Light of one solitary star

Literary nook

Light of one solitary star

Immortal: Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore created his magnificent works of poetry, songs, plays and fiction with a brilliance that made him a Nobel laureate. The great bard mentions the unique creative force of which he was the chosen one. In his work, from time to time, he was mesmerised by this mysterious force that seemed to urge him on to create yet more. He was very much aware of this force that drove him on and called it as “One who sits behind the eyes.” In A Tagore Testament, he addresses this force and says,

What is this game ever-new you play with me in your jesting mood?
Whatever I may want to say, You do not allow me to express...
What I wish to say I seem to forget
I only say what you want me to say...

Many of Tagore’s songs seem to be a call to that force that leads him on. He speaks of wonder, of being in awe of this force. The poet speaks of his own work being directed towards a goal. Although he spared no efforts to express his thoughts and emotions, he is surprised and thinks that his writing has been instrumental. It was as if someone unseen, someone who follows the rules of the universal, had urged him on. He writes of his work, “Seated within their author was another Composer, before whom the future significance was evident. On a flute, through each hole, a puff of breath produces a definite note asserting its individual claim. But who is tuning these diverse notes into melodious harmony?”

As he created, the great poet in Tagore was humbled when he found that even the simple things he wanted to say seemed to find an inner meaning, a universal meaning.

Through the simple meaning of his words there seemed to flow an unknown melody, giving them greater significance. That which became personal became a thing of the universe. He had drawn pictures in his mind but they came out in colour from a brush he did not hold. And thus he sings:

The thought I never thought,
I seem to express the pain I never knew seems to awaken
Whose message is it? I do not know
And to whom have I come to speak?..

The poet was in thrall of this hidden force that led him on. He defined that force as Pravu and Devata and dedicated his work to this great force. He imagines that it is a powerful force that wants to fulfil the creative drive through the poet. He sings:

He mor devatha bhoria a deha pran
ki omrito tumi chao koribare pan...,
...provu amar, prio amar poromo don he
chiro pother shongi amar chiro jibono he...

The great poet is aware that this creative force makes the poet the instrument and impels him toward the various faces of life.

To the poet, this force is very dear and he thinks that this force sitting behind the eyes is his life’s greatest friend. In some of his songs, Tagore mentions his being oblivious to this great force. He wonders if he has missed the signs of this force that resides within him. He writes, amar hiyar majhe lukiye chhile dekhte ami paini... From time to time, through his works, the poet notes that it is not his own doing but there is someone hidden who touches all that he, the poet, does. It is this force that makes him write with a sublimity that comes only as a result of the work of the one who sits behind his work. He worships this great force and gives in to it, to have it play with his life as it pleases. And he writes:

Amare tumi oshesh korechho emoni lila tobo...
furaye fele abar bhorechho jibono nobo nobo...

When the poet writes he is aware of the influence of the sky, the moon and the stars on him. As he stands in this light nothing seems to reject him. He finds his own existence a lucky streak. He wonders how he can preserve the unique privilege of his existence. Must he not pay back for the love and joy continuously showered on him by this force that leads him on? He would not have the power to exist without this force sitting behind the eyes. And he wonders:

Why did you choose me?
In quest of what destiny?
Did you care, O Lord of Life?
Did all my nights, my mornings, my work, my pleasure,
Enhance your solitary abiding?

At times, the creator in the poet wonders if the service of this ‘God of life’ within his presence has been accomplished to the full. He wonders if this force intends to keep the flame of the poet burning. At times, he is confused and wonders if his creativity has been burnt to ashes. And then again he argues — surely the great force must be aware that creativeness within his being is not made of such meagre substance? Have they both, the great one sitting behind the eyes and the poet, not realised that in the heart lies the constant care of an over-joyful vigilance? And Tagore writes, “This manifestation has carried me along in the boat of life, out of the past, from harbour to harbour, through the ocean of time, drawing me towards a future that has yet to come — it is that ‘God of life’ I have spoken of.”

The great bard finds his love of the earth, respect for nature, revealed through this great force sitting behind the eyes. The earth is ever new to him, like a person he has loved through many a day, through many lives. And yet, he seems not to be able to sing in praise of them. Such beautiful days and beautiful nights are slipping out of his life and he cannot grasp the most out of them. All the colours, the light and darkness and this quiet magnificence pervading the skies, this peace and beauty filling the entire void between two worlds — what tremendous preparations are going on all the time! Can he find the words to describe them? From a distance of millions of miles, billions of years travelling through paths of eternal darkness, the light of one solitary star reaches us! Will that great force behind all the works of the poet allow him to sing, to praise all these? The poet is in apprehension of how the great force in his creative world holds him and at the same time he wonders how far it will take him.

When speaking of love, the poet once again finds the force sitting behind the eyes holding out light for him. The lamp-light that not only discloses the thing we are looking for, it also illuminates the whole room. Love surpassing its object of love continues. And like love and the lamp, this great force draws him on. Thus he writes, “To know supreme joy through all earthly love, to perceive the visible form of the ‘Exquisite One’ through the world of beauty, is what I call the realisation of freedom. This world has enchanted me and in enchantment, I taste the essence of my freedom.”

From time to time, the creator in the poet comes back to the great force that urges him to his imagination. And he knows that like the bird that soars high in the sky only to come back to earth, he too is bound to this great force that sits behind the eyes. He has sung to this great force knowing that it is this force that sings through him. And through ages the poet sings on, marvelling about the one that sits behind the eyes,

Tumi kemon kore gaan koro he guni
ami obak hoye shuni, kebol shuni...

(In arrangement with The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh)

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