“I was born in old-time Kolkata. Raising clouds of dust, hackney carriages would speed through the city, the horses’ skeletal frames lashed by cord-whips. There were no trams, no buses, and no motorcars.” Thus Tagore begins his autobiography, giving us a vivid picture of the Kolkata of yore.
Written in an anecdotal narrative style, we get glimpses of not only his growing up years but also the lifestyle of the people in those times: Women traveling in shrouded palanquins and paan chewing babus. We learn about the popularity of music, dance and drama. The layout of houses dimly lit by castor oil lamps and family hierarchies.
Like any child, Tagore too had his share of fears, dreams and playfulness.
He describes his flights of fantasy into unknown realms seated in an old discarded palki, his fear of demons that supposedly resided in a cornice of the house, his distaste for formal education and his love for music, and evokes graphic images of his childhood.
More than anything else, it is a pleasure to dive into the sensuous beauty of his words. Words that captivates ones imagination with their lyrical charm and imagery.
Such as, “Nowadays, in the city, pleasure flows like a stream.” And again, “Now for an account of the fields of learning in which the ploughs of education had tried to make some furrows.”
Capturing the imagery and subtle nuances in this book from the original Bengali to English must have been quite a daunting task, but Radha Chakravarty has proved more than equal to the task.
In his introduction to the book, Amartya Sen says, “Tagore’s recollections is both gripping in itself and deeply insightful in giving us an understanding of the adult man that would emerge from those boyhood days.”
Through this book, we get glimpses of the Tagore the Nobel laureate, the educationist, the patriot, the composer and the dreamer.
A must have for every school library.