The endeavour must be to evaluate, demystify the man: Culture Secretary

On a day when a virtual shower of plaudits was poured on poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore, scholars urged that the man behind the legend must not be forgotten.

He should not be loaded under a wreath of flowers so that he is not even visible, said Namwar Singh, 1971 Sahitya Academy Awardee, speaking at a seminar on “Tagore's Universalism” organised by the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation. Professor Singh felt that in making him a global figure, we had forgotten that he laid stress on very small things that mattered in everyday life — from a seed flourishing in nature to rural economic development.

The present Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Jawahar Sircar agreed on the need to “demystify” Tagore. “The whole idea is to evaluate Tagore, demystify him and take him out of the boundaries of Bengal. He should not be a man of one language and two countries [Bengali and India Bangladesh]. Tagore's frequent revolt had been against being caged in one language.”

Mr. Sircar emphasised that there was no need to canonise him. Canonisation, he said, was a painful process that saints had to go through.

Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, the 83-year-old author and essayist from Dhaka, said that the slender book of Tagore's poems “Geetanjali”, which he wrote in 1930, at the age of 17, was not intended for printing; it was for friends and family. But, he said, it was so powerful that he got the Nobel Prize for it. “He put the prize money to good use — in making the Shantiniketan in Kolkata …Tagore discarded the regular education system and stressed upon education through art, craft and culture. It is something that we now need to do.”

Rabindra Bharati University professor Swapan Majumdar stressed upon Tagore's vision on the beautiful blend of the east and the west, his revulsion for communal disharmony and ‘Atmashakti' as the main source of his individual universalism. He said Tagore was misunderstood by many in his theories of development.

Mr. Sircar promised that money would not stand in the way of demystifying Tagore as the Ministry of Culture was ready to spend any amount on the same. He clarified that through the Tagore Commemoration Grant Scheme (TCGS), launched on Saturday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the Ministry would give financial assistance to ‘Not for Profit' organisations. The scheme would be valid till May 2012.

“We are not earmarking any budget for Tagore but we will give grants to any organisation which wants to, say for instance, make a ‘sadan' for the same for instance, Chennai did not want to make a sadan for Tagore earlier; now it does, so we will give them the required grant. Mumbai wants Rs.2 to 3 crore for repairing a Tagore sadan, we will look into that too,” Mr. Sircar said.