To commemorate 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore Indo-American Friendship Association, New Delhi organized a special event: Remembering Gurudev Tagore on Tuesday, July 12th at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library with a multi-national Panel of eminent personalities from India and abroad. In their own ways, they addressed the questions: how does one pay a fitting tribute to a man larger than life itself; a man Mahatma Gandhi had found a worthy opponent in to exchange intelligent arguments with; an adventurist who travelled to 32 countries, mostly by steamboat to spread his love and wisdom. How does one capture the personality that was Tagore? What impact Tagore’s poetry and persona had on the literature & the people of the countries he visited?
IAFA Founding President Amb. Surendra Kumar set the ball rolling with his opening remarks that Tagore was much more than a poet, he was a novelist, musician, song writer, playwright, painter, thinker, social reformer and educationist rolled in one whose humanism, universalism, mysticism and spiritualism had universal & timeless appeal.
The renowned English poet Keki Daruwalla paid his homage by reading out two poems of Tagore, a poet whom he has been admiring all his life.
Dr. Ashok Vajpayi, the very erudite Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi, felt that Tagore was a part of the Trinity of Indian painters, the other two being Jamini Roy and Amrita Shergill. His only painting exhibition was held in Paris thanks to Victoria Campos of Argentina. He was a widely travelled man, his visit to Japan saw a massive fan following! No other musical tradition in the world is named after a music composer; Tagore is aptly immortalized by Rabindra Sangeet. Dr Vajpeyi concluded with reading Hindi translation of a Tagore poem by well-known Hindi poet, Prayag Shukla.
Donald Lu, DCM in the US Embassy in Delhi read a poem in English. He admired Tagore’s love for adventure and travel in those days when travel was, long, difficult and at times dangerous exercise. He recalled how Tagore had called America: ‘a beautiful country, banner of civilization she can hold up.’
According to Dr Oscal Pujol, Director of Instituto Cervantes de Nueva Delhi ,Tagore gave a simple and meaningful picture of things he saw through his poetry. He had inspired the most avant garde of Spanish poets, Ramon Himente, a new form of poetry arose in 20th century Spain, thanks to Tagore- poetry that was pure in its simplicity.
HE Ambassador Saiki of Japan waxed eloquence about Tagore’s following in Japan. In 1924 Tagore had visited Japan, a year after the Japanese earthquake and had written that he was amazed to see the resilience and capabilities of Japanese people. He read Tagore’s poem Fire Flies in English and Japanese, written incidentally in the Haiku format!
HE Marco Brando, Ambassador of Brazil, said that Tagore or ‘Tagorii’ as Brazilians pronounce his name, love Tagore. In fact many Brazilians’ have their first name as Tagore! He read out a poem of Gurudev in Portuguese and English.
HE Ambassador Alvarez of Argentina said that Tagore was not only a great poet but a great human being who advocated causes far ahead of his time such as gender equality. He read a Tagore poem in Spanish and English.
Shri Jawahar Sircar, Secretary Culture made a ‘sarkari announcements’ as he himself said about numerous steps taken by the Government to honour Tagore and those individuals who follow his ideals even today. He invited the audience as well as the foreign Ambassadors participating in the event to give suggestions to the Ministry regarding the Rabindranath Tagore Award instituted by the Govt.
Shri Saeed Naqvi, noted writer and TV presenter, said that Tagore epitomized the word ‘mankind.’ A Global Traveller of his time, Tagore could be accused of infidelity as he had a huge romance in every nation he went to- with the people at large! He was the most secular of all poets and the only man ever to have composed two National Anthems, one for India and the other for Bangladesh.
Mr. Ugo Astuto, DCM of the Italian Embassy was proud of the fact that Italy was the first country Tagore had ever visited in Europe ; he went thrice in his lifetime. He gave a talk at the Milanese Theological Society on the topic of western civilization seen through a poet’s eyes. He read a poem by Tagore in Italian.
The Chief Guest, Dr. Karan Singh, an institution in himself, spoke very high of Tagore as he deserves. Words such as ‘extraordinary’, ‘brilliant’ were sprinkled generously in his remarks. He listed 2200 songs Gurudev had composed, Rabindra Sangeet, the genre of music named after him, his own system of education exemplified in Shantiniketan as great legacies. Dr Singh described Tagore as the first Global Citizen, a social reformer, an advocate of gender equality, an environmentalist and a great romantic poet who was also in love with the Divine. Dr. Karan Singh observed that all of Tagore’s paintings are dark; may be, these reflect his dark feelings whereas his poetry reflects abundance of beauty. He suggested that a seminar deserves to be organized about the similarities and differences in thoughts and ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, Aurobindo and Tagore three colossal figures of India’s modern history who were frequently in touch with each other.
Dr. Nitish Sengupta, former MP and Chairman of the Board for Reconstruction of PSEs spoke extensively on Tagore’s music and also reminded us that Tagore had actually inspired Sri Lanka’s national anthem as well thereby taking the number of national anthems he has composed to three( Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka) !!
Ms. Jayanti Ghosh, well known Bengal singer rendered four Tagore songs, reflecting varying moods and feelings. This was followed by rendition of two Tagore songs by the legendary Kathak exponent Pandit Birju Maharaj, the Chairman of the evening. He also demonstrated how the sentiments of Tagore songs could be expressed through ‘bol’ in Kathak, which can be called dance poetry.
His senior most disciple Saswati Sen performed abhinaya on four couplets by Gurudev and ended the evening by performing a duet with Ms Mamata Maharaj on the famous inspiring Tagore song ‘Ekla Cholo Re!
Vote of thanks was proposed by the Joint Secretary of IAFA, Ms.Nehha Bhatnagar.