The bard wrote at the conclusion of his sixth letter, "Then the Sun-god having contained his thousand rays laid out his tired head on the bed of multitudinous clouds leaning on sunset's shadowy peak and closed his sleepy crimson eyes; the birds returned to their respective nests. The lowing herd headed for the cow-house tracing the cowboy's steps. We began our journey for London." They were returning to London from a day's boat trip. Not the Bard of Avon but seventeen-year-old Rabindranath Tagore. His letters to his older brother Jyotirindranath give an in-depth view of Victorian England through the eyes of an Indian and a Bengali and present impartial analyses of the psyches of the Anglo-Bengali and the English. As Tagore himself says in the prologue to his first book in prose, "I hadn't been sufficiently cautious in expressing my opinions." In fact his criticism of the cultures have been at times scathing. Tagore's dissection of what he calls the Anglo-Bengali drew the ire of his own critics. And his criticism of Victorian etiquette serves the purpose of a time capsule. Written 27 years before he became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, his words are as relevant now as they were then. This collection has exactly ten letters each of which containing 4,620 or fewer words is to be enjoyed in a single reading session and has not many paragraph breaks …
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About the Author
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was more than a storyteller, mystic poet, composer, playwright and philosopher all rolled into one. In each and every one of these capacities he had excelled as few mortals have managed to. He was also a celebrated artist, a successful estate manager and more than a bit of a practical psychologist. Born into a wealthy and enlightened family, Tagore received the kind of nurture one of his talented disposition needed. Nevertheless, as a kid, this king of purple prose had difficulty convincing a few of his teachers that he indeed was the true author of some of his writings. And even though he dropped out of school, he would one day become the first non-European as well as the first non-white to win a Nobel Prize for literature and would go on to found the Visva Bharati University where scholars from all parts of the world throng today to study his worthy legacy. In 1919, Tagore would also just four years after being knighted repudiate that title to protest the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh, a decision which elevated him even more in esteem before the whole world and served to lay bare the tyranny of the Raj. In 1940, the University of Oxford would hold a special convocation at Santiniketan, the seat of Visva Bharati in India to confer its Doctorate on Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore primarily wrote in his native language of Bengali which is one of India's 22 official languages and the only official language of Bangladesh. It is also spoken by over 250 million people today. His songs include the national anthems of India and Bangladesh, both written in Bengali although India's lingua franca is Hindi. Tagore's music and poetry are today enjoyed as much as they were in his lifetime and he is a prophetic figure as much in the orient as in the occident. Despite being rich and recognized, Tagore had his share of misfortunes as his mother, his wife and two of his five children died rather early. But he showed remarkable resilience after these losses and the stream of his creativity flowed on till his last days. Tagore lived in an era of chauvinism and his thoughts as reflected in his writings were stunningly unbiased and objective. It is easy to see how powerful his stories are in the act of hollowing out ignorance. And his method of doing so had been sheer magic!