mood and ambience, and paid tribute to Gurudev so eloquently.