Thursday, 12 July 2018

Breakfast with the Sisters: A Meeting of Great Minds -10

In October 1904 Nivedita and Christine went with a party of twenty people on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. Rabindranath Tagore and his son were part of this group, as were the Boses. In a letter to Josephine MacLeod, dated 15 October 1904, Nivedita gave a description of Rabindranath during this  pilgrimage: "The Poet, Mr. Tagore, was a perfect guest. He is almost the only Indian man I have ever seen who has nothing of the spoiled child socially about him. He has a naïve sort of vanity in speech which is so childlike as to be rather touching. But he thinks of others all the time—as no one but a Western hostess could. He sang and chatted day and night—was always ready—either to entertain or be entertained—served Dr. Bose as if he were his mother—struggles all the time between work for the country and the national longing to seek mukti."

Tagore was also a frequent visitor to The House of the Sisters. Though Nivedita translated one of his short stories 'Cabuliwala' into English, it seems there could be no further collaboration between them as far as writing goes. As Tagore once wrote: 'I had felt her great power, but with all that I understood that her path was not for me. She was a versatile genius, and there was another thing in her nature: that was her militancy. She had power and she exerted that power with full force on the lives of others. When it was not possible to agree with her, it was impossible to work with her.'

It is probable that some of the disagreement between them centred on political issues. Nivedita considered anyone who was not taking an active part in opposing the British—such as Dinesh Chandra Sen—to be 'timid'. Tagore was definitely not the militant type. Yet he had his own style that Nivedita perhaps did not recognise.

However, this disagreement seems not to have affected their friendship. Rabindranath wrote a beautiful Introduction to her book, The Web of Indian Life, praising her view of India. As he wrote: 'And because she had a comprehensive mind and extraordinary insight of love she could see the creative ideals at work behind our social forms and discover our soul that has living connection with its past and is marching towards its fulfilment.' And in the memorial service held for Nivedita after her death, Rabindranath said: 'She is to be respected not because she was a Hindu but because she was Great. She is to be honoured not because she was like us, but because she was greater than us.' Nivedita, in her turn, would have been the happiest and proudest person in India if she could have known that, just two years after her passing away, Tagore would be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

From : Pravrajika Shuddhatmaprana :  Pravrajika Shuddhatmaprana is a senior Sanyasini of the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission...to be continued