Tagore was indeed a biswa-kabi, or poet of the world. In the first half of the twentieth century, few had travelled as much as him, visiting more than thirty countries on five continents Shying away from being a ‘patriot’ and ‘seeking compatriots around the world', Rabindranath laid faith in humans, no matter of what nation, race or caste, in overcoming limitations and perils of all kinds. It is this faith that made him cross boundaries, both intellectual and territorial. Tagore knew that ‘poverty lay in the separation, and wealth in the union’. It is this ‘original truth’ that he attempted to express in every form known to him, from poetry to painting, from education to aesthetics, from music to modes of thoughts. Deliberations on issues of life and living, including what is now referred to as social sciences, came naturally to him, testified by his essays on society, religion, philosophy, politics, education, rural development, literature, aesthetics and history. If Tagore’s innumerable poems, over 2,200 songs and over 2,500 drawings and paintings provide solace to the mind, then the breadth of his writings on issues of state, society and disempowered persons play a role in challenging and transforming the mind.
This volume is an outcome of the 150th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Tagore. It emerged from discussions at the conference, Contemporarising Tagore and the World, held in Dhaka in Spring of 2011, where scholars from ten different countries presented thirty-two papers. At the centre of this volume is the question of how global and contemporary Rabindranath’s work truly is. This is explored through eight different themes, including: Tagore’s Humanism, Nationalism, Internationalism and Cosmopolitanism, Engendering Tagore, Education and Society, Sociology of Creativity, Alternative Development Strategies and Crisis in Modern Civilisation. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the universal and enduring appeal of Tagore’s essays.
Imtiaz Ahmed is Professor of International Relations and Director, Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka. His most recent publications are Historicizing 1971 Genocide: State versus Person (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2009) and a co-edited volume titled: Contemporarising Tagore and the World (Dhaka: The University Press Limited, 2013).
Muchkund Dubey is a former Foreign Secretary, Government of India. He has been a Professor of International Relations at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and is Professor Emeritus at the Foreign Service Institute. He was a Member of the Indian National Committee for the celebration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore and is currently President, Council for Social Development, New Delhi.
Veena Sikri is currently Professor, Ford Foundation endowed Chair, at the Academy of International Studies (Bangladesh Studies Programme), Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. She has had a distinguished diplomatic career, during which she served, inter alia, as India's High Commissioner to Bangladesh and to Malaysia, and as Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). She keenly follows South Asian and gender issues. She has conceptualised, and is the Convener of the South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN), and is also Vice Chairperson of the South Asia Foundation (India Chapter). Her book on India & Malaysia: Intertwined Strands is presently under publication.