Does that happen with all of you that you are at loss of words, in some days? I wanted to write something about our Kobi Guru (The Poet who is our teacher), but I don’t understand how to begin and how to end my blog. Rabi Thakur is in our tears, our pain, our joy and our death. There is a saying, ” what a big novel can do, a small poem can do better”. It is unnecessary to even mention that he was the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize ever. Do you understand when does a Nobel Prize become unnecessary to mention, or less important to be included? It is when someone’s legacy,works and talent, contain a forever within. I am mesmerized every time I read him. There is absolutely no human emotion that he didn’t include in his writings. He had the universe within him, I would say. Although born in a very affluent family where for generations there were writers and poets, he was still different. If we read his works, we shall find that with our growing age, our understanding keeps changing when we re-read his poems.
For those who are not aware of this magnanimous personality, I should include that his calibre in literature was not limited to just ‘Bengali language’, he himself had translated his ‘Gitanjali‘ in English, for which he was awarded a Nobel in 1913. He wrote about love; love for your God or love for your beloved, you cannot distinguish. He could fathom the depth of human emotions, which we simply are not aware of. I have not trained myself to sing and dance to his songs, and on this day, it hurts from within. Today is 25 e Baisakh, his birthday. We celebrate it with utmost love and respect because he is with us, in our dark and gloomy days, he has been with us when we grew up with his poems for children, we spent our adolescence in his poetry, where he wrote about love and forms of it, dimensions of it.
He started the festival of Rakhi in Bengal, primarily to reunite the ‘Hindus and the Muslims’, and started a new narrative of brotherhood, when things were getting out of control due to religious binaries before India’s independence. He returned his ‘Knighthood‘ which was awarded for his services to literature in 1915; in a protest against 1919 Amritsar massacre. Needless to say, he was a true patriot.
If I am to make a list of his famous works, then I shall fail miserably, because he had his admirers for each of his works and I cannot choose a few to be the best ones. Though I shall narrate the story of one of my favourite creations of him, and shall try to analyse the depth of it, to the best of my ability.
The piece is called ‘Notun Putul’ which translates into ‘ New Doll’.
This story is of Puratan, an old man who had been selling his handmade ‘dolls’ throughout his life. When he was almost 80, a young doll maker named Navin, came to the kingdom, and slowly the old man’s dolls became obsolete. The girls of the kingdom only wanted to buy dolls from the new doll maker. The elders in the kingdom, kept pushing their young girls to buy dolls from the old man because they believed in his traditional ways of doll making, but the young generation of girls wanted the new dolls made by the young boy. After a couple of years, not a single customer went to buy the old man’s dolls, therefore he stopped making them. He lived with his daughter and son in law and his young grand daughter.
One fine day his grand daughter started to request him, to make her new dolls, she was 15 then. He asked the young girl to buy dolls from the new doll maker as no one likes his dolls now. The grand daughter kept nagging until he agreed to make her a few dolls. One morning as he was making dolls, his daughter came and started scolding him for wasting time in making dolls instead of taking care of the field and shooing away animals from destroying the crops, she was worried about the required money needed to arrange for the girl’s marriage. The girl comes forward and asks her mother to not worry as she would sell her grandfather’s dolls and get enough money for her own marriage. Neither of the adults believed her, because they wondered who would buy some obsolete dolls.
After many days the girl came with a gold coin and gave it to the mother and said she got it by selling off the grandfather’s dolls. The old man was so excited, he made alot of new dolls. The girl somehow kept selling them one after the other. She collected 12 gold coins once, and she gave them to the mother and said, ” See, now because of grandfather, you shall be able to arrange my marriage”. The mother was in tears of joy then. The girl went on to tell her grandfather that she had chosen herself a husband, only if he allows her to get married to him. The grandfather asked her to call the man she wants to marry, and then comes Navin, the new young doll maker of the kingdom. He goes to the old man and says that he sold all of his dolls by just making minute changes to them. The old man hugs him with his teary eyes and said, “Once because of you my dolls stopped getting sold, and today you shall be taking away my most precious doll among all”. The girl intervened and said, ” No grandfather, he shall be taking you along with us”.
The story ends there, and by then I was almost in tears, and I was moved by the generous kind Navin, who went out of his way to make sure that an old man gets back his due respect and involves him again in the mainstream society, but when I thought deeper, I realised that Rabi Thakur didn’t narrate just a story of an old and a young man. He wanted to put forward the narrative, “change is the ultimate reality of the universe, and to survive one must adapt to change”. He also discards the perspective of modernity replacing the tradition. Through the metaphor of a ‘doll’, he explains to us, that traditional values and people with traditional value system can also be a part of the mainstream society, just by inducing minute changes in their thoughts and beliefs. He also wanted us, the people of the younger generation to understand that we shall have to take the extra effort in making the people of the previous generations a part of our lives.
I find this so relevant specially in these days of pandemic, when we are all living inside the 4 walls with our families, 24 hrs a day; many a times we are annoyed with each other’s perspectives and ideologies. Some of us want to dress up a certain way, some of us want to eat a certain delicacy, and some others have other sets of belief systems, which entirely differs from our parents’ or grandparents’. This is our responsibility to make them visualise the future we see for us, also it’s on their part to adapt to the changing times and understand us, and move together towards a better tomorrow.
Kobi Guru Rabindranath Thakur shall forever this enchanting persona who would make all upcoming generations crave for his literature. I wish he could see how his writings inspire people even after a century. I think he can see that, he can see us.
Subho Jonmodin Kobi Guru, onek onek Pronaam Tomae.