When the question arises – does Rabindranath Tagore influence modern writers, I will have to say… well, depends. I will be, of course, talking from the point of view of a Bengali, who has grown up in Bengal, and therefore, has been exposed to Rabindranath Tagore at every possible turn of her life. The problem is, growing up as a Bengali will ensure that you never really escape Tagore – indeed – growing up in Bengal, or in a Bengali neighborhood is enough for anyone to not miss him. Once, a friend of mine told me that in South America, there was a school which had been modelled in the form of Rabindra Bharati. There are people who know and recite his poems, sing the songs he composed, and well, basically, make sure he is remembered, in South America, which shows how far-reaching and influencing he is. 

While I think this is great, I have to say one thing – although he is a great writer, don’t you feel that writers of his time, and in subsequent ages, has always had to compete with him one way or another? A cousin of mine is a writer, and when he started his career as a professional author, a number of people scoffed at him, because they thought he would never be as successful as “Rabi Thakur”. It is like asking a cricket player to leave the sport because he can never be as great as Sachin Tendulkar. 

To be fair, I believe that art and writing has always been influenced. In his 1919 essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent, T.S. Eliot writes,

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.”

Unfortunately for the writers of Bengal post Rabindranath Tagore, the influence is more aggressively thrust upon them, rather than the poet acknowledging the influence. The critic would read and comment about the way a work “sounds like” something they have once heard “Kobiguru” say. Truthfully speaking, “Kobiguru” had said so much, and about so many different things, that, at one point, it is not difficult to find a “certain” similarity between his writing and that of his successors. That said, many writers have rejected him, so as to say, with the use of language. Their language has been completely different, as well as their concept and thoughts about life. This rejection can be, again, seen as an influence – inversely affecting the person. It is like a vicious circle at times when the writer might find himself facing a state where his very originality might be questioned, but the state of Rabindra-consciousness, for lack of a better word, in the mind of a Bengali, might result in the author being accused of getting influenced, even when he is not. 

Disclaimer: This post is a part of the Marathon Blogging Contest held by Kolkata Literary Festival in association with Kolkata Bloggers. For more, check out  fb.com/kollitfest and fb.com/kolkatabloggers and follow the hashtag #KLF2015 

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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