Rabindranath: The God of Bong Things

Today marks the sesquicentennial of India’s Nobel laureate, poet, philosopher, multifaceted genius, Rabindranath Thakur. There hardly seems to be a facet of our lives which has not been touched by his works, his words. He was prophetic in announcing in 1896, at the age of only 35 years:

“A hundred years from today,
Who are you, perusing this verse
Steeped in curiosity?”

And yes, today, over a century later, we find his words to be our solace in times of sorrow, our celebrations in times of joy, our musings, in times of introspection. There hardly is an aspect of our lives that has not been steeped in the essence of Rabindranath. Almost single handedly he created a genre, a culture, an ethno-politico-cultural identity that defines a large part of being a Bangali. His influence on his contemporaries was so strong, so deep, that it took a cultural revolution of sorts to shake them off and move in a newer direction. Even in that, he played a role, subtle, inexplicable, and often unacknowledged.

Yet, despite this, he never wanted to be anything but one of the plebians. Despite hailing from means, his works were close to the soul of the common man. In fact, in one of his famed works, Porichoy, he claims:

“Once more, my sitar I strung to tune
As I hummed
Let my name survive this tag
That I am one of You
And let this be my final identity.

Porichoy–Rabindranath Thakur

However, it is a pity that for one day we celebrate him, and then forget him the other 364 days of the year…

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