An exhibition of Rabindranath Tagore’s paintings is on at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore. My friend and I went to see it this afternoon. Apart from enjoying the paintings, I came away with great admiration for Tagore.
Until now what I knew about Tagore was this: he was a writer of short stories like ‘Kabuliwallah’ that all of us have read in our 7th grade English class; he was a poet whose poem ‘Where the mind is without fear’ is taught in 9th or 10th grade all over India; he was a Nobel laureate who won the Nobel for Literature in 1913 for Gitanjali, a collection of poems that I had read long ago; he was the composer of Rabindrasangeet, Bengali songs that could be heard everywhere when I lived in Calcutta; he started the famous Shantiniketan School near Calcutta; he was a nationalist and social reformer; and he found time to manage his family’s vast estates.
But I hadn’t known that he was an artist.
I was most impressed to read that he began painting at the age of 67 and made over 2000 paintings over the next 13 years!
Every talent he was blessed with was used to create beauty, either in words or in pictures. Or to make things better for people around him. To me, that adds up to a life well lived. His idealism, honesty, search for perfection, his need to try new things, and his need for physical and mental freedom – all are expressed in his poem ‘Where the mind is without fear’ which, though meant for the country as a whole, is the way he lived his life as an individual too.