Book Reviews

Human Values: The Tagorean Panorama

S.K.Chakraborty and Pradip Bhattacharya, tr.,
Human Values: The Tagorean Panorama,
New Age International Publishers, New Delhi, 1996, Reprinted 2008, p.374, Rs. 200.

The creative genius of Rabindranath Tagore knew no bounds. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that never before in the history of our country has such a multi-faceted prodigy appeared whose creativity not only pervaded every branch of our literature but went beyond to influence other walks of life. He wrote poetry, stories, novels, plays, criticism and articles of great depth with equal felicity. Unfortunately, very little of his vast repertoire is available to the non-Bengali readership. Chakraborty and Bhattacharya, distinguished intellectuals of our time who have been advocating for a long time the importance of human values in management, have rendered yeomen’s service to the English readership by providing English translations of discourses and essays from Tagore’s Shantiniketan. The book is divided into sixteen sections containing one hundred and seven essays from the original Vishva Bharati edition of Shravan, 1391 B.E.

The temple-discourses Tagore delivered at Shantiniketan between Agrahayan, 1315 and Pausha, 1321 were published in seventeen volumes between 1315 and 1323 B.E. (1908 – 1914 A.D.) under the title, Shantiniketan. These included some other speeches too delivered elsewhere. Each essay had a title then. For the second edition published in 1341-42 in two volumes Tagore revised the essays, discarded some completely, others partially and included some new essays. He also removed the titles. This edition was reproduced in the 14th volume of the 16-volume Rabindra Rachanavali published by the West Bengal Government in February, 1992. In the 1391 edition the titles and some articles discarded earlier returned. Therefore, there is a difference in content between the 1391 edition and the West Bengal Government edition. The discarded articles appeared in the 15th volume.

What strikes one at the outset is the simple elegance of honest translation. It is a challenging task to translate Tagore because “Tagore’s is a deceptively simple, direct style that conceals unsuspected depths.” I have no hesitation in saying that the translators have succeeded in remaining “diligently faithful” to the original without resorting to any kind of literary acrobatics. They have never allowed their own literary personalities to intrude into the translation and have guided the reader smoothly and unobtrusively to step directly into Tagore’s beautiful world. The translation touches you as does the original. Tagore’s profound insights into the dis-values that permeate our consciousness, the crisis of values, ethics and morals which existed then as now, mankind’s alienation from the Eternal and the path he chalks out to enable us to rise above these self-inflicted obstacles to attain the right values of daily life, the bliss of joyful existence through love, sadhana, prayer, gifting, introspection, have been very sensitively captured and conveyed in these translations. They have like expert oarsmen steered our understanding through Tagore’s wisdom. The qualities of honesty, sensitivity and the easy graceful flow of language place this book in the must-read class. Going through the essays has been an educative and cherished experience.

The authors chose this particular book for translation because “for bringing home to anyone the profound spiritual truths of India’s heritage in the simplest manner, there is perhaps no better organized texts than Shantiniketan.” They have chosen “about eighty per cent of volume one and about twenty percent of volume two,” precisely 107 out of 153 essays because of “the conceptual relevance and practical utility of the selected pieces for practicing managers and administrators.” There is no doubt that the choice has been excellent, the articles chosen do echo the voice of Tagore, the Wisdom Teacher, the voice of the east and these contain the values needed for the practicing managers. But was there any need to restrict the book to only 107 essays? Each of the essays of Shantiniketan is so rich that there was hardly any need to deprive the reader of the beauty and wisdom of the discarded ones. For example, the essay entitled Brahmavihar has Buddha’s teachings expressed in Tagore’s inimitable style; the essay, Chhutir Parey (After the Holiday) sees action, karma, through the unique vision of Tagore. Surely, the reader requires to read these too. To that extent, the book leaves one with a certain feeling of inadequacy.

Secondly, when this book is attempting to bring the unknown Tagore to an extended readership, and when the translators themselves are “keen to make available in English as early as possible the insights offered in Shantiniketan…to the public,” why limit it? Instead of making it a text book for “practicing managers and administrators” it would have served a far nobler objective of enlightening the people in general by translating the original in its entirety.

In addition to the essays, the book has a Foreword by Dr. Willis W. Harman and a short and illuminating Introduction by the authors. Undoubtedly, the translators have succeeded in meeting their objective – it will indeed be a very important weapon in the quiver of managers and administrators, if they wish to use it as such. It is well-presented, free from errors and reasonably priced.


More by :  Maj. Gen. Shekhar Sen

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