Reflections on Tagore, Arts, Politics and Rationalism -
May 7 is the 144th birth anniversary of Poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Being a Bangali poet the Bangalis celebrate his birth anniversary following Bangla calendar which occurs on 25th of Boishakh, which happens to be on May 9 in Kolkata and May 8 in Dhaka this year. This shows the problem of the lack of a uniform standardization of Bangla calendar leading to this unfortunate result of two major centers of Bangla language and culture observing the birthday of this great International artist of Bangla on two different days. Anyway, on this occasion I wish to present my thoughts on Tagore and attempt to link Tagore the man and his work and with the general notions of arts, politics (more specifically nationalism) and rationality. I will, as has been my wont, be guided by a rationalistic approach. Most of my comments, observations and quotes on Tagore will be based on the scholarly book on Tagore called "Rabindranath Tagore - The Myriad Minded Man" by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson". It should be understood that all my factual observations about Tagore are derived from this book. I am not providing exact page numbers, but if it becomes a subject of debate I will provide detailed references as needed. Let me comment on the book a little. This book was published in 1995 by St. Martin's press, NY. This book is doubtless the most authoritative and scholarly work on Tagore the man. Any debate, controversy, confusion can in most cases be settled by referring to this tome. This is the ultimate portal on Tagore. With 15 pages of bibliographic references and 90 pages of annotations from the references, plus many personal contacts with celebrated poets andf artists living and dead, Indian and international, many of whom had direct contact with Tagore, it is a veritable mine of information on Tagore. In addition the authors consulted the archives of the libraries in Shantineketon, Vishwa Bharati University and the London library, there is conceivabley no more exhaustive source of information on Tagore. Besides the authors are already experienced in Tagore related work. Let me also mention, as it will be relevant later, that the authors, like a truly scholarly work should, have analyzed Tagore in dispassionate manner, neither idolizing him nor making any biased or unfounded criticism. A clear admiration for Tagore is unmistakable, but they do not hesitate to expose the foibles and limitations of Tagore. Anyway on to the main discussion.
There has been a lot of debate and criticism about Tagore in various forums and in print media as well. One important point that these debates seemed to have overlooked is the need to clearly separate the subjective from the objective in discussing or debating Tagore, or for that matter any poet and artist in general. Art appreciation being purely subjective, there is little room for debate. If someone doesn't like the work of an artist for its style or theme, it makes little sense to engage in any argument or debate with him/her about it. Arguments or debates can make sense only when it involves propositions ( Sentences which are unambiguously and objectively either true or false). Any view on the style or theme of an artwork has to be necessarily subjective and personal, which cannot be objectively reduced to true or false category. Much of the literary criticism is really expressions of personal views of the critics. There is no true objective language for art criticism. A new linguistic structure called eprime as suggested by Robert Anton Wilson, author of Quantum Psychology, may be ideally suited to art criticism. Casting art criticism in eprime can avoid the pitfall of bitter debate between the critics and the fans.
Yes, a critic/critique can analyze poems based on such objective factors as metres and rhymes, or songs and compositions based on the melodic structures etc, but why certain patterns and structures of these art forms should appeal to human mind more aesthetically than others, that would remain in the final analysis a subjective issue in arts. It may be that there may be some structure or pattern in an artist's work that majority tend to find appealing aesthetically. But to judge those art as beautiful because of the fact that the majority find it appealing is an a posteriori (after the fact) judgement of aesthetic quality of the art. A truly objective criteria for deciding the artistic beauty should be a priori, before knowing how it will appeal to the majority. One should be able to decide it by simply reading the work, not waiting for a poll of other reader's reaction. Like the proverbial conundrum of morality, where the question of whether an act is prohibited by God/religion because it is immoral or whether an act is immoral because it is prohibited by God/Religion can never be settled by language and pure logic alone, similarly the question of whether an artwork is beautiful because majority likes it, or whether the majority likes the artwork because it is beautful cannot be settled through language or logic. In either case a deeper understanding of the way evolution works reveals the real origin of moral and aesthetic sense. Evolutionary psychology can explain the objective reasons why certain patterns or structure in any art form appeal to human brains more, based on the laws of evolution, but the human brain does not rationally decide to "feel an appeal" for those elements of art because of the evolutionary reasons for the appeal!. Feelings precede any rational understanding! To summarize, the feeling or perception of art is subjective, but the origin of that subjective feeling is objective. For example the feeling or perception (or "qualia" as is kown in psychology) that blue color generates in the brain is subjective, which cannot be verbalized, but the cause of that feeling is the wave length of the blue light, an objective reason. For a detailed discussion on the link between evolution and aesthetics I refer the readers to my essay on Science Aesthetics.
So how do we decide on the intrinsic greatness of an artist like Tagore? Sheer volume of the work? The volume of Tagore's ouvre is certainly impressive. But the problem of this criteria is that again its ia an after the fact criterion. In Tagore's case he continued to be a prolific writer till his death. So are we to wait until the death of the poet to make a tally of his total work and then judge his greatness by the volume? Another problem is that if mere number is the criteria, then volume cannnot a unique mark of greatness, because given enough spare time (Tagore was fortunate to have plenty of it) and the urge to write many "below average" artist can churn out large volumes of work. Of course lack of enthusiastic response may put a damper on the urge to write indefinitely for those poetasters. When Tagore received his Nobel Prize, certainly his volume of work then was much less. Did the Nobel committee award him the prize for the volume? Certainly not. Quite obviously they thought of him as a great poet based mainly on the translation of Gitanjali. So should Tagore be considered great because he received the Nobel prize? If so, then the volume issue becomes irrelevant in judging greatness. But why did Gitanjali appeal to them? Here again we will eventually reach a dead end if we try to stick to finding a chain of objective reasons all the way down. At certain level down there has to be a subjective call. For one thing the Nobel committe made their judgement based on the translation of Gitanjali. Now much of the intrinsic quality of an art gets lost in the translation. Two very influential exponent of Tagore Niraud Chaudhury and Satyajit Ray had opined that Tagore's poems are untranslatable. Much like the religious followers say about their scriptures. If that is the case then truly the Nobel committee's judgement of Gitanjali has to be subjective. What was in Gitanjali that impressed the Nobel committee? Who can say definitively what went into the minds of these people. But it was clear that the primary appeal of Gitanjali to the West was due to its pereived humane spirit of christianity, as explained by Yeats. Yeats commented that the West was moved by Gitanjali not by its exoticity, but because it found its own image in it. Paul Nash, the well known war artist commenting on Gitanjali said that he read Gitanjali like he read the Bible for comfort and strength. Times Literary Supplement of Nov 7, 1912 commenting on Gitanjali wrote:
As we read his pieces we seem to be reading the Psalms pf David of our own time who addresses a God realized by his own act of faith and conceived according to his own experience of life..."
It may be mentioned that Gitanjali was not considered the best work of Tagore anyway among the then Bengali readers and critics. So certainly the basing Gitanjali to judge Tagore's greatness is an inherently subjective matter.
The criteria closet to an objective one may be the diversity of the work of the artist. Not many artist are gifted with creativity in multiple genre of arts. Tagore had that gift and utilized that gift to the fullest. He was a poet, a dramatist, novelist, short story writer, non-fiction writer, mystic (Despite it's definition being fuzzy), painter, songwriter. Not many know that his paintings number about 2500, almost as many as the songs he composed, but his paintings were appreciated more in France and Germany than in India/Bangla. But again the issue of quality (hence subjectivity) cannot be completely sidestepped even in the criteria of diversity. For example his number of paintings are about the same as the number of songs. But to Bengalis his paintings have far less appeal and are less widely known than in the West. Although The Post Office is a widely popular play, all of his plays are non-starters (As commented by the authors in the Myriad Minded Man).
So at the end the question of whether the Nobel award to Tagore was fair and truly deserving cannot be settled by debate. The view that he did deserve accords well with Tagore's assessment of the overwhelming majority, specially among Bengalis. But there should be no illusion that there were no doubts among many of the well known poets outside India, and that there was universal admiration for Tagore among all international poets and literateurs. Even though it was a British poet and Royal Society Fellow Sturge Moore who suggested his nomination for Nobel Prize to the Swedish Nobel Committe, other fellows of the Royal Society were not impressed by Tagore, and they were disappointed at Tagore being awarded the Nobel prize and not Thomas Hardy. Beyond the Nobel award issue, in general there was dispraise as there was praise for Tagore among amny other poets. Even Yeats who had admired Tagore and who introduced Tagore to the British poets, later made a critical remark about Tagore's later poems saying that these later poems are drowning his reputations and Tagore and that nothing more should have been published except the long autobiograph after Gitanjali and The Gardener and The Crescent Moon ! British poet Philip Larkin was very negative about Tagore. Edward Thompson, who wrote Tagore's biography wrote in a letter to W.B Yeats admitting that Tagore's poetry was regarded with extreme contempt in Oxford during the 1920's.
D.H Lawrence, wrote around 1916 to Ottoline Morrell (as quoted in the collected letters of D.H. Lawrence pp-451-452):
"...this fraud of looking up to the East - this wretched worship of Tagore atitude - is disgusting"
Although D.H. Lawrence was obviously racially prejuduced (There's more racial tone in the elipses part, omitted here), his remark about Tagore should also be viewed as one great novelist, short story writer and poet's assessment of another great one, as that is relevant in this context.
Many renowned German poets during post WWWI time were either unimpressed or dismissive of Tagore. Among them were Rainer Maria Rilke, Thimas Mann,Oswald Spengler, Franz Kafka et al. Spengler even declined to meet Tagore and compared him with a kitsch (German for trash literature) writer called Gangeshofer! The American poet T.S Eliot was totally indifferent about him.
The renowned Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov of Lolita fame, said about Tagore: "Why should we continue to mislead students by teaching them that Mann, Galsworthy, Faulkner, Tagore and Satre are "great craftsmen?".
Graham Greene, in his introduction to the 1937 book by R.K Narayan "The Bachelor of Arts" wrote: "As for Rabindranath Tagore, I cannot believe that anyone but Mr. Yeats can still take his poems seriously"
Now we cannot blame translation for all the negative views of these celebrated poets. After all, the positive views which outweighed the negative ones were also based on translations. This once again points out the subjectivity factor.
So, the conclusion is that even if the Nobel award is taken as an objective criteria of greatness, the award itself is subjective at the bottom. There is no way out of this inherent subjectivity. For a more detailed discussion on the issue if subjectivivity and arts I refer to my essay On Subjectivity in Art Appreciation
On the issue of greatness the question of Tagore as a mystic/ philosopher can be raised. Many Tagore fans consider him a great philosopher or a mystic. Philosopher is a very broad and fuzzy notion. But in the usual sense of the word meaning one who tries to understand the objective reality of entire existence by rational and critical thinking, Tagore may not be a great philosopher by that criteria. But he had the making of one. He had an open mind and a sense of wonder and awe about life and universe. He never had any dogmatic notion on any issue. He never took any decisive stand on any political issue, as he was intuitively aware that there are various shades to an issue and that the truth lies somewhere in between or elsewhere. That is the hallmark of a philosopher. But it would be a mistake to go as far as to declare that he was a great philosopher. He was some sort of mystic. There is a thin line between mystics and poets. We all have an instinctual feeling of the unknown, unseeable, mystical feeling. Some have the urge and the time to devote lot of time meditating on it. Those who can verbalize that feeling in ornamental language appeal to all of us as it evokes that latent mystical feeling among us. Thus they become famous mystics. Not that they have discovered or invented any new reality or truth. Mysticism is a way (through poetic language) of evoking and accentuating a universal instinct of the existence of a transcendal world. But language, being a closed system with a finite set of vocabulary, can never express any truth about objective reality, which is a continuum, an infinite set. Thats why Tagore's mention the Infinite and the merging of the self with infinite does not mean anything, just a Derridian narrative. But it evoked a sympathetic mystical response from many. On the question of Tagore as a philosopher, Bertrand Russell was quite dismissive. He wrote (in a letter to Ottoline morrell, June 19,1913) after hearing Tagore's lecture on 'The realisation of Brahma'(From Sadhana):
"Here I am back from Tagore's lecture, after walking most of the way home. It was unmitigated rubbish - cut-and-dried conventional stuff about the river becoming one with the Ocean and man becoming one with Brahma. The man is sincere and in earnest but merely rattling old dry bones. I spoke to him before the lecture afterwards I avoided him."
Russell made further such comments on Tagore.
'I regret I can not agree with Tagore. His talk about the infinite is ague nonsense. The sort of language that is admired by many Indians unfortunately does not, in fact, mean any thing at all.'
He said the above when asked to comment on a 1912 letter Tagore sent to him (which Russell published in his autobiography in 1967) praising his essay "The Essence of Religion".
The attempt by some fans to ascibe a profound scientific and philosophical meaning to his poetic work suffers from the same flaw as in the attempt of followers of religion to ascribe the same to their scriptures. The poetic words of Tagore are just expressions of his subjective metaphysical feelings, not of any objective reality. As Wittgenstein has said "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent". It is for this reason of non-objectivity that non-scientifc metaphysics was debunked by Heidegger, Hume, Wittgenstein as pure play of words, without substance or analyticity. So it is not just Tagore, but any attempt by anyone of philosophising about truth in the form of dicta would be rejected by rationalist philosophers like Russell. Tagore's poetry are a superb example of verbal art to express aetshetic element in mystical feelings, but it should not be mistook for philosophy.
Tagore fans may dismiss Russell because of that. But then Russell is regarded as the premier philosopher/rationalist of the 20th century, a Nobel laureate to boot. To accept the dismissal of Russell by these fans would mean putting more weight on these fans than Russell. At best that points out the lingering issue of subjectivity in all these.
Reverting to some general considerations, if a critic dislikes an artist based on a view or opinion about some factual content of the artist or his/her work which is either true or false, then there can be a legitimate debate about such view or opinion. An example would be a debate on how many songs did Tagore compose, (about 2500) or a debate on whether Tagore had actually delievered his Nobel acceptance speech(He did, though much later in May, 1921). And in that case the debate can be settled by referring to the supporting evidences from authentic sources and references. Also in that case it must be understood that the truth or falsity of the view or opinion cannot change the artistic appeal or value of the artist's work, because that is purely a subjective perception. Art appeals to humans through its aesthetic content. The aesthetic appeal of an artwork does not depend on the truth or falsity of the factual content of some aspect of the art or the artist. It will be a fallacy to judge an artwork or an artist based on the factual contents. The factual contents can be relevant in judging the artist as a person, specially if that artist also has political ambitions and takes an activist stand on ethical, social and political issues. An artist is not under any moral or legal obligation to do so, nor is there any moral or legal grounds against taking such a stand. But if he/she chooses to take sich a stand then it becomes pertinent to subject his words and deeds under scrutiny. In certain instance the debate can be a grey area between purely subjective and purely objective. For example is Tagore's song suitable as a national anthem for Bangladesh? Some strongly feel it is, others strongly feel it is not. Each side may have their own criteria to calibrate their views against and justify it. But which criteria is the right one? That will defy any objective answer. In the final analysis the conclusion of whether it is the right or wrong choice has to be a subjective judgment of the arbiter and the those the arbiter represents. Logic alone cannot settle this. In the language of logic, a conclusion can be objectively right or wrong based on the premises (axioms). But whether the premises (axioms) are right and wrong can never be settled by logic alone. A debate where the premises (axioms) are not agreed upon can never be settled. The endless bickering we see in Tagore debates is due to debaters mixing up the subjective and the objective aspects, not agreeing upon the premises, and trying to refute the subjective aspect of each others views, which defy any resolution. The debate also takes on an emotional nature, each side throwing ad hominems towards the other. Focusing solely on the objective ( factual) aspects and using authentic sources and references to back up their respective views would have settled the debate quickly.
One thing quite apparent in these debates is that just as there are critics who erroneously try to judge Tagore as an artist based on factual issues, similarly there are ardent admirers of Tagore, who do not appreciate the fact that expressing critical views about some factual aspects of Tagore does not imply a blanket depreciation of Tagore as an artist. The admiration of some Tagore aficionados is nothing less than a veritable apotheosis of Tagore, creating a fetish or cult like aura around him, making any critical assessment of Tagore a taboo, which is similar to how the religious followers treat their prophets. But a truly scholarly study of Tagore cannot admit of such a blind infatuation which impairs the ability to objectively see Tagore's human side and recognize his foibles and limitations which he had quite a few. Again it must be emphasized that pointing out the foibles and citing facts about Tagore that does not accord with the view of Tagore as a perfect human does not in any way imply that the critic pointing out such foibles is bigoted, communal, or a Tagore basher (bashing!, sounds familiar,in a different context?) It is not uncommon at all to see debates where the critic did in the prolog of his essay clearly state his personal admiration for Tagore and acknowledged that Tagore was one of the greatest artist, but later in the debate, that clarification was completely forgotten by the Tagore fans angry at the critical views of Tagore, calling the critic Tagore basher, hater, communal minded etc. Yes, it is possible that some critic of Muslim origin may try to point out the foibles of Tagore just because Tagore was a Hindu born. Every possibility is instantiated at least once. But an astute reader should be able to distinguish the critical view of Tagore motivated by such communally biased attitude from that motivated by the desire for a truly objective and dispassionate critique of a great artist, which is what a scholarly criticism is supposed to be. A scholarly criticism may come from critics of any religious origin. If an astute reader is unable to distinguish the two, then they would at least give the benefit of the doubt and not assume the former motivation, and only offer their counter points against the critique in a professional manner. After all, a scholarly critic, who would dispassionately study Tagore, and will not hesitate to acknowledge his greatness as well as his foibles based on authentic sources and references, can in principle be from any religious background. A case in point is the authors of "Myriad minded man" cited earlier. But unfortunately most Tagore debates eventually veer towards ad hominem attacks of the critics, drawing emotional conclusion on the motivation behind the critic' s views, without any objective basis for such a conclusion. There can be no room for emotionalism in a purely pedagogic debate on art or literary criticism. Emotionalism is more suited to a political debate where each may have vested interest in supporting or opposing an ideology, a leader or a party. Just because a Tagore critic may be Muslim born, does not automatically imply that the critic's views are motivated by communal bias. There are many Muslim born leftist/atheist critic of Tagore who could not care less for the fact that they were born as a Muslim and Tagore was born as a Hindu. For them (in fact for some non-leftist, non-atheist secular critics as well) their critical view of Tagore is primarily based on their perception of the stand and view Tagore took vis a vis the British rule and independence movement against the British, his silence about class struggle and his zamindari(feudal) connection through inheritance. And it is not just leftists in Bangla, Hungarian Marxist critic Gyorgy Lukacs harshly criticized Tagore for his novel "Home and the World" calling it a "petit beurgeos yarn of the shoddiest kind". Just after his secod lecture in Beijing in 1924, some leaflets were found in the lecture hall. Among other things the leaflets read:
Dr. Tagore speaks of the "Heavenly Kingdom", "almighty God" and "Soul". If these could remove us from misery what would be the use of man's endevour to reform the world? We oppose D. Tagore, who tries to stunt the growth of self-determination snd the struggle of oppresed classes and races.
But the irony of it ll is that Tagore's praise of Stalin's Russia for its success in mass education made some prominent Russian émigré like Rachmaninoff and Ilya Tolstoy accuse him (in a letter to NY Times ) of taking an evasive attitude toward the communist grave-diggers of Russia and lending thus indirectly lending support toa group of professional murderers. Not a view that will be in accord with the leftists who view him as reactionary.
But on the other side of the coin Tagore, he did tell Izvestia interviewer before departing Russia in 1931 that though he was impressed by the success in mass education he asked if they were doing their ideal a service by arousing in the mind anger and class hatred. "Freedom of mind is needed for the reception of truth; terror hopelessly kills it..." he told Izvestia.
Another motivation for critical view of Tagore is possibly due to backlash against the apotheosis of Tagore by his overzealous fans, in much the same way the secular critics feel moivated to criticize and debunk the doctrines of religion and the prophets as a backlash against the dogmatic claim of the religious followers about their religion's absolute superiority and perfection. It is a common element of human nature to react against claims of absoluteness or perfection and bring down such claims to a mundane level. That element may be at work in the critical appraisal of Tagore's foibles by some critics. It is important to keep in mind this shades of various motivating factors behind Tagore's criticism. So it is unfair and unprofessional to judge a critic and assign a communal motive behind their criticism because of their religious origin.
Let us examine some popular criticisms of Tagore. During the heyday of Swadeshi (Independence) movement of the first two decades of 20th century in India, there were severe critics of Tagore. They viewed him as imperialist hypothesizer. He was even targeted for assassination in San Francisco by some radical Punjabi and Sikh elements of the independence movement for his perceived "pro-imperialist" stand when he was visiting San Francisco in 1917. The leftist intellectuals in both the Banglas still today consider him a reactionary, supporting British domination of India, at best not taking a decisive stand against it. It is true at least in the early part Tagore did view British reign in India a providential one to bring India to the age of modern science and education, but later he gave up on that romantic vision, specially in view of the increasingly oppressive nature of the British rulers. But on one issue he was consistent throughout, he opposed any violent form of independence struggle. He even viewed the non-cooperation movement of Gandhi as violent or provoking violence and distanced himself from his nationalism. He was in favour of cultural nationalism, not political. His emphasized focusing on the positive like imparting modern education to millions of illiterate Indians rather than focusing on the negative like bitterness towards the British and engaging in a violent movement against the British rule. His puritanic abhorrence of hatred based movement or activism was consistent. He even opposed the construction of memorial for the dead in Amritsar killing, as that would instill hatred in the minds of future generations, rather than instill a positive and constructive feeling among them. Of course we should keep in mind that he repudiated his knighthood in protest of the Amritsar killings. He had for a good part of life scoffed at the idea of Swaraj (Independence) of India in the state of illiteracy India was then, thinking that would unleash the negative impulses of the Indians even more in the absence of a constraining effect of the British.
How would this attitude of Tagore fare with the supporters and fighters of liberation struggle of Bangladeshi against Pakistan rule in 1971? There is some striking similarity in the two cases. Anyone who might have opposed (even in thoughts) a violent struggle, and emphasized focusing on improving the lot of the Bangalis, rather than a hatred for Pakistan, would have been viewed as a traitor. Tagore decried nationalism, which he described as "the collective egoism" of the people. Such view is patently inconsistent with the so called liberation spirit of Bangladesh of 1971 (Ekattorer Chetona) which is based primarily on Bangla nationalism. Tagore also did not express any admiration for democracy. The authors of Myriad Minded Man commenting on a letter by eminent French orientalist Sylvan Levi to Tagore that Levi had put his accusing finger on two of Tagore's most sensitive spots: is sympathy for Brahminism and distrust of democracy. Tagore himself said "...We ,who do not profess democracy,...", in a speech in Tokyo, indirectly referring to the letter by Levi and other similar criticisms against him.
This is one reason why SOME don't accept the adoption of Tagore's song as Bangaldesh's national anthem although the song does say I love my Golden Bangla, since Tagore or his overall work does not project a sympathetic view of the spirit of an armed struggle for liberation, which is the central theme of Bangladshi independence movement.
But it would be naive to pigeonhole Tagore's views and words into a single category. He himself refused to be cast into one mold. In a letter to his daughter Mira on December 22,1920 he wrote:
"I have always been attacked by poitical groups, religious groups, social groups and so on. If I beonged to the opposition camp,each group would have forgiven me. That I do not belong to any group makes them all angry. No one will be able to put a chain around my feet"
He was truly a myriad minded man. He didn't rush to a political stand on nationalistic, unless he was 100% sure about it in it's entierty. He even refused to condemn Italian fascism, even when requested by French poet Romain Rolland and his friend Duhamel. Only much later did he indirectly criticized fascism. He may have been lenient towards British rule in India for most part, but he also repudiated his knighthood in protest against Amritsar killings. He openly condemned the killings and torture of the political prisoners in the detention camp in Hijli in 1931.
Although he was never a fan of nationalism, he never showed his preference to speak in English and prefered to speak in Bangla instead. In mentality and dress, he was always a Bangali. He mocked the Bengalis he met in England while visiting England, who were trying to be English like in manners and customs. He sarcastically refered to them as IngaBangas.
Although he is viewed by cynics as being pro-British, imperialist hypothesizer, it is also true that he himself had disowned his Grandfather Dwarakanath Tagore for his commercial outlook and more because he saw him as a colonialist lackey, cozying upto the East India company. It would be a mistake to equate Tagore with his grandfather as many cynic seems to do. It is an irony that although many Indians viewed him as sympathetic to the British, many British viewed Tagore as having antipathy against the British! Edward Thompson, in Tagore's biography "Rabindranath Tagore: The Poet and Dramatist" had insinuated that Tagore had antipathy for the British.
As much as he admired the good of the west, advocated assimilation of modernity and synthesis of East and West, he also disliked the crass commercialism of western culture (How would he have felt now when tha commercialism is hundred times higher even in India?).
Although many cynics in both Bangla, specially on the East side view Tagore as an armchair poet, out of touch with the reality of ordinary folks, that view has also its limitations. Tagore had alrwady pioneered an early form of micro credit in the rural Bangla where he introduced an agricultural bank to extend loans to the peasants to save them from heavy debt from the greedy money-lenders, himself borrowing the money from banks. That is certainly not consistent with the view of an armchair poet.
So much mre can be said about the myriad mind of Tagore, that I have to stop here with the hope of writing a follow-up to cover some more aspect of his myriad mind.