Friday, May 7, 2010

“old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird”

Amit Chaudhuri musings on Tagore:

  • On the Mount Rushmore of Indian nationalist iconography, we can expect to see, as we pass by in an aeroplane, Gandhi’s and Nehru’s faces carved into the stone. The third face is a blur — but the myopic likeness is of course Ambedkar’s. The fourth visage just may be Tagore’s.
  • And this, you feel, is largely the company Tagore will keep in the days leading to his 150th birth anniversary: Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar.
  • In India, Tagore is viewed as a sort of Guinness Book of World Records-holder: he wrote more than any other modern writer did; he mastered more genres than any of his contemporaries; he was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize; he’s the only man to have composed two national anthems. To the febrile nationalist imagination, such lists are all-important. Even if some of these claims were true, they — without reference to specificities — exemplify the sort of absurd rhetoric Tagore is surrounded by. Although there’s no shortage of kitsch renditions of the national anthem, emanating from A R Rahman and others, I’ve yet to read a persuasive analysis of the anthem as a composition.

Also read Ramachandra Guha's Why Tagore?

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