Decoding Tagore through his letters

7,500 letters written by the Nobel Laureate have been published chronologically with synopses
From being a transient spy with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to a diligent researcher of Rabindranath Tagore, it was a big leap of faith for Gaurchandra Saha in 1968. Fifty years later, Mr. Saha’s rigorous work has yielded a treasure trove revealing little known facets of one of India’s greatest intellectuals.
“Saha has done enormous work of putting together the synopsis of all the 7,500 letters of Tagore. It was done earlier too but never chronologically,” said Amitra Sudan Bhattacharya, the Tagore and Bankim Chandra scholar who taught at Visva-Bharati University for several decades. The volume of almost 1,000 pages was released on August 8, Tagore’s 77th death anniversary. “All the letters are chronologically arranged with the dates, the recipients, places [from where the letter was written] and a synopsis of each letter,” said Dr. Saha, 76. “The first letter was written on September 20, 1878, when Rabindranath was visiting Europe for the first time, from somewhere near the Suez Canal,” he said. Most probably the letter was written to Kadambari Devi, Tagore’s sister-in-law, Mr. Saha says.
The last letter was written around July 30, a week before Tagore’s death in 1941 to his daughter-in-law Pratima Debi. “He was so unwell that he could not write it himself. It was written by litterateur Rani Chanda, and Tagore signed it,” Dr. Saha said. The content of some of the letters, which Dr. Saha discovered during the course of his work, overwhelmed him. “His letters on women’s role and participation to his many women associates surprised me. The depth of thought and clarity on women’s emancipation was unbelievable,” Dr. Saha said, more so since the letters date to a century ago.
Prof. Bhattacharya, who penned a long introduction to Mr. Saha’s book, Rabindra Patra Probaho o Tothyoponji: Kalanukromik , is working on a project to publish all Tagore’s letters in toto. “The difference between Saha’s project and mine is vast. While he has compiled a synopsis of all the 7,500 letters in one volume, I am publishing the letters in their entirety covering 10,000 print matters in 10 or so volumes. But both are done chronologically,” said Prof. Bhattacharya, who is the project director of Rabindra Patra Prakash Prakalpa.
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