Published: Friday, May 10, 2013

New book on Tagore goes to Indian president

DU Vice Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddiqui (R) hands over the book to Indian president Pranab Mukherjee (C).

DU Vice Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddiqui (R) hands over the book to Indian president Pranab Mukherjee (C).

No two other countries share the cultural legacy and bonding in a manner Bangladesh and India do, when it comes to Rabindranath Tagore.

So, it was in the fitness of things that the 152nd birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore was celebrated at the hallowed precincts of the Presidential Palace here on Wednesday evening, with President Pranab Mukherjee receiving the first copy of the book “Contemporarising Tagore and the World”, the first book on the bard jointly published by Bangladesh and India.

Co-edited by two veteran Indian diplomats Muchkund Dubey, Veena Sikri — scholars in their own rights, and Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations Department of Dhaka University, “Contemporarising Tagore and the World”, is a compilation of the edited versions of the papers, that were presented at the joint Indo-Bangladesh Seminar held in the Bangladesh capital in April-May 2011 to discuss ideas of Tagore which have contemporary relevance.

A tangible result of various activities undertaken at the academic and intellectual level, the book, published by UPL Dhaka, is an international collaborative effort between the Indian and Bangladeshi intellectuals, artists, poets and other authors. Scholars from not only India and Bangladesh but also China, Japan, Russia, Netherlands, Serbia, UK and Argentina have contributed to the publication.

Some of the best minds of India and Bangladesh — including poet Syed Shamsul Haq and Professor Anisuzzaman, Imtiaz Ahmed and actor-lawmaker Asaduzzman Noor — were present when Dhaka University Vice Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique unwrapped the first copy of the book and handed it over to the Indian President at a function attended by about 500 people.

Speaking on the occasion, President Mukherjee said Tagore’s thoughts on a range of subjects from education, philosophy, society, humanism, nationalism and international, rural development, spoke about inclusive growth of society, pluralism and multi-culturalism which are highly relevant even today.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Professor Arefin Siddique said the people of Bangladesh sang Tagore’s songs and were inspired by him on the battlefield during the Liberation War in 1971. He called for vigil against forces of religious bigotry and fundamentalism and cooperation between Bangladesh and India so that forces of secularism “can be strengthened in our country”.

Muchkund Dubey, former High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, described the book as a joint effort of the “Triveni” of Dhaka University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi and Visvabharati, West Bengal, and said “our focus was on areas where Tagore’s contributions hold relevance in today’s world — humanism, nationalism, internationalism, feminism, education, and rural development based on cooperatives.”

Veena Sikri, another former Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka, lauded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) for organising the launch of the book , describing it as a seminal contribution to understanding the multi-faceted genius of Tagore.

The book launch was followed by a performance, “The Baul of Bengal”, by Baul Samrat Purna Das.