The Love of My Life

[Rabindranath Tagore is perhaps the greatest writer of letters in the world. He wrote thousands of them in his own hand which is any calligrapher’s dream. So far Viswabharati has published more than 20 volumes of his letters – some of the volumes running into more than 500 pages in close print.  And many letters must have been lost because of the carelessness of their recipients. But the best collection is of the 252 letters he wrote in his youth, mostly from Silaidaha where he was looking after his ancestral zamindari, to his dearest niece Indira, whom he called Bob, the daughter of his second eldest brother, the first native ICS, Satyendranath.

They would also have been lost but for the loving care with which this talented lady preserved them copied in her notebook. They were first published as Chhinnapatra, later as Chhinnapatrabali, or Excerpts of Letters. They are incomparable in world literature for their sheer beauty and poetry. They show in the hand of a great artist what great heights the art of letter writing can reach. Anybody who wants to know Rabindranath in his many moods must read these letters, if possible in the original Bengali because most of them defy translation. Here is one letter from that collection in my feeble attempt of a translation. It rambles about his own poetry and the paintings of a famous modern Indian artist – Ravi Verma.]
- Silaidaha, 8 May, 1893 

Poetry has been my beloved for long - perhaps from the time when I was as small as my Rathi (poet’s eldest son, born, 27/11/1888) she has been betrothed to me. Since then the banks of our pond, the shed of the banyan tree, the garden in our house, the unexplored rooms on the ground floor, the outside world and the fairy tales and nursery rhymes told by the maid servants created a veritable imaginary world in my mind – it is very difficult to describe that strange and hazy mood of the mind – but this much I can say that from that very time my betrothal (mala badal) with poetic fancy (kalpana) was complete. But to tell you the truth that girl is not at all lucky – she isn’t a harbinger of good fortune. I cannot say that she doesn’t give pleasure but she doesn’t give an iota of comfort. She gives deep delight to one to whom she takes a fancy, but at times in the strong vice of her embrace she squeezes out all the blood from his heart. One whom she selects that wretch can never settle down comfortably in a settled family life. But my real life has been perpetually pawned to her. No matter if I write for the Sadhana (periodical edited by the poet but published from his home in Calcutta) or look after the zamindari, as soon as I sit down to write poems I realize that I have entered into my eternal real self – this is my real station in life. In my life both consciously and unconsciously I can often resort to falsehood but in poetry I can never tell lies – this is the one place where I have to be totally truthful.  
The entire morning I spent seeing the paintings of Ravi Verma. Really I like them so much! However they may be, when I see them I realize – how much they mean to us, these native themes and images! In many pictures the different limbs and parts of the body are not in due proportions, they are very uneven, but taken in their totality they enter deep into our minds. This is mainly because we are in unison with the artist.

As we can anticipate from the outset what he wants to say – from his mere efforts we can complement the rest in our mind. It is easy to find fault with them, it doesn’t need much effort to do so, but when we consider that it is really difficult to conceive something clearly in one’s mind – the image which we mentally visualize we do so mostly in parts, it is a kind of patchwork - but when we attempt to paint it, not a single line we can do without, we are to imagine it exactly as it is, not ignoring any of its features either major or minor and then that imagination which is so fluid and ever changing has to be cast into a solid visible mould – is it so easy!  

More By  :  Kumud Biswas

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Comment Kumudbabu: I agree with you completely. I have tried out several blog sites. There is not one I have come across that is even remotely as good as this one. I have always felt that a good blog site calls for an editor with his/her eyes open for quality. This is the only one I have found so far, thanks to you. Although I have published books on economics, I have done nothing comparable to your achievements in publishing good literature. I have little hope of publishing either. But I enjoy writing seriously, whereas all the sites are, as you say, quite frivolous. This is the only place where I can at least put up my pieces. I don't receive comments, but I am almost sure that discerning readers read boloji. Also, I am now in a position to collect and organize my non-adademic writings in one place. It is a site that google locates in a second. The great thing that Rajender has done is that authors now have the option of revising their work too. This is a most attractive feature of boloji.

23-Oct-2010 11:31 AM

Comment  Age has caught up with us - such mistakes we are now priviledged to make.
One thing I forgot to mention - for enhancement Mr. Rajender Krishan took just two minutes. Most interactive websites are for blogging on frivolous matters - here at boloji you come across serious things and that is its most distinctive characteristic - it is a pleasure to read them. Here again the credit goes to its editor whom we cannot thank too often.

23-Oct-2010 10:03 AM

Comment Kumudbabu: I have no doubt that people like you and I would be wandering in the wilderness had it not been for Rajender. He is doing a magnificent job. And I thank you for bringing me here.

Incidentally, I am sorry for the typos in my comment. The first paragraph should be:

I know how hard the task must have been for you to translate chhinnapatra. As you say, it is untranslatable. On the other hand, as anyone who has read chhinnapatra and the later chhinnapatrabali would confirm, they ignite a desire in the heart of the reader to share them with the world at large. I myself cannot forget parts of these immortal letters.

23-Oct-2010 07:04 AM

Comment The entire credit for enhancement of this blog with these wonderful pictures goes to the resourceful editor of boloji - Mr. Rajender Krishan. And posting this beautiful haiku in your appreciative comment you have further enhanced it. Thanks a lot.

22-Oct-2010 12:52 PM

Comment Kumudbabu: I know how hard it must the task have been for you to translate chhinnapatra. As you say, it is untranslatable. On the other hand, anyone who has read either chhinnapatra or the later chhinnapatrabali would confirm, it ignites a desire in the heart of the reader to share it with the world at large. I myself cannot forget parts of these immortal letters.

Ravi Verma's pictures, especially the second one, brought up a memory. My first attempt to write a haiku:

Power cut
Stumbled I on the pitch-dark staircase
But she waited smiling, face candle lit.

I want to revise this and post it on boloji when I feel reasonably satisfied.

Best wishes.

22-Oct-2010 06:59 AM

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