The US Consulate General, Kolkata, and the Edward M Kennedy (EMK) Center Dhaka hosted ‘Encounters with Tagore’ on the bard’s 159th birth anniversary.
Taking a detour from the bookish conversations, the virtual cultural exchange had voices from the USA, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia sharing their personal anecdotes of Tagore.
Tagore is not felt through the numerous scholarly renditions that have inundated the research space, or even the monumental body of literature but how people internalise his poems or songs.
Addressing the virtual exchange, Monica Shie, director, American Center, Kolkata, said: “On the 159th birth anniversary of Tagore, we realise how there was no limitations to his curiosity and creativity. When I first came to Kolkata an acquaintance told me ‘I hope you have read Tagore, because there is a veritable Tagore epidemic here’.
This was back when we used the word epidemic in a lighter vein. Luckily though, I had read Tagore. Many of us agree with Yeats who remarked how we are not moved by the strangeness of Gitanjali but our own image in it. When Tagore laments the world fragmented by a narrow domestic walls, the reference hasn’t felt as relevant as today.”
Deliberating on how Tagore kept countries and cultures connected, Scott Hartmann, consultant for American cultural centres and digital engagements for US embassies, shared how Gitanjali had prompted him to return to writing, while one participant shared how ‘Rabindranritya’ is an amalgamation of various dance forms that Tagore picked up during his travels.
Ayreen Khan, a Sufi artist, said she always felt that Tagore had an enlightened Sufi soul as he had a hunger for knowing the unknown and gifted the Sufi artists a language of mysticism and introspection.
Youth participants sharing their encounters with Tagore and his works, agreed how the poet has transcended time and space and kept us connected even in a pandemic.