“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.
Review submitted for LRSI '14
The boyhood days reflects a beautiful phase of Rabindranath Tagore’s childhood. The introduction, given by Amarthya Sen, thoroughly articulates Amarthya Sen’s views and reviews about this book. He also mentions that he too was a student in Shantiniketan, the school established by Rabindranath.
Tagore’s interpretations regarding freedom in school can be seen in this book. The poem, which he had composed, concerning his childhood, was a charming specimen of poetry. I can clearly understand why it was considered as a ‘Puffin Classic’!
Tagore has magnificently described old-time Kolkata. Rabindranath Tagore, for me, is a classic writer. Although fiction books are breath taking and exhilarating, his books have their very own captivating, mesmerizing beauty.
Translating a book written by Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali, while aiming to get the best out of the translation, is obviously not a piece of cake. But in this case, Radha Chakravarty has translated it with as much precision as possible.
To conclude with, I would like to say that it has been a pleasure reading such books. Often, the book content relates or has a certain connection with your life too. For those who like to read fiction books, I would like to say that this is equally good. The people, especially children, should read it. The children are the one who would gain from it, while the adults would go back to their memorable childhood, enjoying, frolicking with friends, just like Tagore . . .
Arya Vidya Mandir,
Review submitted for LRSI '14
As I, a 12 year old, began reading the book I held the robust image of the poet and scholar Rabindranath Tagore in my mind, but a few pages down, the image faded to make way to form the character of a boy “Robi” very similar to what I see as myself.
The stories are based in mid 1800’s when Kolkata with its Victoria memorial and Eden garden and Ganga mayya was a blend of the aristocratic British and much influenced yet traditional Bengalis, of a time when science was still waging a war against superstition and Edison’s bulb was yet to replace the soot emitting oil lamp. On reading about Robis' boyhood days, I can safely reach to the conclusion that which ever “era” a twelve years old boy belongs to his heart and mind belong to mischief, to impressing elders with well done tasks, to finding ways of getting out of mundane studies. Robi could be my friend today and in my wildest dream I would not be able to see him as the “Rabindranth Tagore’ the founder of the Shantiniketan University, the poet of “Jana Ganga Mana” and "Amar Sonar Bangla" India’s and Bangladesh’s national Anthems; the great Patriot who repudiated his knighthood to protest against the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. To me the boy Robi is someone who gets scared of ghosts, just like I do, never mind the advancement of Science, he is someone who tries to spy on the entertainment solely for elders just like I try to peak into a bar and wonder about the happenings inside.
On reading the book one can lucidly draw an analogy between Robi and any other 12 year old boy, yet the contents demarcate the moulding, thinking and lifestyle that were responsible in creating the great soul and mind that was Rabindranath Tagore.
A must read for all boys, even if some parts are slightly confusing they can be easily explained by and elder or can left for posterity, perhaps a second read a few years hence will shine better light on some of the mystical thoughts penned by a much older and wiser Tagore. I pray that let us all be able to take a leaf from Tagore’s childhood and our futures to follow the footsteps that his followed.
Arya Vidya Mandir
Review submitted for LRSI '14
“ I was then about seven or eight. I had no useful role to play in this world; and that old palki, too, had been dismissed from all forms of useful employment...”
Hidden inside this book is the experience of Rabindranath Tagore’s boyhood days, in his own words but with a gentle wit and humor.
We get a glimpse on what life was in that era when even the basic amenities that we take for granted today was not there. Travelling was by carts and castor oil lamps were used to light houses. Tagore was from a wealthy family otherwise some people could not even afford diyas to light their houses.
I like this book because it tells us how the great poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore took his first steps in the field of literature.
The thing I did not like is that Tagore jumped from one topic to another making no connection in them and making a little hard to understand.
Arya Vidya Mandir, Juhu