Friday, August 31, 2012


Born in Meerut on 12thJune 1961
Died in Bombay on 11th August 1977

Yesterday I was cleaning and rearranging the first of my bookshelves, taking the books out dusting them and putting them back in their rightful place in the shelf. They are arranged more or less in chronological order with the date of purchase and the place on the first page of the book. They help me travel back in time as each book has a tale to tell apart from its own. I skim through them before placing them back. I stopped as I took out the book ‘Poems of Gitanjali’, kept it apart for I wanted to go through it again and I did. As I went through it at night I could not help control the emotions that resurfaced once again after a lapse of twenty eight years. Yes, this book was presented to me by one of my friends when she visited us twenty eight years ago, the date 19-4-1984.

I am named
After the famous book of Tagore
I wish and pray
Oh! help me God
I so live that……..
I live up to the name.

In his introduction Pritish Nandy writes, “Gitanjali went through the prolonged agony of dying of cancer, but not in vain. Her poems are a testament of youth in all its courage and faith. Only by knowing she would die could Gitanjali have achieved these poems which speak for all who have died young and to all who grieve for them. For the rest of us they have an uncanny power of putting life into perspective”.

It appears that her mother found these poems several months after Gitanjali had died, hidden under the mattress in the little corners of her room.

When I go through these poems which I have done a couple times before I am moved by the utter simplicity of the language and the extraordinary in ward journey of a child who was only sixteen, who had loved life and all things around her and ultimately accepting the finality of death – a conscious death one may say. And when she went, she went finally in peace with herself her only regret being that she would be leaving behind her grieving parents and friends. Some of the poems also reflect the extent of concern she has for people awaiting a similar fate as hers. All the poems are introspective, there more than a hundred of them. There are no pretensions which a lot of us resort to sometimes to sound authentic, the poems are pure and come straight from the heart. Her belief in God is un wavering and she speaks to him often and that was her constant source of strength till the end.

I can only reproduce a few lines here from a poem titled ‘Farewell my Friends’

“It was beautiful
As long as it lasted
The journey of my life.

I have no regrets
Whatsoever save
The pain I’ll leave behind.”

Or these lines from the poem ‘Dreams of a Dying Heart’

“Beneath the heavy
Load of pain
Beneath the emotional
Stress and strain
Beneath the ache
Lies a heart
Inside this heart
Lie the dreams….
….the dreams……
Of a dying heart
Dreams of a……
Budding flower.”

I suddenly realised that this is the twenty fifth anniversary of her death, this month August. And why does this move me so much? Coming close on the heels of my last posting on Akash Dube  who also died young of the same ailment, it makes me wonder at the kindling of the inherent strength in them which helped them face the finality of death and accept it with dignity.

The wonderful foreword to the book written by Pritish Nandy sums up saying “Despite our different Gods, our different perceptions of life and truth, each of us walk the same way. Poems like Gitanjali’s occasionally light up the darkness and show us that all sorrow is universal. Just as love is”. It was he who had first published Gitanjali’s poems when he was editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India.

Need I say more. Tagore would have been proud of her.


Ram said...

Really touching the heart strings.

Varsha said...

It takes a lot of courage to face death in the face and yet live life meaningfully. A fitting tribute to these two who left a mark on the sands of time.

Shumon Sengupta said...

Deeply moved and speechless ..

I need to get hold of the book...