The Dreams of Bangladesh

The Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore did not live to see the birth of Bangladesh, though the ‘Golden Land’ was not partitioned in his time either. The titan of the Bengali literary and Fine Arts world divided his time between what is now Bangladesh and the Indian side of the border, but who can tell if this was by chance or by intuitive design?

Certainly, the prose, poetry, sketches, and paintings of Rabindranth Tagore spans the entire Bengali world, and cannot in humane terms be thought of as a partisan entity of either India or Bangladesh alone. It is difficult to conceive that this father of modern Bengali expression and culture would have approved of or have even accepted the division of his home land, and the present political dispensation. While speculation about his mind may be idle so many decades after his demise, his writings do suggest some undeniable directions to those who are willing to ponder on his intellectual legacy. The gaps between his vision for unified Bengal and for the entire sub-continent of his time, and the realities of the 21st century are vast, but this should deter us from working towards a better future of his dreams.

Rabindranath Tagore is more celebrated for his artistic and literary merit than for his role in developing a modern Bengali identity of distinction. However, a nationalistic review of his work, with an undivided Greater India in mind, gives one pause to think of reversing the fissiparous tendencies which have sprung up in our midst of late. We can spend many lifetimes reading and reflecting on the massive collection of Rabindranath Tagore’s work. However, it is the magical theme of his ‘Gitanjali’ that is most stirring for Bengalis, and for all other people in the region as well. The secular appeal of ‘Gitanjali’ is an object lesson for fundamentalist, extremist, and communal elements which try to poison the organic links between people of the land of Rabindranth Tagore’s birth. Some publishers do not hesitate to reproduce ‘Gitanjali’ in miscellaneous works of their own, but it is more respectful and appropriate to procure a legal and official copy, and to treasure it for its incredible value. No one can ever tire of imbibing the powerful verse and its deep rooted impact on the mind.