Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Tagore Moment

We were returning home after a day in the hills of Srimongol. From the car we saw glimpses of the sun setting behind the green tea hills. We caught only a few seconds of the large orange disk as it set, but the misty green hills, the orange sun and the pink-purple sky flooded my mind with songs of Tagore. I found myself humming "Godhuli gogoney meghey dhekechhilo tara/ aamar ja kotha chhilo hoye gelo shaara" (at sunset the clouds covered the stars; all the things I wanted to say were done).

But it was a cloudless sky, so the song did not quite work. Then the perfect Tagore couplet, describing nature, came to mind: "hetha mondo modhur kanakani joley stholey, shyamal maaTir dhoratoley/hetha maThey maThey rongeen phuler aalimpon, boner pothey aadhar aalor aalingon" (here on this brown earth, bittersweet whisperings amongst earth and sea/tapestries of flowers in the fields, embraces of light and shadow on a forest path)

From where did the poet arrive at this beautiful place? He describes his origin thus: "Oi aalok maatal shorgo shobhar mohangon/ shethai chhilo kon jugey mor nimontron" (I had a long-standing invitation to stay in the heavens, flooded with starlight) But he did not stay: "Mon laglo na, tai gaaner shagor paari diye elem choley" (My heart did not want to stay there, so I crossed the ocean of songs and arrived here on this world).

Does he miss the heavens? Does he want to return? Nope. "Aamar mon laglo re, tai eikhanatei din kaTiyei, khelar chholey" (My heart is stuck here, so I am going to spend my days playing here).

Sort of Garden of Even in reverse. At this green-orange sunset moment, this song of Tagore brought the cosmic and the personal together for me. Like so many of this other works do.

(I am grateful to the late Dr. Syed Mujtaba Ali for his essay on Rabindra Sangeet
where I first understood the meaning of the song quoted.)

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