(continued) Who he was, what he did. One is blindsided by the latter. It’s as well to get it out of the way, to continue to be able to see him as an ordinary person, as ordinary as oneself.
Rabindranath’s poetry is unequalled in lyric scope and variety. His novels, short stories, dramas of prose and verse and dance, and his penetrating essays on a vast array of topics, are all informed by the springs of a great poetic mind. His more than two thousand songs form a unique branch of Indian music. They are among his finest poetry. In later life he turned his hand to painting and is seen as one of those who took Indian art into the modern world.
He was a social reformer of particular import. On the educational campus, at the rural town’s developmental centres, in the farmer’s field, he brought in new ideas that at once prompted co-operation with the outside world, and led to a defining measure of independence from within. So it was with a lifetime of effort to encourage a generous and practical outlook on the part of his country, as she tore herself away from a subaltern political status and reached for the reins of self-government. Nor did his efforts stop at his country’s borders.
‘The Realisation of Life, ‘Personality’ and ‘Nationalism’ were themes of lecture tours he undertook in the USA and Japan. Perhaps the most-travelled person on the globe in his time, he met world leaders, renowned intellectuals (there is a famous conversation with Einstein), and many others. A Nobel laureate (in literature), known far and wide as a speaker and humanist, he touched a nerve in all he said and did and wrote. And in all he said and did and wrote he was a poet.
‘Poetry’ literally is a making. An old word for a poet is a ‘maker’ (or Scots ‘makar’). The current of words, that seeps through one’s fingers as a poet, has the threads of a vision in it and the poet’s grasp. So Tagore saw life as it was with a hint of it as it could be.
And so the film I have in mind – that glorious dream – in the midst of a rampageous tapestry of a country and a world at a time of great array and change, would present an ordinary man beset by the wind of love and change and error and hurt. And through it all and despite it all – a man at one with himself.