Tagore and his women (May 8 is the 155th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore)

New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) Bimala is a simple wife living under the shadow of his rich elite husband Nikhil. Despite being a woman of high spirits, her wings remained folded while playing the role of an idealistic Indian housewife. With the arrival of his husband’s friend Sandip, Bimala finds a new hope for fulfilling her aspirations and falls in love, irrespective of apprehensions of social norms. That’s Tagore’s Bimala from “Ghare Baire”.

Born in 1861 to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi, Rabindranath Tagore started writing at the age of six and went on to become the first Indian to win the Nobel prize for literature for “Gitanjali”.

Known vividly for his vast collection of poems, prose, plays, stories and novels, Tagore put women in forefront in his works to convey feminism very strongly.

Being a progressive thinker, his writings often were based on bold subjects that were far ahead of the time.

He strongly believed in fightinf for women’s upliftment using his pen as a weapon. Focusing largely on emancipation, his writing campaigned for women’s liberation, equality, freedom, justice, power and dignity and rights.

Take Charulata of “Nashtanirh”, a wife who remains secluded in the walls of her house and finds solace in her brother-in-law. Amal not just comforts her and bring out of boredom but also influences Charu to write for newspapers. Charu’s confrontation with her husband about her inclination towards Amal shows how Tagore put boldness in his character.

Another protagonist Kamala, when she discovers that person she is staying with is not her husband, immediately abandons his home and goes searching for the person she was married to.

The female characters are shown strong enough to stand for their rights. Tagore took up the deprived life of a widow – Binodini – and her sexual emancipation in a love quadrangle tale “Chokher Bali”. A story of distrust, adultery and lies, the novel also highlights the dictatorship of a patriarchal society where young girls were married off to much older men and left to become widows at an early age that caged their route to freedom.

Tagore brought into the forefront the sexual desires of a woman, which even today is still considered a taboo to talk about, reflecting his modern approach to the topic.

“Shesher Kobita”, probably his most lyrical novel, presents Labanya, as a strong-willed, highly-educated, free-spirited woman who hails from a middle class family. A woman with high ethos, Labanya falls in love with Oxford return Amit. Though their love blossoms, Tagore, through Labanya, raises questions about the very institution of marriage as the ultimate repercussion of love affair.

Tagore travels inside the traditional Indian concept of an arranged marriage through the life of Haimanti, the lead protagonist of the book of the same title. The story takes on the whimsicality and hypocrisy of the 19th and 20th century middle class society that restricts Haimanti’s free spirit.

Taking another dig at the patriarchal rules that probably still persist, “Strir Patra” voices the struggle of self -identification that Mrinal faces in her life. The story revolves around a letter sent to a husband by his wife for the first time in 15 years conveying how her intelligence became a hindrance to her livelihood and led to misery, how writing poetry gave her solace and made her feel free from patriarchal bond. Through Mrinal, Tagore reflected how a woman’s life was meant not to be restricted within the inner walls of a home.

Not just in pages, but Tagore’s stories and novels have been brought alive a number of times on celluloid. Satyajit Ray went on to make many movies based on Tagore’s writings. So did Rituparno Ghosh and the legacy is still been carried by other directors.

What will be remembered forever about Tagore is his contribution to literary society and his attempt to create a world “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”.

(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at somrita.g@ians.in)



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