The one who shaped his father's dreams
An agricultural scientist from Illinois, Tagore's eldest son Rathindranath built Sriniketan and much of Tagore's dream university Visva Bharati in Santiniketan with single-minded dedication. Gifted with a green thumb, this slightly shy, eldest son of Rabindranath Tagore was also the man behind the houses that the poet used in Santiniketan, especially Uttarayan.
Always by his father's side, Rathindranath was an expert in woodcuts, rural development, agriculture, and carried out many of the bard's experiments butavoided public glare till his death in 1941. He was one of the first students of Santiniketan, who later taught Genetics there and after serving the institution for 50 years became its first Vice Chancellor. He married Protima Debi, a young widow of 16, in 1910, as per his father's wish. This marriage created quite a ripple, since widow remarriage was rare in those days.
'Rabi O Rathi', scripted by Chaitali Dasgupta, explores the story of Rathindranath, through a collage of readings, songs and poetry and will be staged at ICCR Kolkata on April 8. "It is a relatively new subject. Besides, much of the Santiniketan we now see was created by Rathindranath. Also, his reticence hid his multifarious talent in so many areas of life", Chaitali Dasgupta told Millennium Post.
Interestingly, whenever people who have had the chance to know Rathindranath in person have tried to write about him, to evaluate his work, they have come to the conclusion that this amenable gentleman had sacrificed a lot to give shape to his father's dreams of building Santiniketan. For instance, Leonard K Elmhirst, writes in an introduction to the Bengali version of Rathindranath's memories of Rabindranath, 'On the Edges of Time', titled 'Pitrismriti', "Whatever dreams he had for himself in his boyhood or youth; he had to selflessly implicate himself towards fulfilling his father's dreams. In whatever ways we have come to know Rathindranath, we have found him busy giving shape to his father's novel fantasies, keeping aside his own wish and desires" (Elmhirst, 1967)
The script also touches upon the issue of how difficult it is to be the son of an illustrious father. How often have we seen a brilliant father yield a forgettable offspring? In most cases, it is the huge expectation that becomes the bane of the son. In Rathindranath's case, however the reason often identified is his over-determining father. Even Rabindranath himself, as we find in the lines of a poem, dedicated to Rathindranath has given voice to such fears. It is indeed a difficult situation for one to judge then, if Rathindranath's is a case of missed possibilities or unrecognised accomplishments.
Sans Rathindrananth, Visva-Bharati would not have been what it is.
Says Chatterjee: "Rathindranath was sent by his father to Silaidaha where he set to implement new farming practices aimed at developing the economic condition of the masses. Even before he could complete his job, he was called back by his father. Also the question remains, why did he leave Santiniketan in the autumn of his life?" It is known that Rathindranath spent the final years of his life in Dehradun in near seclusion and never ever relocated to Santiniketan.
'Rabi O Rathi', an Arts project envisioned by interdisciplinary artist Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee, is a journey in this quest of rediscovering the dynamics of this relationship between Rabindranath and Rathindranath.
This hour and a half long programme would present dramatised readings and Rabindrasangeet by the veteran Prabuddha Raha and Suchhanda Ghosh. The readings are by Chaitali, Sujoy and actor Ratasree. Chatterjee plans to make a documentary on the subject of Rathindranath at a later stage.