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Speech at Launch of Book on Rabindra Nath Tagore At Nehru Centre, 14 May 2015

My knowledge of Bengali is limited to the National Anthem; but I can recite every word in Bengali. My favourite poetic dream about India ends with the line "into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake".   Since you are scholars of Gurudev's works I will spare you any further personal reminiscences or attempt to comment on the life and achievements of that titan in our nation's cultural life.

We are honoured to have such distinguished scholars at the Nehru Centre who are looking at 100 years of global reception of Tagore.   Prof. Kaempchen and Prof. Bangha have produced a truly great work, after three years of careful effort following the 2011 conference celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore.  (And the impetus of the 100th anniversary of the Award of the Nobel Prize in 1913.)

This is a truly global survey bringing together contributions from every region of the world.  In the preface we learn that some areas are marginally covered because only the highest quality of contributions have been accepted.

The contributions depict not just the approach to Tagore's works but through them a view of India, which is particularly important for people like us whose business it is to see how others see us, rather than have only our own Weltanschuung. Tagore is seen through the prism of individual cultures wherever he was received. His humanism and refusal to be bound by narrow nationalism was sometimes at odds with views in many countries. But overall he remained a major and respected figure in world literature, and will remain one.

I appreciate your presence here and look forward to interacting a little more during the reception we are hosting after the launch.

I conclusion, I would like to quote from what a professor of English at Vishwa Bharti University wrote in a review of this volume in the Statesman:

"So all of us who are interested to see that the legacy of Tagore continues to remain unabated in all parts of the world in future should turn cultural ambassadors and spread the word around. [In conclusion] the editors need to be profusely thanked once again for such an invaluable addition to the realm of Tagore Studies."

Thank you.

May 21, 2015
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