Our member Ms S. Sen’s mother was educated in Shantiniketan under the guidance of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Through her narration she gives a special tribute to her mother on the occasion of Rabindra Jayanti.
My mother was brought up in Shantiniketan. She studied there but unlike others she did not stay in the hostel there, as was the norm. Her 𝘑𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘪, (paternal uncle) Mr. Nepal Roy, used to stay nearby. Since he had a close association with Rabindranath Tagore, my mother got permission to stay with him along with her two sisters. Like obedient children they followed all rules and regulations of the household. My mother had a splendid time at her uncle’s place. First, because all the three sisters were more or less the same age, secondly, she had ample opportunities to carry out her mischievousness.
When my mother was studying at Shantiniketan, there was no age bar for enrolment. Children who could stay independently without parental indulgence, could take admission, mostly from class 5 onwards. The main eligibility was basic inclination towards music or art, ability to sing or draw. At that time the main focus was on quality learning. Grasping the concept, practicing and perfecting it and achieving the highest level of expertise was the ultimate goal. There was no rat race of passing exams or getting top marks. It was more about individually paced learning. Everyone had the zeal to be better equipped in their field of interest.
The wondrous thing was, none of the students found it a burden learning at Shantiniketan. Their world comprised of the activities at Shantiniketan and they enjoyed being involved in them. Rabindranath Tagore had an instinct or intellect to understand the level of each student and their desires. This helped him mould each one perfectly. He knew how and in what manner they would learn better, and thus strategized his way of teaching to meet individual needs.
A unique teaching-learning method was practised in the Upasana Griha. The students of higher classes in weekly rotation, used to conduct classes. This was mandatory for all the higher-class students, for developing confidence and mastery over their subject.
𝘎𝘶𝘳𝘶𝘥𝘦𝘣, as we had learnt to call him, was a perfectionist, so whenever there was a program to be staged, especially a 𝘕𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘺𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘺𝘢, he would be present on the stage to watch the entire practice and train the participants to perfection.
𝘎𝘶𝘳𝘶𝘥𝘦𝘣 didn’t have too much money, but yet he had built a beautiful place of study encompassed within a natural environment. He had also created small cottage type houses with spaces in between, for the teachers to stay and practise their art.
My mother wanted me to study at Shantiniketan and so I went there along with her to visit the place. I was mesmerized. The classes were held under trees which had a small boundary. The students used to either sit on the ground or on asanas. The playful way, used to teach students was highly appealing. I would have immediately had opted to stay there if I had got a chance. But since we were staying in Kolkata then, my father preferred me being educated there.
As my mother was a student of Shantiniketan, it was my pride to receive initial music lessons from her. Later on, when I started going to a music school, whenever I learnt a new song, she would sing a few lines of it. While I practised my mother would sing along with me. Her artistic inclination was no less. She could draw intricate 𝘢𝘭𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘢 designs. On Saraswati puja the 𝘢𝘭𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘢 design used to be elaborate and made extremely artistically by my mother.
Her stage performance was evident from the dramas she participated in, while being a part of the cultural club 𝘗𝘳𝘢𝘬𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘪. Later when I opened up my music class, I named it 𝘚𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘩𝘶𝘯𝘪 after my mother as a mark of honour for all that she had done for me.
My mother had received an autographed poem composed especially for her by 𝘎𝘶𝘳𝘶𝘥𝘦𝘣, as a gift. I am extremely lucky to have seen it once, but the best part is that those lines are still intact in my memory – ‘𝘖𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘢, 𝘦𝘬𝘪 𝘤𝘩𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘬𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘢, 𝘣𝘰𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘰𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘢𝘢𝘮 𝘭𝘦𝘬𝘩𝘢, 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘦 𝘫𝘢𝘣𝘰 𝘫𝘰𝘣𝘦, 𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘦, 𝘴𝘩𝘶𝘥𝘩𝘶 𝘨𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘬𝘰𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘬𝘩𝘢.’