As more programmes on Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore commemorate his 150th birth anniversary in the Capital, a marked division of opinion on a reappraisal of his works is also gathering momentum.
If some intellectuals don't mind deifying him as usual, a few have openly suggested that it is high time scholars and readers see him as a man in flesh and blood and accordingly reappraise his works. Interestingly, those who are touchy about Tagore's creations and those who are emphasising reassessment belong to the same age group.
The occasion is also helping regional poets of all ages to interact with each other more, as well as learn about Tagore through seminars, discussions and exhibitions of books and paintings.
One such occasion, the Bharatiya Kavita Utsav, was jointly organised by the Ministry of Culture and the Sahitya Akademi at the Vigyan Bhawan on Sunday.
The Akademi invited 30 poets from different regions to read poems in their own language rather than talk about Tagore and his poems, “as it would have brought monotony,” according to Akademi secretary Agrahara Krishna Murthy.
The poets, all Akademi winners, read poems in Nepali, Konkani, Assamese, Manipuri, Punjabi, Urdu, Kashmiri, Gujarati, Bengali and most south Indian languages, along with English.
That Tagore “should be rescued from Bengal and Bengalis” was, however, an underlying feeling at the session. The lingering image of Tagore is the one being propagated by the West, after ‘Gitanjali' won the Nobel Prize in 1913. For them, he became a visionary from the East, a saviour and a saint.
Even Tagore liked being caged in this image for several years, but later rejected it — he made this clear through ‘Manushi,' ‘Pori Shesh' and ‘Nob Yadok,' which he wrote a year before his death.
So, “Tagore's assessment should begin from his works from the 1940s onwards,” scholar and critic Nirmalkanti Bhattacharjeee said at the session.
A reappraisal of his work has been happening all over the world. There are more Tagore experts in Russia, Spain, China, Japan and England than in India.
However, Tagore expert Sankhu Ghosh asked: “Those who are talking of reassessment haven't read his writings on nationalism and internationalism, environment, ecology and education. What reassessment is one talking about?”