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SHILLONG: For some fortunate people, age indeed is just a number. This is the case with Ms Uma Purkayastha whose book ‘Tagore and Pineland Shillong’ was released on Friday by Prof P Shukla, Vice Chancellor, North Eastern Hill University at the premises of the Indian Council for Cultural Research (ICCR) at Brookside premises, Rilbong.
May 8 is auspicious as Tagore celebrated his 62nd birthday in 1923 during his second visit to Shillong when he stayed at the residence of Bidhan Chandra Roy at Kench’s Trace.
Uma Purkayastha’s book is a rich compendium of the Nobel Laureate’s activities, his engagements with different people, his poems and lesser known titbits on what Tagore felt about Shillong; the letters he wrote to friends and acquaintances about this hill station; why he was captivated by the place and how he waxed eloquent on the scent of the pine leaves and the sound of the brook adjacent to Brookside that evoked the purest emotions in his poetic mind.
Speaking as chief guest at the book release function, Prof P Shukla lauded Ms Purkayastha for her indomitable spirit in putting together the book as it would provide an excellent backdrop to researchers and lovers of Tagore’s life and philosophy. Prof Shukla pointed to our defective education system which has failed to create a knowledge society and therefore India takes so long to produce a single Nobel Laureate, whereas in the West there are several each year.
Former Deputy CM, BM Lanong who was also the special guest said he was full of admiration for Tagore because of his deep sense of humility and his spiritual nature. “I have met many small people who talk big but Tagore was a great person who was so very humble. When he became a Nobel Laureate, Tagore could not believe his ears. That’s because of his humility,” Lanong said adding that he hoped the people of Shillong would one day learn to appreciate the work of this great poet and human being who addressed God as the Master Poet.
Lanong informed the gathering that when he was Deputy CM in charge Arts & Culture the Government had allotted 5 acres of land in New Shillong for a Tagore Academy at an estimated cost of Rs 15 crore at the time. He wondered as to what has happened to this project.
Principal St Edmunds College, Dr Sylvanus Lamare while paying rich tributes to Uma Purkayastha for her persistent efforts to collect every piece of information from several people who could recollect Tagore’s Shillong visit said it was unfortunate that a Tagore’s book which was earlier prescribed for the Higher Secondary section in Meghalaya was later pushed out of the syllabus. He said this was due to a lack of understanding of Tagore’s great literary contribution. Pointing to a book of stories by Tagore which was translated by Esther Lyngdoh (Pugh) at the behest of her professor during her college days at Guwahati, Dr Lamare said it is a pity that he just managed to procure a copy of the book. He, however, said that a lot of research on Tagore is currently under way and he was hopeful that Tagore would soon find pride of place among the Khasis.
For Uma Purkayastha a Tagore aficionado, putting together the book is a journey of faith; a pilgrimage which started since 1969, she said. A teacher by profession, Uma Purkayastha retired as Principal, Government Girl’s High School. It has taken her a long time to get the book released but she finally achieved her goal.
Former Director of Higher & Technical Education, SK Chattopadhyay narrated how Brookside complex was about to be bought over by a private party and how he and others worked to get the Government to acquire what is today a heritage property.
Regional Officer ICCR, N Munish Singh welcomed the guests to the function which consisted of Rabindra Sangeet and a dance recital by Gitanjai Dance Academy and also a guitar recital by Prof Radhendu Das.