Some Tagore to end the day…
It’s taken me two months, but I finally finished Sabyasachi Bhattacharya’s biography of Tagore – “Rabindranath Tagore: An Interpretation.” A satisfying read though it was not as stimulating as his other book on Tagore, “The Mahatma and the Poet”. But that’s more to do with the subject material that he covers in this one. This is much wider in scope compared to the latter (which had a narrow focus on Tagore’s relationship and fascinating debates/essays that he exchanged with Gandhi). To interpret the life of a polymath like Rabindranath Tagore in 240 pages is no easy task. Given that, I thought this was quite well done.
A few extracts from the book…
Tagore on poetry and music
- Mankind has two means of self-expression – words and music. In fact even words depend upon the tone…When we write poetry we depend more on words and in songs on the language of music. But there is a difference between the two: words must add up to express an idea; music can attain expression without words. As a result, poetry has been compelled to cultivate the art of expressing ideas; music has fallen behind in that respect…Tagore thought that the cultivation and expression of bhava had declined in music as compared to the poet’s world where the poet cannot do without bhava to be expressed in words. Tagore concluded that music ought to be open to bhava; that is to say, poetry should be a close companion to music.
Tagore about modernism in literature and the modernists…
- These modernists claim that only we know what is life only we deal with reality, – this has become an easy and cheap prescription. Yet they have done very little for the poverty-stricken masses; they are prosperous, they enjoy a comfortable living style; poverty to them is only a hot spice to impart pep to modernist literature. This curry powder of imagination is an ingredient in cooking up a cheap and artificial literature.
Likewise, the stress on the sex urge in literature, he said, is not necessarily commendable. It is one of the easiest ways of showing off a kind of courage.
- Courage in writing, or for that matter in society at large, is a good thing. But courage may be of different types, of different qualities. ‘We do not care a damn’ is an attitude of courage, but to have courage because we care is another kind, a greater kind of courage.
Tagore on education
- Mind, when long deprived of its natural food of truth and freedom of growth, develops an unnatural craving for success; and our students have fallen victims to the mania for success in examinations. Success consists in obtaining the largest number of marks with the strictest economy of knowledge. It is a deliberate cultivation of disloyalty to truth, of intellectual dishonesty, of a foolish imposition by which the mind is encouraged to rob itself…A most important truth which are apt to forget, is that a teacher can never light another lamp unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame. The teacher who has come to the end of his subject, who has no living traffic with his knowledge, but merely repeats his lessons to his students, can only load their minds; he cannot quicken them. Truth not only must inform but inspire. If the inspiration dies out, and the information only accumulates, then truth loses its infinity.
Further Tagore believed that the generation of knowledge was as important a function of a university as the transmission of knowledge.
- In education, the most important factor must be the inspiring atmosphere of creative activity. And therefore the primary function our university should be the constructive work of knowledge. Men should be brought together and full scope given to them for work of intellectual exploration and creation; and the teaching should be like the overflow water of this spring of culture, spontaneous and inevitable. Education can only become natural and wholesome when it is the direct fruit of a living growing knowledge.