In Rabindranath Tagore’s Sesher Kobita (The Last Poem), Amito, the protagonist, makes a clear distinction between ‘fashion’ and ‘style’—fashion is the mask while style is the beauty of the countenance. Then, Tagore takes on the voice of the narrator (himself) and says that he believes his writing has ‘style’.
Those who have read Tagore, will not find this self-praise audacious or uncommon. One of his poems opens with, “Aaji hotey shoto borsho pore/ Ke tumi porichho boshi amar kobitakhani/ Koutuholbhore?” (A hundred years from today,/ Who are you reading my poems with curiosity?). He was certain that through his works, his thoughts were being immortalised, and he wasn’t wrong.
It is futile to attempt to put a number to his body of literary work which consists of poems, short stories, novels, plays, dance-dramas and essays. The Nobel laureate has composed over 2200 songs.
He came to painting later in his life, as a sexagenarian. “We who have traded in lyrics should know that these will not find acceptance at another time. This is inevitable. So I often think that only painting has a deathless quality,” Tagore realised at least a century ahead of the Instagram generation.
On his 77th death anniversary, here’s revisiting the bard who borrowed ideas, music from across the world, combined them with his interpretations and gave us philosophies that we borrow from in our daily lives.