In Defense of Rabindranath Tagore and V.S.Naipaul

Rabindranath Tagore
From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

Writer and actor Girish Karnad recently made a comment that the Rabindranath Tagore was a second rate playwright. He did commend him for his poetic skills but downgraded his achievements as a playwright.

Whatever might be the truth of that statement, it is our humble opinion that Mr. Karnad should have kept his opinion to himself since, Rabindranath Tagore is a national figure of great prominence and died long ago. The conditions and circumstances in which he lived and worked are entirely different and it is difficult to assess his work and contribution from present-day standards.

In many ways, Tagore played a pioneering role in modernizing Indian literature and presenting it to the world with certain dignity and as the expression of a unique tradition.

Through his writings, he reflected most humanely and realistically the ethos of an oppressed nation in varied colors  as per his own perceptions and background. it is inappropriate to make personal comments about a person of such eminence posthumously when he is viewed by a whole nation as a source of inspiration and as a great role model.

In a country of billion plus people, so far in nearly a hundred years, he has been the only Indian who had been honored with a Nobel Prize for literature.

He was also a person of varied talents, who combined in himself great sensitivity to the life of his times as well as great respect for the heritage of a nation of such antiquity.

There is no other poet, whose two poems have been selected as the national anthems by two nations.

Girish Karnad should have at least respected that fact and kept Tagore out of his ranting.

Dear Mr. Girish Karnad,  Rabindranath Tagore in your opinion may be a second rate playwright, but if we say in our humble opinion, that you are sir a second rate actor and third rate writer, pointing out some of the movies in which you acted and the plays you have written (which 99% of Indians do not even know), it would surely hurt you and anger you.

We believe that it would have been better if you had made specific remarks about specific plays of Rabindranath Tagore, rather than passing a summary judgment on his play writing skills.

That would have probably helped others to learn from them and avoid them in their own works. Even now, you can point out those lapses and tell the world how you avoided them in your own works.

Mr. Karnad also commented about Naipaul, another person of Indian descent, the only person of Indian descent to date, who had won a Noble Prize for literature outside India.

By criticizing these people, Mr. Karnad may earn some attention but never the respect of the intellectual community.

Tagore did write about poor people and reflected the poverty of a nation under foreign subjugation; but for the left-eyed Karnad, those characters may not be poor enough to depict the sociopolitical fantasies of the intellectual kind that aim to exploit art to depict the problem of human existence for commercial and personal ends, an art in which presently politicians and writers alike are showing great interest.

Tagore drew inspiration for his plays mostly from ancient Indian classical literature and his writings are rooted in India's unique cultural history, which is rare to find in modern Indian writings.

He not only wrote, but also did pioneering work in uplifting India's collective consciousness from the mental torpor into which it had fallen. He dreamed of a free world that was not limited by compartmental thinking, but rested on the vision of universal brotherhood.

He envisioned a spirit that pined for the love of God and freedom from the shackles of mortal life, without losing its zest for the simple pleasures of life and the love of Nature.

He spoke about an India that, unfortunately, is yet to manifest and which has been becoming a distant dream day by day.

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