[Rabindranath Tagore’s Chhinnapatra (literally, The torn letter) is a collection of letters written by him to a niece when he was between 26 and 34 years of age. Tagore wrote them while he was travelling extensively in East and North Bengal and in Orissa on family business.
A friend has recently given me a book on Rabindranath, Kabir Swadharma (The poet’s own religion) written by a noted scholar, Sourindra Mitra.
Sourindra Mitra, who passed away in 1989, wrote: “There is no dearth of famous and great books in the treasure trove of Bengali literature, but there is only one about which the term intimate can be used.” Mitra felt Chhinnapatra was a book that was intimate in the way Walt Whitman had described one of his own books of poetry: “Who touches this touches a man”.
Being nearly illiterate, I hadn’t read Tagore’s Torn letters earlier. I opened the book this morning, and was fascinated by the first piece that I randomly read. Allow me to share a translation with you.]
2 December 1892
Went to M’s place yesterday. In the evening, all of us went out for a walk. I quite liked the path flanked by fields on either side. The endless empty fields of Bangladesh, and the sun setting behind the trees on the margin … such profound peace, such quiet compassion! What an affection-laden bonding between our own earth and the faraway sky! There is some humongous eternal sadness about the universe – it reveals itself when a shaft of absent light falls on the forsaken earth of the evening – what an eloquent silence fills the earth and the sky. As one looks at it intently for a long time, one feels if this infinite stillness could not hold itself any longer, if suddenly, its eternal language exploded into audible sound, what deep, sombre, calm, beautiful, gentle music would reverberate from the earth to the stars. It actually happens. If we quietly concentrate and try, we can translate the collective harmony of all the lights and shades of the world into fascinating music. One only has to close one’s eyes and in their mind, listen to the reverberations of the endless stream of visual images of the world. But how many times will I write about sunrise and sunset! I can experience it anew every day, but how can I express it in a new way every day?
Translated on Thursday, 12 July 2012