Vriend, mijn hart gaat naar u uit. Helaas communiceer ik niet zo goed in een taal die niet de mijne is. Het liefst doe ik dit in liedjes. Die drukken het meest dierbare in me uit. Ofwel het beste uit zich spontaan en oncontroleerbaar in schoonheid.
Voor velen kom ik over als dom en onhandig. Soms beschouw ik me als een fluit die niet kan praten maar zingt dankzij je adem.
Zonder twijfel heeft de lectuur van mijn boek u al een betere indruk van me gegeven dan een persoonlijke ontmoeting; want het lichaam van de lamp is donker, het heeft geen uitdrukking, alleen zijn vlam heeft de taal.1
Vrije, beknopte vertaling door Ludwig Pesch; bron: Letter#2: Rabindranath to Van Eeden, August 9, 1913 in “Tagore in The Netherlands” by Liesbeth Meyer[↩]
Voor details, zie Abstract “Van Eeden en Tagore. Ethiek en muziek” door Rokus de Groot in Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, D. 49ste, Afl. 2de (1999), pp. 98-147[↩]
“It is not the distinctive quality of man to be a mere repetition of his ancestors. Animals cling to the nests of their effete habits; man expresses himself age after age in new creations.”– Rabindranath Tagore in 19311
Listen to Tagore: Unlocking Cages: Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the Bengali writer and thinker Rabindranath Tagore: https://bbc.in/1KVh4Cf >> The acclaimed BBC 4 podcast series titled Incarnations: India in 50 Lives has also been published in book form (Allen Lane).
“I was moved by how many of these lives pose challenges to the Indian present,” he writes, “and remind us of future possibilities that are in danger of being closed off.”2
‘Words travel worlds and the translator does the driving‘! Whoever said this has hit the nail right on the head. How else could great epics like Odyssey cross the shores of Greece and reach every corner of the world? In a world that is increasingly becoming international, stories from across cultures and languages take center stage. Award winning author Chaitali Sengupta [LinkedIn] takes the driving seat in ‘Timeless Tales in Translation‘ to bring selected classic Indian short stories to the Netherlands. | Read more >>
By Muktha – 30 March 2023 in Eindhovennews.com
“Whatever is true and noble in life, nature and art is also beautiful” – Rabindranath Tagore quoted by the Archaeological Survey of India (Unesco) >>
Between these two seemingly unrelated dates – Tagore’s lecture tour in 1920 and liberation from nazi rule in 1945 – lies a period of immense suffering all over Europe and beyond: the emergence and fall of the “Thousand-Year Reich” whose leaders propagated a nationalist-cum-white-supremacist ideology (Aryanism). For twelve long years its leaders coopted others in an insane scheme whereby countless “righteous” people were first enticed into condoning, even facilitating the oppression and persecution of their fellow citizens, then to “sacrifice” their lives for the greater glory of the “nation”. Among the political and business “elite” of that period there were many who condoned the systematic extermination of millions of people for no fault of their own, without ever being held to account even when nazi rule had ended.
The fact that some still do – all over the world – makes it all the more remarkable that long before his 1920 lecture-cum-fundraising tour of Europe, Rabindranath Tagore had foreseen the catastrophic potential of nationalism, be it for India or other countries. 4 This is evident from several lectures published under the title Nationalism in 1917 and still in print: “And the idea of the Nation is one of the most powerful anaesthetics that man has invented. Under the influence of its fumes the whole people can carry out its systematic programme of the most virulent self-seeking without being in the least aware of its moral perversion – in fact it can feel dangerously resentful if it is pointed out.”5
Revisiting Europe in 1920, so shortly after World War I, Tagore had rallied support for peace and cooperation among peoples independent of prevailing notions such as “race” or “creed”, being convinced that “there is only one history – the history of man. All national histories are merely chapters in the larger one. 6 He knew from experience that the only way to achieve a lasting change of hearts and minds was progressive education on all levels and in an atmosphere that allowed these issues to be addressed in an unprejudiced manner. This is evident from the theme chosen for one of his two lectures at Amsterdam University: “Ideal of Education”, held on on 27th September 1920. 7
Being Asia’s first Nobel Laureate in 1913 did not delude him into thinking that a more peaceful and just society could be achieved merely by agreement on an intellectual plane or diplomatic means. So as a poet and song writer he reached out where others had failed in search of intercultural understanding, as evident from the title of another lecture, indeed the very first one on Dutch soil (23 September 1920): “Some songs of the Village Mystics in Bengal”, delivered at the Church of the Free Christians: a virtual homage to the baulsingers credited with inspiring some of his most beloved songs to this very day. 8
Time and again his “silver voice” left a deep impression among large audiences 10 with whom he shared a will to overcome divisions, be it within societies or between nations, and the ensuing hostilities echoed by misunderstandings prevailing in our own time. He was convinced that these would eventually resolved by resorting to unconventional means, such as the realisation of a shared, non-sectarian legacy available to all, and later summarized as follows:
When our self is illuminated with the light of love, then the negative aspect of its separateness with others loses its finality, and then our relationship with others is no longer that of competition and conflict, but of sympathy and co-operation. 11
During lectures delivered during the First World War, Tagore urged his audiences in Japan and the United States “to eschew political aggressiveness and cultural arrogance.” Noted Indian historian Ramachandra Guha believes that “it was by reading and speaking to Tagore that these founders of modern India, Gandhi and Nehru, developed a theory of nationalism that was inclusive rather than exclusive.12 Tagore’s Nationalism should be mandatory reading in today’s climate of xenophobia, sectarianism, violence and intolerance. 13
By the time of Tagore’s visit to the Netherlands, his favourite play Dakghar had been translated into English and Dutch (as The Post Office and De brief van den koning, in 1912 and 1916 respectively). Beyond the enduring success of several western theatre productions based on these and other versions, its themes remain relevant in the context of peaceful resistance in the face of despotism in all its manifestations, past, present and future:
Its themes of liberation and transcending difficult situations through imagination, creativity and love of life made the play a favourite during the Second World War, with famous productions in Polish in the Warsaw Ghetto and a Paris radio production on the eve of the Nazi invasion. 14
Dakghar is one of many works, including several plays, wherein “Tagore uses the notion of freedom to decry narrow nationalistic boundaries, governed by myopic ambition and greed […] which bring out different facets of his broader abstraction of freedom.”15
Rabindranath’s idea of samaj [society] is closely related to the idea of Santiniketan. He was growing more and more against the idea of Nation and seeing the formation of samaj as the only solution to social problems in India. In one of his lectures delivered during his trip to Japan and the USA in 1916 he says, “This time it was the Nation of the West driving its tentacles of machinery deep down into the soil. […]
A nation, in the sense of the political and economic union of people, is that aspect which a whole population assumes when organized for a mechanical purpose. Society as such has no ulterior purpose. It is an end in itself. It is a spontaneous self- expression of man as a social being. It is natural regulation of human relationships, so that men can develop ideals of life in cooperation with one another.”16
“Tagores bezoek maakte diepe indruk en bracht in Nederland een ware rage teweeg.” – Read the post published by the Amsterdam city archive (in Dutch). Critical voices were not wanting either, as summarized by the English periodical La gazette de Hollande with reference to a Roman Catholic cleric’s view that “we do not believe Dr. Tagore’s appearance in the body answered the high expectations which had been cherished”, referring to an earlier article in the patriotic Vaderland “which says that the prophet from India has only repeated what the prophet of Nazareth expounded centuries ago.” https://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=MMKB19:000104236[↩]
“Around 250,000 Dutch people died in World War II, including around 100,000 Jews, according to figures from the country’s Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide studies.” – Reuters, 5 May 2020[↩]
“Tagore songs which are correspond to Baul style […] contain ideas with double meaning and the style of the tune pertaining to a homeless minstrel. They are fit for singing with modest or even without accompaniment. Rabindranath had combined this style with other formats of Hindustani classical music in order to suit his compositions.” http://www.geetabitan.com/raag/light-classical-and-regional-forms/baul.html[↩]
“‘Met zilveren stemgeluid leest dr. Tagore de rede, die hij te voren op papier heeft gebracht. Hij vertelt van de dorpsmystici ginds in Bengalen, van mannen en vrouwen wier godsdienst het Hindoeïsme is en die in religieuze devotie het dagelijksche gebeuren rondom hen vertolken in liederen van zeldzame bekoring.’ Tagores bezoek maakte diepe indruk en bracht in Nederland een ware rage teweeg.” – Press report cited on www.amsterdam.nl/stadsarchief, the official Amsterdam City Archives” website, on 20 May 2020[↩]
Read the full commentary by Ramachandra Guha Nationalism on Worldcat.org.”[↩]
“In 1901 Tagore founded an experimental school for boys and wrote plays to be performed by his students. Arguably the best known of these is “Dak Ghar” (The Post Office, 1912). This play, written in just four days, is from his “Gitanjali” period (‘Songs of Offering’), which had among its dominant themes death and passage into the next life. In this one-act, Amal is a sick child watching life pass, seeing the construction of a modern post office and imagining that he might someday receive a letter from the king. The play was first performed by and for schoolboys at Tagore’s school in Santiniketan. The first western performance was just two years later in 1914 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. It has subsequently been translated into many languages and performed throughout the world. Its themes of liberation and transcending difficult situations through imagination, creativity and love of life made the play a favourite during the Second World War, with famous productions in Polish in the Warsaw Ghetto and a Paris radio production on the eve of the Nazi invasion.” – Summary on Worldcat.org[↩]
“True happiness is not at all expensive. It depends upon that natural spring of beauty and of life, harmony of relationship. Ambition pursues its own path of self-seeking by breaking this bond of harmony, digging gaps, creating dissension. Selfish ambition feels no hesitation in trampling under foot the whole harvest field, which is for all, in order to snatch away in haste that portion which it craves. Being wasteful it remains disruptive of social life and the greatest enemy of civilization.” | Read the full lecture >>
Source: Rabindranath Tagore in “Robbery of the soil” (Calcutta University, 1922), posted by Tony Mitra on a blog “Exploring citizens duty on food security, environmental sustainability, covid and freedom issues” (27 September 2015) https://www.tonu.org/tag/robbery-of-the-soil/ Date visited: 12 January 2021