Seventy years after his death, Rabindranath Tagore is no longer as much a familiar figure in neighbouring Nepal as he was half a century ago when the world celebrated his birth centenary.
But his songs are still sung and his literary works studied by a select few.
And as India marks the Nobel laureate’s 150th birthday with yearlong festivities, an attempt is being made to familiarise Tagore and his writings to a younger audience in the Himalayan nation with the aim of opening their minds to Tagore’s universal vision.
The medium to achieve this end would be a three-day bilateral conference to be held this week in Nepal’s capital. Called Rabindranath Tagore: At Home in the World, the event is being organised by the Indian Cultural Centre, Kathmandu, as part of Tagore’s 150th birthday celebrations.
“Tagore was more familiar in Nepal fifty years ago than he is now. Through this seminar we are focusing on building an academic dialogue between India and Nepal and start a debate and discussion on his works,” said Dr Geeti Sen, Director, ICC, Kathmandu.
Six writers and academics from India and an equal number from Nepal would deliver talks on Tagore, his views on education, his literary works, outlook on nationalism, science and eco-poetics, influence of Baul music on him and Nepal’s response to his writings.
To break the monotony from serious deliberations, the seminar will also have poetry recitations, sessions of Rabindra Sangeet and a theatrical adaptation of Tagore’s Sesher Kabita.
Nepal’s rashtra kabi (national poet) Madhav Prasad Ghimire is expected to recite his poem on Tagore. Hopefully this effort would have the desired impact and revive interest in Tagore in Nepal.
If it fails, the familiarity that exists now could become non-existent in coming years—much like the paintings of Tagore in Nepal that are under threat of damage or theft due to improper care.
Sangeeta Thapa, director of Siddhartha Art Gallery in Nepal says some of Tagore’s works hang incognito in old Rana palaces that have been converted to government offices.
But since not many know about their creator, there’s no maintenance of the prized works.