The Tagore Connection

FPJ BureauUpdated: Monday, June 24, 2019, 11:32 AM IST
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MELANIE P. KUMAR visits two different places separated by thousands of kilometers and discovers aTagore connection.

Who would even imagine that two unlikely seaside resorts, in two different parts of the world, could ever have a connection? Even harder to believe perhaps is the fact that the common link between them is the Bard and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.

When visiting Balatonfüred, located on Lake Balaton, Europe’s largest lake, it is a bit of a surprise to learn that Tagore had visited and been enchanted by this place.

After an exhausting visit from Budapest in 1926, the poet had been hospitalized and also been nursed back to health in this seaside town. This marked the beginning of the Indo- Hungarian friendship ties, which continue even till today.

As a tourist from India, it felt wonderful to see the beautiful tree- lined promenade across Lake Balaton and learn that it is called the Tagore Setany ( Hungarian for avenue). Tagore is said to have planted a Linden sapling, which has grown into a massive tree. What Tagore felt about a tree is reflected in his words etched on a plaque amidst the foliage, “ When I am no longer on this earth, my tree, Let the everrenewed leaves of thy spring, Murmur to the wayfarer, The poet did love while he lived.” It has now become a practice for visiting Indian dignitaries to pay respects to Tagore’s bust, which occupies pride of place at the Setany, and plant saplings around there. One also stumbles upon the fact that many of the resorts and hotels here are named after the Poet Laureate.

It is an awe- inspiring moment for me to follow in the footsteps of other Indians and first pay obeisance to Tagore. I then proudly click the photographs needed to record this slice of history. After this I cross over to the other side, to stand in front of the expanse of water that makes up Lake Balaton and I am inclined to agree with Tagore when he observed, “ I have seen almost all the countries of the world but I saw nowhere such a beautiful harmony of the sky and the water than that I had the privilege to enjoy on the shore of Balatonfüred filling my soul with rapture.” Balatonfüred, known for its medicinal springs, has the typical atmosphere of a holiday resort, with people sauntering around with nary a care in the world. I look out into the blue waters of the lake and see the sailboats, with their colourful sails, reflected in the waters. There are piano accordions, playing beautiful music and one can recognise some old numbers, most lilting of them being ‘ Besame Mucho,’ where the romantic Italian is exhorting his beloved, “ Kiss me, kiss me again, my darling.” Whilst Tagore was attracted to Hungary and Balatonfüred, his love affair with Hungary, threw open the doors of Shantiniketan to many Hungarian intellectuals, who visited and gave of their knowledge and skills to this institution. It was only after visiting Balaton that I learnt of the Hungarians interest in Tagore and his writings. He became popular in Hungary in early 20th century and the interest peaked in 1913, after he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Almost all the works of Tagore have been translated into Hungarian.

Tagore’s fascination with beaches is on record even before the visit to Balatonfüred in Hungary. At the age of 22, he had visited Karwar and stayed at the residence of his brother Satyendranath, then serving as the district judge there.

Karwar is located on the banks of the Kali River and it is a fascinating experience to take a boat ride across the water. The swirling waters reveal a difference when the boat moves from the river into the Arabian Sea, when the waves undulate to a different rhythm. After this experience it is not hard for me to understand Tagore being enraptured by the magic of his surroundings.

A boat ride on the Kali River, on a moonlit night in 1882, and his stepping foot onto the beach lead to Tagore penning his lyrical poem, ‘ Prakritir Pratishoda,’ or Nature’s Revenge.

Even the smallest of the beaches in Karwar have a soothing beauty to them. When dipping my feet in the waters of the Ravindranath Tagore beach, I do so without any fear, as the waters of the Arabian Sea have never been known to rise up in fury.

Tagore’s lyrical waxings on Karwar’s beaches may have in some measure contributed to their popularity. Hence, just like in the case of Balaton, Tagore’s name has become inextricably linked with Karwar with one beach being named after him. Just before stepping on to the sands of this beach, I encounter a bust of Rabindranath. Below it, are the Bard’s words, which have immortalized Karwar for all time, “ The sea beach of Karwar is certainly a fit place in which to realise that the beauty of Nature is not a mirage of the imagination, but reflects the joy of the Infinite and thus draws us to lose ourselves in it. Where the universe is expressing itself in the magic of its laws it may not be strange if we miss its infinitude; but where the heart gets into immediate touch with immensity in the beauty of the meanest of things, is any room left for argument?” One can only marvel at the coincidence of Tagore recouping in a hospital across the Lake Balaton that resulted in a rich exchange of culture between India and Hungary. Similarly, Tagore’s poetic musings about the beaches in Karwar have provided an inextricable link between him and this sea- port. Perhaps, the universality of the human experience that Tagore dealt with, in his writings, is clearly visible in Tagore being the connecting factor between Lake Balaton, the Kali River and the Arabian Sea.

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