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Gandhi and Tagore

india Updated: Sep 30, 2011 00:06 IST
Uddalok Bhattacharya

In the first 45 years of his life, Tagore's principal comfort was the ancient Indian civilisation. Through its contact with the West, its quietness, he felt, was ruffled. That weakened us, he asserted.

Some 20 years later, Tagore suffered a certain kind of restlessness. He became more sensitive to life and society as they were on the ground. His Upanishadic spirituality had to be combined with two things - unity of humanity and the evolution of the universal man. Then came Gandhi (whose birthday falls on Sunday), who healed his unease.

Tagore took Gandhi's death vow as a message - a message that power and wealth are fragile if they result from the oppression of the weak by the mighty. Such magnificence cannot and will not last. That the British rulers were not being able to appreciate the strength of Gandhi showed they were unused to the Mahatma's ways - a method of politics unknown in the West.

Not just the British, even we are sometimes unable to comprehend Gandhi. "From eon to eon, noble personages make their appearance in the family of humanity … it is difficult to comprehend the wise, the virtuous and the seekers of truth." But we do understand the great man who has unfurled the flag of love. "Once the Buddha said, 'I shall wash each man's sorrow.' It is not important whether he was able to do it. What is profound here is that he expressed the desire for it and strove towards it."

And now, "when there is no dearth of suffering, disease, hunger, oppression, such a great man, who is incomparable, is in our midst …"

"He takes part in Round Table Conferences, he preaches the virtues of khadi and charkha, he rejects western medicine … we should not confine him to these … he repeatedly admits he can go wrong … we should learn to respect the great life that has been revealed before us.

"The curse is on the country for long. For that an individual is doing hard penance. All must unite with him in this endeavour, which shall be our eternal union."