I am delighted to see this collection of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems, plays and stories for children.
For in English translations of Tagore’s writings, I feel that not enough attention has been paid,
perhaps, to works that are suitable for infants and older children.
I have read the translations with great care. To offer young readers an anthology of Tagore’s writings
in English translation is indeed a laudable effort. In most regions of India, children do not study
Bengali, except in the homes of some Bengali families living outside their home state. A time has
come when we find children even in West Bengal studying in English—medium schools and for that
reason, many children in Bengal also need to read Tagore in English translation. With the publication
of this book, young boys and girls may now get a chance to acquaint themselves with Tagore’s
works, if their parents choose to take this matter seriously.
The minds of children are like fertile soil. Reading a fine literary anthology at this age can cultivate
their literary taste. I studied in Shantiniketan from 1936 to 1938, from the age of ten to twelve.
Tagore was not only alive, he was very active then. He was composing the dance dramas
`Chitrangada, ‘Tasher Desh’ (The Land of Cards) and “Shyama’. Now, reading the translation of
“Bolai”, I am reminded of a day in 1937 when Tagore took our Bengali class. That day, the poet
taught us the story ‘Bolai’ in the original Bengali. I had felt deeply touched by that story. We were
taught in our school at Shantiniketan that every animal, every cat, every bird, had a right to live. From
childhood, we were taught to care for nature, not to break a single leaf or flower from a tree. Today,
when the planet Earth is endangered, Tagore’s teachings are doubly relevant. Infancy and childhood
are indeed the ideal stages in life for a love of reading to be instilled in one’s heart, and to nurture a
taste for literature.
The selections in this volume are very good, and the translations extremely well done. “The Post
Office’ and “Kabuliwala” are excellent choices. One could of course think of minor alterations, and
of adding to or substituting some of the items included here. The story ‘Anadhikar Prabesh’
(Unlawful Entry’), for instance, would be highly appropriate for these times. The central message of
this story concerns a Brahmin widow who ignores the question of untouchability and caste purity, to
shelter a terrified pig inside a temple, because the animal is in mortal fear. The collection called
Shishu also contains several pieces by Tagore that would be suitable for young readers who are ten
to twelve years old. But those are matters of personal preference. The selections in the present
anthology are very well chosen. I am sure that they will touch the pulse of today’s children, and
enhance their reading habits. This collection is a good and positive effort. I am convinced that this
book will also contribute greatly to the process of developing the literary taste of young readers.
Back of the Book
Poet, novelist, painter, musician and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore was one of modern
India’s greatest literary figures. This collection brings together some of his best works-poems, short
stories and plays-in one volume for today’s young readers.
Be it the wit, magic and lyricism of his poetry or the vividly etched social milieu of his
stories, or the sheer power and vibrancy of his plays, Tagore’s versatility and unceasing creativity
come alive in these writings. The title play, ‘The Land of Cards’, is a satire against the bondage of
orthodox rules, while in ‘The Post Office’, a child suffocated by his confined existence dreams of
freedom in the world outside. From a son’s cherished desire to protect his mother in the poem
‘Hero’ to a fruit-seller longing for his daughter far away in the story ‘Kabuliwala’, Tagore’s works
convey his humanism and deep understanding of human relationships.
Radha Chakravarty’s lucid translation captures the sheer genius of Tagore’s evocative
language, making his works accessible to contemporary readers.
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