A hundred years after India’s Nobel laureate poet received the greatest laurels of the literary world, author, critic and poet K. Jayakumar writes that the Nobel pales in comparison to the timeless currency and value of Tagore’s Gitanjali . His book titled Apaarathayodu Anuraagapoorvam is yet another tribute, another in the sequence of paeans sung to the enduring beauty and charm of Tagore’s Gitanjali.
Jayakumar, in lilting prose says that these lyrics were the poetic ripples born in that oceanic heart, in which commingled Indian cultural traditions, Vaishnava Bhakti poetics, Sufi music and Baul aesthetics.
In a highly poetic preface, he narrates how the mystical charm of Gitanjali gave him succour through an experience of exile, when lonely evenings, alien skies and a romantic heart found in its lines the perfect echo of their aching desires and unknown raptures.
The preface, in a confessional tone, elaborates upon Jayakumar’s numerous trysts with the poet laureate, as biographer, translator and painter.
The reason for his adulation is made explicitly clear when he says that Tagore is a poet who enamours you with his simplicity but amazes you with the sublimity of his verses.
The function of this book is made amply clear when the author says he wants to share with his readers the philosophy and poetics of a work which for him had transformed reading into a sensual pleasure and opened a window to a rich and varied world of experiential aesthetics.
The titles of the chapters attempt to capture the magic and lyricism of Gitanjali . In an introductory chapter on the profound skies opened up by poetry Jayakumar talks about the stark beauty and simplicity, as also the brevity of Tagore’s versification.
It is its rich polyphony, its multiple possibilities that makes Gitanjali so endearing to people from all walks of life. For many it is a collection of aphorisms of love, the ultimate aesthetisation of the erotic. For others it is philosophy of the highest order, echoing the cosmic truth of the Upanishads.
The second chapter is more a bio sketch detailing the eventful moments in Tagore’s life and vindicating his creative oeuvre. In the ensuing chapters the author literally steeps himself in the sensual and mystical charm of Gitanjali .
One is reminded of the very lines from the poem where the poet begs for a moment's indulgence to sit by the side of the eternal in order to sing a dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure. This is the quintessential tone and tenor of this work. Interspersed with beautiful translations of Tagore, the critique becomes a panegyric to Gitanjali .
Instances of such profuse and unconditional praise are rare to find in the times that we live in, though they become interesting and pardonable given the magic of Tagore’s artistry and the pinnacles of fame his poetry has achieved.
The two chapters on the trope of travel and the god in Gitanjali would be especially useful to students of literature, even while they are highly interesting and thought provoking to the common reader.
The translations of choice verses from the original are evocative and mesmerising.
This book offers a seductive reading of Tagore, a reading that chooses to ignore the rough edges. Whether Tagore was writing for a European sensibility or not has become the subject of endless post-colonial debates. Choosing to focus only on the aesthetic and ignoring the political, the author pointedly situates this book within the rhetoric of eulogies.
He clearly prefers to leave such fraught terrain to the scrutiny of other critical, intellectual exercises. This probably is a poet’s response to a poetic genius. A great read for literature enthusiasts.