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A letter that travelled through time

by Sakuragun Chan

“I had a letter to pen,

But the words have not come easy.

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If there was news instead,

Words could rather keep me busy.”

These four lines, quoted from the poem named ‘Chithi’ (letter), printed in the book named ‘Kori O Komol’ by the great Rabindranath Tagore addressing his niece Indira Devi, testifies to his passion for writing letters. Such a letter, penned by the Nobel Laureate, came to the light in Patisar of Atrai Upazila in Naogaon district in the school established by the poet himself.

A museum in Patisar, Naogaon, laced with the poet’s memory, preserves the letter, along with seven other letters penned by his son and daughter-in-law. There is also the scanned copy of another letter the intended recipient of which is still a mystery. Its original copy is preserved in Mahasthangarh Museum in Bogura district. The yellowed papers of the letter are evocative of the poet who is unanimously credited with taking the Bangla language to the global stage and living no chord of human emotion untouched.

“Rabindra Smriti Sangrahasala” (A museum on Tagore), was established to preserve his memory but was denied the spotlight rightfully deserved by the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize more than 100 years ago.

That is why for a long time, many memories of the poet including his words of blessings for the school, valuable letters written by him, his son and daughter-in-law Pratima Devi, books brought by the poet from Oxford University, remained out of the public eye. 

However, the last account of Tagore’s zamindari is recorded in the valuable letters. When insects were eating up the invaluable letters, collectors focused on their preservation. To that end, M Matiar Rahman Mamun, a collector, and researcher of Rabindranath’s memorabilia, has preserved some priceless memories of Tagore at Kaligram Rathindranath Institution on May 8, 2013.

The Sadar Kachari of Kaligram Pargana, a zamindari of the Jorasanko Tagore family, was at Patisar. The Patisar ME School was established in 1905 by Rabindranath Tagore. The journey of the school began in the tin-tiled tent of the earthen wall. By 1905, the number of schools and colleges in India was negligible. And the education of the rural people was not thought of in most areas.

However, Tagore always favored rural life. He started working from Patisar to educate them. In addition to establishing moral schools and high schools in about 200 villages, he established a library in Patisar in the name of his brother-in-law (Nagendranath Institute 1905).

Almost three decades later, on July 26, 1937, the ailing poet came to Patisar to bid farewell to his beloved subjects. On the same day, the poet renamed the ME school after his favorite pargana ‘Kaligram’ and his beloved son Rathindranath Tagore as ‘Kaligram Rathindranath Institution’.

Naturally, many memorabilia of the poet’s zamindari and the things used by the poet have remained there. There are many books. Patisar, Shilaidaha, and Shahajatpur are enriched with Rabindranath’s footprints, as well as the poet’s life and literature. The poet has spent a significant part of his life on Padma to Nagar.

He himself plowed the field with a power tiller in Patisar to improve agriculture; he formed cooperatives of agriculture, weaving and pottery. He also gave Tk 1 lakh of his Nobel Prize to Patisar Agricultural Bank, which was never returned.

“When the archeological department did not take any initiative even after informing them that the poet’s memorabilia have started decaying,” says collector and researcher M Matiar Rahman Mamun. “Local lawmaker and an ardent follower of the poet Md Israfil Alam and I established  ‘Rabindrasmriti Sangrahasala’ on the very school set up by the poet himself.

The letters were found in envelopes at the school. They were discovered among other items. After the death of the poet and the abolition of the zamindari system in the 1950s, the dominance of this family in the region came to an end. Due to the lack of preservation of Rabindranath’s handwritten letters, personal belongings, educational institutions, and other facilities, some things were gradually lost and many things were taken over.

The words some more memories of the poet were at the risk of perishing. The earthen houses created by the poet were demolished in the nineties, and modern houses were built to preserve the memories in their stead.

At the request of the people, Rabindranath Tagore visited Patisar for the last time in 1937 on the occasion of ‘Punyah’.

At the entrance of the museum, there is a bust of the poet, a two-storied house, several houses. The museum has also carefully arranged the pictures of the poet taken with Rabindranath, Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Killer, Einstein, and other famous people by bringing some pictures from Shantiniketan.

Every day, researchers and visitors from different parts of the country and abroad come to visit this place, which is one of the more overlooked museums dedicated to the Nobel laureate.

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