Yes, it’s none other than the great Rabindranath Tagore who was born in the 19th century and who won a Nobel Prize for Literature and was Knighted in the 20th century and who passed away in 1941, to whom I refer.
This is not about a sci-fi movie reminiscent of Back to the Future, but in a surreal way, I actually bounced up with the great Indian poet among the many other things he was, only recently. So if it didn’t happen in a sci-fi movie, let’s explain.
You see, I was just browsing the Amazon India pages when I saw the sage-like picture of Tagore used to advertise Nationalism, one of his books. Scrolling just a bit further down was my own book, Conversations with an Atheist. Behold! I silently exclaimed, there I was on the same page with the incomparable great One. And that is how I laid my claim to fame in my rendezvous with Tagore.
Greatness by association is not unusual, which explains why millions are magnetised by celebrities. For one to say, I met say, Elvis and got his autograph, is a big deal for those who gloried and felt a proprietary pride in his achievements.
Having come to know of Tagore – that he was the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize; that he was knighted by King George and became Sir Rabindranath Tagore and that he dumped the honour after the British massacre of his people, I saw him as another Mahatma, no less than Gandhi.
Never imagining in my wildest dreams that one day we would both be on the same page – book wise, that is – I dare make this empty boast on my part. It’s as empty as a fan of Michael Jackson claiming familiarity with him because they knew a few lines of his many songs.
It still makes me feel to boast that while his book, Nationalism got a 4-and-a-half-star rating, my book got a full 5. I should be ashamed of myself for thinking I outdid the great man, no? But, like they say, good things come in small packages and that we should be thankful for small mercies.
It would be very, very presumptuous, insane, actually, for me to think I have reached, but to see my book sharing space with Tagore’s is a baby step on this journey.
L. Siddhartha Orie