My first brush with Tagore was when I was in the 5th class, when I was supposed to recite one of Tagore’s poems at one of our local Durga Puja ceremonies. I didn’t like the idea at all. But my father was insistent. I looked at the poem and wanted to run away. It looked too long – four odd pages... But my father knew what he was doing and I had no choice. The poem was about "the hero". About a young boy’s journey with his mother and how he saves her from villains... “Think as if we are travelling together mother... to a land far away – a strange and dangerous land... You are going in a palanquin and I am trotting on a horse next to you...” It filled inside me a sense of aspiration and dream and heroism... Because a line later, when the mother gets a little frightened, the boy says, “Mother, do not be afraid... Because I am there...”

Nothing could have been more inspirational. For days, I used to visualize that poem inside my mind and imagine that I was taking care of my mother. And during those moments that I recited that poem, I became a braver boy.

Time passed and by then, my father had developed inside me a very clear sense of what to do with studies and what not to. I oft en repeat this, and will do it again in the future I believe. He instructed me to master the subjects of Mathematics and English and not to worry about the remaining subjects – provided I read as many books as possible. I did exactly that! Fortunately, my interest in Mathematics developed and I became good with the subject, while also reading expansively – I always read everything around... but Tagore’s books still never made it to my list. I remember that the books of Tagore would be there in my bookshelves, staring at me and scaring me. They were thick and looked endless; and to top it, they had too much poetry. But I was inspired. Inspired enough to sit and use my mathematics to calculate the number of pages Tagore wrote daily on an average, given the years he lived vs the number of pages he wrote. That’s how mathematics met Tagore in my life. And later, I was going to be more awestruck at this great man’s genius.

Very soon my father, scared that I was not reading enough of Tagore, made me participate again in poetry competitions – and there I was again, standing, reciting Tagore’s poems and finding depth and meaning in life. One of Tagore’s poems, ‘The Question’ – which, I remember, won me a third prize during one such recitation – left questions in my mind which still haunt. “Bhagaban tumi juge juge doot, pathiecho bare bare, ei dayaheen shanshare... tara bole gelo...” [“God you sent messengers of greatness life after life in this unforgiving earth, they said forgive all sins. They told us to love, and to remove all malice from our hearts”]. The poem ended with the words, “Those who poison your air and blot out the sun, do you really forgive them? Do you really spread love to them too?”

That’s a question that haunts me till this day when it comes to forgiving the worst souls – something that my father does in his life, and insists I should too. As time passed, I started taking a liking to Tagore’s works, though selectively. So while his “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high” and “Jodi tor dak shune keu na aashe, tobe ekla chalo re” [if no one listens to your call, walk it alone]” inspired considerably. I still continued resisting his novels and songs. I was scared to read his stories because they had too much pathos. They invariably would bring tears and leave me sad for days.     Read More....

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